The NYPD wants to keep the upcoming High Holy Days the safest on record.
From now through the end of October, area precincts will be given extra coverage to local synagogues and other houses of worship as the borough celebrates one of the holiest times of the season for both the Jewish and Muslim faith – Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan.
“We normally have increased coverage around hoses of worship this time of the year supplemented with foot patrols and our auxiliary patrols. They’re going to be our extra eyes and ears at these sensitive locations,” explained Lt. James Woods, head of Brooklyn South’s Community Affairs staff. “We’re also going to depend a lot on the public and ask them if they see anything that alarms them to alert us immediately.”
Historically, the faithful celebrations of Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot and Yom Kippur have come with the stain of anti-Semitism.
It’s during this time of the year that swastikas are found on buildings, and cars are vandalized in Orthodox neighborhoods.
According to a recent study by the Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Brooklyn increased in 2007, from 67 to 70 incidents borough wide, including an incident in Brooklyn Heights, where swastikas were seen smeared on the steps of two neighborhood synagogues.
In a separate incident, swastikas and graffiti were found plastered on a yeshiva school bus in Williamsburg on the eve of Yom Kippur, with phrases like “F*** Jews” and the “second coming of Hitler” found on the windows.
It’s also during this time of the year that the NYPD precincts implement their “house of worship car” which is solely responsible to checking neighborhood synagogues, churches and mosques.
“During the High Holy Days, we want to keep our officers moving around, we don’t want to keep everything in one spot,” said Inspector Peter DiBlasio, the commanding officer of the 66th Precinct in Borough Park.
Lt. Woods said that Brooklyn South Officers will be keeping an eye on the avenues and pedestrian corridors used by holiday celebrants, so nothing goes wrong as they make their way back and forth from their homes to their houses of worship.
“We’re ready and willing to help any group that needs extra coverage from us and we’re always going to be ready to handle anyone’s concerns,” said Woods, who added that the NYPD hasn’t received any credible information about plans to disrupt Brooklyn’s many high holy day celebrations.
“There’s no heightened concern, but we’re always on the alert for anything unusual,” he said.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly outlined the plans for this year’s high holy day coverage during a special gathering with police brass and religious leaders from throughout the five boroughs.
The gathering was punctuated with the returning of eight sacred Torahs to a Jewish Center in Queens.
Weeks earlier, the handwritten scrolls were removed from the house of worship by a former maintenance worker.
“This presentation of the Torahs not only symbolizes our commitment to one another and the protection of religious freedom, it also illustrates a job well done by police,” Kelly told audience members, before outlining the NYPD’s holy day coverage, as well as an overview of the steps they are taking to protect the city from potential terrorist threats.