Home > Rabbi Baruch Lederman > A bicycle bust in an American shtetl

A bicycle bust in an American shtetl

By  Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO–We live today in a spiritual wilderness. Sometimes we can find an oasis of purity as the following true account, submitted by Getzel Segal, written by Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman

I love being privileged to frequent the streets and alleyways of Williamsburg Brooklyn.

Where else in the world do you hear Yiddish being spoken by children and adults; men and women; shop owners and patrons?

As I walk the streets of this 21st century shtetel I look lovingly at the cherubic faces of the little boys and girls as they frolick and prance through the streets without a worry in their  pristine and unblemished hearts.

As I enter the main shul on Rodney Street, I see hundreds of men engrossed in learning Torah and davening to Hashem.

As I walk down Ross Street, I notice dozens of women emerging from a Tzedoka event which in all probability was not even for the population of their community.

On Lee Avenue I admire the now legendary bus of the Satmar Bikur Cholim which goes daily to the hospitals in Manhattan delivering home cooked kosher food to any Jew;  regardless of their religious persuasion.

I observe dozens and dozens of shteibach and Batei Medrash and most of all, I lovingly gazed at the holy faces of the hundreds of fellow Jews who walk the streets unabashedly Jewish in their dress, language and mode of conduct.

I thank Hashem for allowing me to witness such a neighborhood located in the midst of the most modern and culturally secular city in the world.

One day, as I was heading back from the Satmar Shul on Rodney Street, I noticed a group of Chassidic men holding radios and running down the street. They had no medical equipment on them and they were not moving towards a vehicle so I realized they must be part of the famous Shomrim (neighborhood watch) squad.

I quickly turned on my heels and off I went in quick pursuit of these 21st century heroes!

About one block down on Bedford Avenue the objective of the chase became apparent.

There in the street, surrounded by half a dozen Shomrim members was a man standing next to a bicycle lying in the street. As I approached the men, I realized that the fellow under  guard was accused of ‘misappropriating’ the bicycle from a Jewish grocery and he was being held until the police could arrive.

I waited and observed for about 7 minutes until a police vehicle arrived to take control of the situation. As I was watching, I overheard the suspect relate: “. the next thing I knew, all  of these Jewish cops appeared out of no where and are holding me here!”

Did he say: Jewish cops? Did he really say Jewish cops?

Indeed, he did.

However, this is not the end of the story.

As we were waiting for the police to arrive, numerous individuals- me included- kept surging forward off the sidewalk and into the street to see and hear what was transpiring.

All this time, the Shomrim men- who were very professional and courteous, continually urged everyone to return to the side walk while simultaneously making sure that traffic  continued unimpeded down Bedford Avenue.

They were very sensitive not only to their needs which was apprehending the suspect, they were equally concerned that traffic was not impeded and that even the suspect was never taunted nor abused- even verbally!

They treated the accused man with respect and backed off the moment the police arrived and allowed the officers to speak with the suspect in an uninterrupted fashion.

In short, I felt proud to be a part of these people who professionally, effectively, yet, in a non-vigilante method- keep their neighborhood safe and secure.

It was also obvious that they have an excellent working relationship with the local precinct and its officers.

Just sixty five years after many of these men’s grandparents were being gassed in Auschwitz, their grandchildren are the ‘Jewish cops’ of Williamsburg; working in tandem and with  the support of the local authorities and with their encouragement and backing.

Where else in the world can you find a Jewish cop, who speaks Yiddish, has peyos and a beard and has the respect and backing of the government powers that be?

Where else in the world will you find ‘Jewish cops’ who have respect for the law of the land and make sure -while maintaining the safety of their own neighborhood- that the needs of  all the citizens of the city in which they reside are maintained?

Only in America.

It is a zechus and a chessed from Hashem to live in America.

G-d Bless America.

Dedicated by Vadim Korchnoy in memory of his parents Sam & Fany Korchnoy.

Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego

  1. abe
    July 15, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Wow!!! If Ii would have not seen the author’s name I would have assume this was written by R’Avigdor Miller Z”l.

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