At the Young Israel of Woodmere security meeting (L–R): CO Inspector John F. Berry Jr., Yoeli Steinberg, Deputy CO Deputy Inspector Kenneth R. Hettler, Chief Steven E. Skrynecki, Shlomo Zuller, and Rabbi Boruch B. Bender
At the Young Israel of Woodmere security meeting (L—R): CO Inspector John F. Berry Jr., Yoeli Steinberg, Deputy CO Deputy Inspector Kenneth R. Hettler, Chief Steven E. Skrynecki, Shlomo Zuller, and Rabbi Boruch B. Bender
At the Young Israel of Woodmere security meeting (L—R): CO Inspector John F. Berry Jr., Yoeli Steinberg, Deputy CO Deputy Inspector Kenneth R. Hettler, Chief Steven E. Skrynecki, Shlomo Zuller, and Rabbi Boruch B. Bender

By Larry Gordon

The Obama folks will not utter the words “radical Islamic terrorism” because to the president’s trained and distorted legal mind there is no such thing. They insist Islam is a peaceful religion, so if one resorts to violence or terror, he or she is no longer Islamic or an effective representative of the religion.

We know that not all Muslims are violent or bent on perpetrating terror. But so far, almost all terror attacks of note have been perpetrated by Muslims and in the name of some aspect or interpretation of Islam.

But the U.S. State Department will not cede that point. When asked by Fox News the other night to name any non-Islamic terror groups, U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf could not. All she would say is that there are unnamed others and that the U.S. condemns all forms of “violent extremism.”

The Obama administration is obsessed with making certain that there is an evenhandedness to whatever criticism or condemnation they issue. I could not help feeling that what Ms. Harf really wanted to say the other day was that she can condemn “Islamic terror” if she can also condemn “Jewish terror” perpetrated by settlers in Israel’s territories of Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem.

In these communities, Jews are building porches for their homes and setting up swing sets and seesaws in their backyards for their children, which is an affront to the Muslim world. If the administration could just come out and say it, they would feel a sense of liberation by being able to identify and condemn these Jewish radical terrorists at the other end of the equation.

At that point they, along with the rest of the right-thinking free world, might finally be able to set their sights on the violent Islamists. It is as absurd as it is ridiculous. But that never stopped this president, who an editorialist said recently “has been liberated by defeat,” a reference to the Democratic humiliation in the recent midterm elections.

This is somewhat of a stretch, but the administration has not hesitated to lunge in this general direction time and again. Who else could the State Department be thinking about in the context of terror that is not affiliated with a form of Islam, whether legitimate or not? This would not be the first time that the Obama folks have equated violent extremism with natural life in settlement communities in Judea and Samaria.

There is no hesitation in Washington or at the UN these days to view settlement activities as extreme. And then when some Jewish kids cut down some olive trees in Arab-owned fields or irresponsibly break car windows or puncture tires on Arab-owned cars, well, there is the violence we have all been waiting for.

Is there an equivalency here to the violent lunacy of Hamas or Hezbollah? Of course there isn’t. But you would not know it from the words of the State Department spokespeople. To the distorters of reality, violence is violence with a little more here and a little more added there, but they would like you to believe that it is all the same part of one large unit known as terrorism. v

Police And Community

It was a heartening and encouraging meeting between local Nassau County police brass and community leaders last week in Woodmere. The get-together was organized by the energetic newly elected Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, who seized a timely opportunity to bring the groups together at a time of heightened concern in Jewish communities worldwide.

It was just a few days after the Islamic extremists wreaked havoc in Paris, killing 17 people over just a few days, including four people at a kosher supermarket in the city. The top brass of the 4th precinct along with officers from the intelligence division briefed community leaders about steps being taken as a result.

Most of the evening briefing was conducted by Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki, who displayed a detailed knowledge about the unique security needs of this and other Jewish communities in New York. Chief Skrynecki has been on the force for 40 years so there are few law enforcement situations that he has not dealt with in his career. Even though the terrorist threat seems relatively new, the Nassau County Police Department intelligence apparatus is significantly developed and on top of the threats received and is thoroughly investigating them as they arise.

Over in Brooklyn, which includes two of the most densely populated Jewish communities in the world, Flatbush and Boro Park, the concern about security for the community and its institutions–schools and shuls–is currently number one on the communal agenda.

With the recent murder of two New York City policemen and the seeming lack of support from Mayor de Blasio for the police department, Assemblyman Dov Hikind is plainly concerned about the level of security and police protection for the Jewish community in his Boro Park district. “With new regulations mandating that two officers work or patrol together at all times and in every situation, the police department in the city has for all practical purposes been cut in half,” Mr. Hikind said.

He adds that in the aftermath of the killing of the officers, all auxiliary police patrols have been canceled, thereby removing yet another visible sign of police from the streets. He says that now instead of these auxiliary officers supplementing the usual police presence in neighborhoods, those volunteer uniformed officers are now viewed more as targets than defenders.

“Unfortunately, the big shuls in our community are wide open and unprotected,” Hikind says and adds that he is concerned. “Of course, G‑d will protect us, but I believe that He also wants us to do something about protecting ourselves,” he adds.

Over in the neighboring Flatbush community, the concerns are very much the same. “Last week’s terror attack in a Paris kosher supermarket as well as the shocking assault on a Har Nof shul last month and other tragic events have caused grave concern in Jewish communities worldwide,” said Josh Mehlman, Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition chairman. “It is important that those responsible for the safety of our schools and shuls become more proficient in how best to prevent attacks and how to handle worst case scenarios.”

To that end, the meeting that took place last Monday was well attended with those present hearing from police officials as well as Homeland Security representatives. “The truth is that the community is on edge and concerned about preventive procedures other than simply dialing 911,” Mehlman said.

He said that today more local institutions than ever are now featuring armed security and an uptick in interest in obtaining gun permits for the purpose of people protecting their families and businesses if need be.

Back in Nassau County on the threshold of JFK Airport, a hub of international activity and movement, Chief Skrynecki says that the department is well aware of the unique challenges to the county and in particular the great Jewish community that the Five Towns is.

The intelligence division, the chief says, in tandem with NYPD and the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI, are carefully monitoring internet chatter that specifically references New York’s Jewish communities. Skrynecki, who has visited Israel and studied Israeli counterterrorism measures, says, “What happens in France and Israel can certainly trickle down here.” He says that the intelligence people watching the internet are keyed up on looking for messages that includes words like “gun,” “terror,” and “Jew.”

He says that the Nassau County Police Department, like the NYPD, has a number of people under surveillance whom they view as potential threats in this direction. Overall, however, he says that crime is down in the county, reflecting a national trend and the specific focus of the Nassau County department.

These are challenging times for law enforcement on all levels, the chief points out, as the police themselves–the protectors of the citizenry–are targets and under attack themselves.

The consensus from leaders of all communities is the need for heightened awareness at all levels. They urge everyone who happens to observe something that they feel is a bit unusual or out of sync with the routine to report it to police. An attack like the one on a bus in Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning, where 12 people were stabbed by a knife-wielding terrorist, bursts out of nowhere and can indeed happen anywhere.

Police urge us to continue our daily routines, but that we also at all times be vigilant and serve as the ears and eyes of law enforcement that is trained to act on the front lines in situations like these. Working in tandem with the police helps keep our communities safe.

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