A Letter from EMJC President Michael F. Schwartz

Dear Members:

I am writing this letter to you reflecting on the recent events involving George Floyd. That 8 minute and 46 second video ranks among the most indelible images of violence and injustice – and will forever be impressed in our minds and psyches.  I was a young man in the 1960s and more than 50 years have passed since that time.  Yet the images of that time remain vividly in my memory.  Vietnam has become a favored place to visit since then and many Vietnamese have made their home in America.  But in our country, black Americans continue to be the subject of discrimination, particularly in our judicial system.  Unfortunately, for many of us it is easy to lose sight of this while we go about the business of our individual lives.  Millions of people around the world are now demonstrating and marching and endangering their lives in the face of COVID-19 in response to this injustice.

I believe that we continue to value our relationship with our local police brethren who have always been responsive to our needs and fears.  We signify with appreciation and admiration their calming and reassuring presence at Jewish holidays and events over the course of the year, especially when fears of terrorism rear up as they do occasionally.   Our Rabbi Emeritus, Rabbi Alvin Kass, our spiritual leader for 36 years, and who remains as the chief chaplain of the NYPD, was the glue that bound our institution to the NYPD.  In all that time, continuing to the present day, we know of not one untoward incident in all our dealings with the NYPD. Our relationship with them is one we continue to cherish. By ignoring these facts, we are ignoring their role in the health and well-being of EMJC.

The killing of Mr. Floyd was outrageous and unjust.  We, as Jews have a duty to express our concern with injustice and to support changes to a biased system.  This we must do.  At the same time, I trust that the bonds that tie the EMJC with the NYPD will never be sundered.

Michael F. Schwartz


East Midwood Jewish Center