Rabbi becomes NYPD’s first 3-Star chief

  • Leibel Mangel
The 80-year-old chaplain – who once traded a hostage-taker two pastrami sandwiches for his two guns - says that he had been accepting praise for the past 50 years “that doesn’t belong to me”. Most of it belonged to his wife, Miriam, he said. “She has been my confidant, my partner, my co-worker, she’s been my inspiration, she’s been my chaplain.”
by ANT KATZ | Dec 28, 2016

Last week the New York Police Department (NYPD) Chaplain Alvin Kass, who once used sandwiches from the Carnegie Deli to end a hostage situation, was promoted to three-star chief. This makes him the highest-ranking chaplain in the history of the department.

Writing in the New York Jewish Voice, Hannah Hayes reported that at a police headquarters ceremony honouring Kass’ 50 years of service, he was granted the new designation. NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill told the 80-year-old rabbi: “Your multifaceted talents have once achieved the milestone in hostage negotiation.

"In a feat that has become legendary, you were able to trade two pastrami sandwiches for the man’s two guns,” said the Commissioner. 


RIGHT: Rabbi Kass made history when he was promoted to three-star chief

After the ceremony, Rabbi Kass explained to reporters how he was called to the scene of a Midtown office building in 1981, to address a suspect armed with a gun who had relayed to police that he was Jewish.

A woman was being held hostage by the suspect after she had rejected him.

Kass told reporters: “I spent the whole night trying to talk him out of what he was doing, and I totally failed.”

By the time sunrise came around, the hostage-holder was rather hungry.

The New York Post quotes the rabbi as having said that when the detectives brought back two pastrami sandwiches, they weren’t kosher, so Kass couldn’t indulge - but the suspect could. After miraculously trading a sandwich for the man’s gun, police learned the suspect had another firearm. “So Kass worked his magic again,” says the Post.

The rabbi explained, “He was willing to give up his other gun, I gave him the other pastrami sandwich, and that ended it.”

Regarding his promotion, the revered chaplain said he felt “overwhelmed” and “deeply moved.”

Kass’ family members were all at the event - his wife, Miriam, along with their three grown children and three grandchildren.

Addressing the audience after accepting his three-star rank, Kass said: “Friends, for the past 50 years I’ve been accepting a lot of praise that doesn’t belong to me. Most of it belongs to my wife, Miriam. She has been by confidant, my partner, my co-worker, she’s been my inspiration, she’s been my chaplain.”


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