Jews have served proudly in many police departments

Some people were somewhat shocked and surprised to learn that Broward County, Florida Sheriff Scott Israel is Jewish.
Most Americans don’t normally consider policemen as being Jewish. Surprisingly there are many young Jewish men and women who have chosen to serve their communities in law enforcement or in the military instead of becoming doctors, lawyers or accountants.
An official in the Jewish Shomrim (Watchers) Society estimates the approximate number of all Jewish law enforcement in the U.S. as 30,000.
This is not a new phenomenon. The first Jew to become a police officer in the “New World” was Asser Levy, who fled to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam with 22 other Conversos from Recife, Brazil, in 1654.
Upon arriving in New Amsterdam, Levy’s impoverished group was initially denied admittance by the governor, Peter Stuyvesant. Because of the governor’s open condemnation of the Jewish faith, historians consider this as the first case of anti-Semitism in the new world.
However, the Dutch West India Company, which oversaw the New Amsterdam colony, contained many Dutch-Jewish investors and officers in Holland.
Each time Asser Levy, acting as spokesperson for the impoverished group, was denied a request for equal treatment, he would petition the Dutch West India Company in Holland and receive approval of his requests over the objections of anti-Semite Stuyvesant.
In 1655, Levy requested to join the Burgher Guard, which manned the stockades along Wall Street against possible Indian attacks.
His request initially denied, Levy again sought help from the Company directors and received approval for his request to join the Burgher Guard.
After two years of service, Levy then requested that he deserved to be listed as a burgher (citizen) since he kept watch and Jews in Holland also had burgher status. This request was also initially denied, and again overruled by the directors in Holland.
Winning his petition, Levy officially became New Amsterdam’s first Jewish citizen and policeman on April 21, 1657, honored today for fighting for the right to protect his community.
New York, of course, because of its population and port-of-entry for European immigrants, always has had a large police force made up of either immigrants or children of immigrants, some of whom were Jewish.
It was the Depression of the 1930s that attracted many into civil service work, including the police department.
The stereotype of Jews as doctors, lawyers and scientists was affected by the scarcity of jobs and the need for secure employment found in civil service.
In spite of Jewish parents’ preference for their children to become professionals, there seems to be a growing number of youngsters today who, instead, desire to become police officers.
New York Police Department’s Shomrim Society, which began in 1924 with just a few members, added 400 new members from 1935 to 1937.
The National Conference of Shomrim Societies was formed in 1958 and now has chapters in at least 12 states, as well as additional members in various federal and state law-related units such as the National Park Service Rangers, court bailiffs and prison guards, among others. Once, Captain Max Finklesten, NYPD, became famous in 1938 when Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia selected him to lead a special squad of all Jewish officers to act as a security unit to protect visiting officials from Nazi Germany and the German consulate who had requested extra security.
The Nazis reacted angrily at learning that their security consisted of Jewish policemen and protested to no avail. The New York newspapers made the most of the Nazis’ embarrassment with photos and cartoons of their shocked expressions when confronted with their security wearing yarmulkes.
In writing about Jewish policemen, I vividly remember my oldest brother, Rubin, of blessed memory, who served 25 years as a New York Police traffic officer, retiring as a sergeant.
Rubin, early in his first year on the force, ran after a fleeing robbery suspect wanted for a string of downtown holdups, capturing him, later receiving medals from the NYPD and the New York Daily News.
His wife then quickly made him promise to become a traffic cop, which he did, dodging cars instead of bullets.

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