(JTA) — As he leads the police response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is likely enduring some of the toughest days of his career. And he’s probably looking to his Judaism to guide him through it.
Israel is the county’s first Jewish sheriff, and it’s an identity he has embraced. A 2016 campaign flier reported on that year by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel centers on the role that faith in general, and Judaism in particular, plays in his life.
“My Jewish faith is a central part of my entire life,” the flier quotes Israel as saying. “My late father Sonny Israel fought in the Korean War and became a police officer because he believed in the call from the Talmud that ‘Whoever saves one life saves an entire world.’ Those words guided my brother and I, as we also became police officers.”
Israel is the sheriff in charge of the area that includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 faculty and students were killed by a gunman on Wednesday. Israel’s children, triplets, had attended the school.
“This is a terrible day for Parkland, Broward County, the state of Florida and the United States,” he told reporters. “It’s just catastrophic. There really are no words.”
In speeches, Israel is known to quote the Bible. A 2013 Sun-Sentinel article about him quoted a speech in which he referenced “Eishet Chayil,” the Jewish poem about a valorous woman excerpted from Proverbs and traditionally sung on Friday night, as well as Ecclesiastes.