In July 1993, I joined a group of Jewish leaders on a visit to Israel with then-Mayor David N. Dinkins. One morning as we had breakfast at the King David Hotel terrace overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, Dinkins confided, “I wish Ray Kelly were in charge before Crown Heights blew up.” By this time, Ray Kelly had become police commissioner and had made a clear impact on the mayor.
I thought of the moment when Ray Kelly was chosen by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reassume leadership of the NYPD not long after 9/11. Whenever there is talk of possible terrorist attacks against New York City, I look at my family, friends and neighbors and feel fortunate that the city’s security is in Commissioner Kelly’s hands (and the hands of the superb people he surrounds himself with).
When I or any member of my family is out late at night, there is a sense of ease because of the way crime has been diminished even further by the NYPD under Kelly.
Whenever there is a perceived threat, I can see the increased security at synagogues and identifiably Jewish locations. Terrorists have made it clear that Jews are significant targets for them. However, if Jews were suspected of being terrorists, I would hope the law enforcement community would be leaving no stone unturned – including surveillance at my synagogue – to get to the threats.
It is for these reasons that I cannot comprehend the recent uproar over a video that actually states at its beginning that it is only a “minority of Muslims” who are suspected of terrorism.
Commissioner Kelly has apologized for appearing in the video. Possibly he felt he had to do so to maintain continued positive relations with Muslim communities, but his upstanding record for a decade should have been enough. Mayor Bloomberg and his police commissioner have been extraordinarily gracious and effective in their outreach to the Muslim community.
And now, in addition to the ongoing concerns about lone wolf terrorists, we learn of Iran’s (and Hizbullah’s and Hamas’s) threats to strike at America and the Zionists (read Jews). Intelligence reports from Washington, D.C. law enforcement confirms that those threats center on areas with significant Jewish populations.
New York City is in the cross hairs of these types of threats. Fortunately, our police commissioner is laser-focused on preventing any attacks. His staff is thoroughly prepared – but imagine if, God forbid, an attack succeeded because somehow the politically correct among us forced the NYPD to decrease its levels of surveillance.
I am disappointed at the speed with which some have forgotten the daily risks that are taken to protect all New Yorkers. Police officers today would rush into danger, as they did on September 11th, 2001, while ensuring the safety of all others. Commissioner Kelly and his department are known to be especially sensitive about religion and ethnicity. I have seen clergy meetings with all faiths take place at One Police Plaza and this commissioner’s outreach to all communities is second to none.
I believe only a small minority of Muslims oppose the NYPD on this because the majority want their families to be protected and all recognize that even one terrible terrorist incident would lead to conditions that might include ethnic profiling or worse. The best protection against that is for the police department to be allowed to do its job.
While I agree that civil liberties must be protected, it is outrageous to suggest that the practices of the NYPD have in any serious way threatened that goal. Tragically, there are some who protested the killing of Osama bin Laden. Not surprisingly, some are now leading the attempt to tie the hands of law enforcement and particularly the NYPD during this dangerous time.
All people of good will – Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, non-believers – need to rally around Commissioner Kelly and other law enforcement leaders to keep each other and our city safe.
William E. Rapfogel is CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. He has led other Jewish organizations and served in the administration of Mayor Edward I. Koch and with Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin.