Why Be Jewish?: A Testament
view counter
The Case Against Ray Kelly
Wed, 04/25/2012 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

We were greatly distressed to read “The Case for Ray Kelly,” a statement of support for the NYPD commissioner in The New York Jewish Week (Feb. 10) by the leadership of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). The authors of this article, Alan S. Jaffe, Michael S. Miller and David M. Pollock, claim that Commissioner Kelly has made New York a safe place to live. We ask — safe for whom? Certainly not the Muslim community.

Commissioner Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg order NYPD officers to spy on mosques, as well as Muslim restaurants, businesses and student meetings, and NYPD officials have used Islamophobic training materials and directives that foster suspicion and false stereotypes. Certainly not New York residents of color, whose rights the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices violate on a daily basis. Certainly not demonstrators exercising their constitutional rights.  These practices target people based on their religion, race or political activities, without any evidence of wrongdoing.

As New Yorkers and as Jews we are deeply committed to ensuring the well-being, safety and civil rights of all the communities that are part of the city. We are deeply disturbed by the patterns of abuse that have become evident in the practices of the NYPD, the lack of any form of effective oversight or accountability, and the justifications of these abuses by the mayor. Among the most serious of these abuses are the broad surveillance of the Muslim community, the stop-and-frisk policies that annually affect hundreds of thousands of men of color, and the blatant physical attacks on Occupy Wall Street demonstrators exercising their right to protest. These abuses deprive the affected communities and individuals of human rights protected by the Constitution. They also threaten all of us, whether we are directly affected or not, because they threaten the core of a democratic society.

In their assessment of the NYPD’s policies, the JCRC leadership has trivialized the impact of constant surveillance upon the Muslim community. The authors ignore numerous Associated Press and other reports that describe the scope of the surveillance operation and its impact on Muslim communities in New York City and well beyond the city’s borders. They ignore as well that, as The New York Times has reported last month, “the Justice Department is beginning to review complaints about the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim and Arab communities to determine whether a full civil rights investigation is warranted.” We are reminded of the shameful “Red Scare” periods — times of government spying, informing, and infiltrating, all in order to “make us safe.” 

The JCRC statement also does not acknowledge that Ray Kelly was a featured interviewee in “The Third Jihad,” a rabidly Islamophobic film — a fact he conveniently “forgot.” Under Kelly’s watch, according to files uncovered by NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, the NYPD showed nearly 1,500 police officers during their training this anti-Islam propaganda film whose main narrative is that Muslims are trying to violently “infiltrate and dominate America.”

We are unwilling to live in a city in which Muslims and people of color are considered guilty until proven innocent. We do not believe that protecting the civil liberties and the dignity of all of our neighbors results in “complacency,” as the JCRC leadership insinuates. We fundamentally reject the idea that “our” safety requires sacrificing someone else’s civil liberties and the jettisoning of Constitutional rights.

The JCRC leaders claim that, under Kelly’s leadership, the NYPD has reached a fine place of “professionalism and respect; imagination and creativity.” Day in and day out, we see the NYPD’s utter disrespect for Muslim residents and for people of color, their lack of professionalism when beating down peaceful activists at Occupy Wall Street, and their lack of imagination as to what real safety in New York City could look like. 

We are commanded to practice tikkun olam — to help repair the world. Today, that means speaking out against the Islamophobic and racist practices of the NYPD and its efforts to repress peaceful political dissent, and joining hundreds of city organizations in calling for Commissioner Kelly’s resignation.

Elly Bulkin and Marjorie Dove Kent (executive director, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice) are members of Jews Against Islamophobia, a coalition of JFREJ, Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No!



NYPD commissioner, Ray Kelly

Our Newsletters, Your Inbox


The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.


If Ray Kelly would run for Mayor I would be delighted to vote for him!

Ray Kelly has been a great police commissioner. And great for the Jewish community. This article belongs in mondoweiss. Or Al-Jazeera

I am a Jew and I am writing in support of Marjorie and Elly's piece denouncing the hatred and racism implicit in the JCRC's "The Case for Ray Kelly." As a Jew, the JCRC does not speak for me and as a New Yorker, Ray Kelly and Michael Bloomberg are not making this a safer city for me, they're making it a safe city if you look a certain way, pray a certain way, and pay a certain way. By what metric is that justice?

What Bloomberg and Kelly have done is irrevocably wrong by any measure of faith, morality, and/or law. As Jews, it is our duty to repair the world, not to oppress the world. We cannot hide behind hate and let racism and xenophobia obscure our vision of justice and our practice of tikkun olam. Supporting Islamophobia is wrong and it will continue to be wrong, no matter how you attempt to justify it...

Keeping this issue alive in the Jewish community has made me very proud to be Jewish. Thank you for publishing this article-it is extremely important that as Jews we are speaking out about this issue.

Just a bunch of liberal misguided Jews not understanding the real threats to society as a whole and to them personally. They refuse to acknowledge the truth to the dangers confronting all New Yorkers.

If most of the worlds terrorists are muslims, who should we be keeping an eye on? Kindergarten Assistant Teachers? We know who the potential enemy is. We need to know what they are up to before they up and do it. If the KKK were hanging blacks, should we send spies to the YMCA?

Be real! Know the enemy and fight him on his battleground ...

ThaNk you so much for standing up to what it's right.
As Muslim American,as a new Yorker of Moroccan Origin, as a taxpayer, & a veteran I feel nothing but sadness of Mayor Bloomberg & Kelly's action toward Muslim community, people of color in general & wall street protesters.

Once again, your support means so much to me & my family. Thank you
God bless you all


This is an important article and an important discussion for the Jewish community to have. Fear frequently trumps concern for civil liberties, but, as Franklin wrote, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." The best way to think about issues like this is to imagine yourself a member of the group being focused on. It is a lot harder to justify profiling when you consider yourself the person being profiled because of your name, national origin, or religion or repeatedly stopped and frisked for no reason other than your race and gender. A basic problem is that the NYPD has no effective oversight, and it is always dangerous to have a police force without oversight and accountability.