2015 Auxiliary Bishops

For Jewish Chaplain, 54 Years And Counting on Police Force

By Emily Drooby

WINDSOR TERRACE — With a handshake and a smile, Rabbi Alvin Kass focuses on what he does best: serving the NYPD and God.

The chaplain is the longest-serving member in uniform on the New York City Police Department. It was a job he never expected to have.

“I had never been in a police station in my life,” Rabbi Kass told Currents News last month. “I never knew any policemen.”

And yet when he had an interview with the NYPD in 1966, he set himself apart from the other applicants because he had a gym bag filled with handball equipment. He was on his way to the local YMCA for a handball match and thought the interview would be brief.

The gym bag with handballs prompted the chief of detectives to pick Rabbi Kass for the chaplain job.

“He thought that a rabbi who played handball would be the right fit for the NYPD,” Rabbi Kass said.

On Dec. 16, the chaplain marked 54 years on the force.

“In healing each other, I believe we are carrying out God’s plan,” he said.

Rabbi Kass helps to heal and protect those who keep New York City safe, dealing with the good times and with the tragic times, like on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists struck the Twin Towers.

Serving alongside officers who risked their lives on that day, Rabbi Kass pushed through his own grief to care for them.

“God gave people free will, and people abuse that free will and do some terrible things. But God gave us the ability to respond to these abuses through the strength of human love,” he said.

Rabbi Kass is the first-ever three-star chaplain in the NYPD, and when he joined the force, he was the third Jewish chaplain in its history. He has served under seven mayors and 16 police commissioners.

He was the head of the Conservative congregation at the East Midwood Jewish Center for 36 years before he retired in 2014. But, for now, he will continue on with the NYPD.

“I’m not retiring,” he said.