An unknown assailant attacked Rabbi Alvin Kass, the respected chief chaplain of the New York City Police Department, yesterday while the rabbi was on his morning power walk along Riverside Boulevard. Though the attacker knocked him to the ground, Kass, who is in his eighties, suffered no serious injuries. The Post has reported that Kass was not wearing his kippah when he was attacked.) Kass is the beloved rabbi emeritus of the East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn, where he led the congregation for over thirty years.
Kass has had a colorful and interesting career. Here’s a rundown of a few interesting facts from his life.
1. In 1981, Kass successfully negotiated with a purportedly Jewish man who had taken a woman hostage.
In exchange for the hostage-taker’s guns, Kass traded two (count ‘em) pastrami sandwiches from the Carnegie Deli.
2. Kass, who has served the NYPD since 1966, is the longest serving chaplain in the history of the department.
He oversees eight chaplains serving 34,000 uniformed officers.
3. In the aftermath of 9/11 Kass spent months visiting the families of victims all over the city.
He helped to organize Rosh Hashanah services in La Guardia airport — then a temporary morgue for the city — for the families that had come to New York to help identify bodies. “I have to tell you,” he said of the experience, “it was the most meaningful High Holy Days service I have ever conducted and have ever been a part of.”
4. By his own estimate, Kass has been to more Catholic masses than any other rabbi on Earth.
It comes with the territory in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic police department.
5. Throughout the ups and downs of his career, Kass has always managed to keep his sense of humor — and a flair for puns.
At the dedication of a hitching post in Brooklyn in 1983, he spoke the immortal words, “I hope that the presence of these horses amidst this distinguished academic atmosphere at L.I.U. will lead to a proliferation of good, solid horse sense, which is essential to the preservation of a stable society.”
We wish Rabbi Kass a refuah shlemah.