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2008 JFMA


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Shomrim Chaplain Hazzan Alan Edwards (left), and Shomrim President Merrill Kelem (right). (Photo: Larry Angert)

Shomrim Of Philadelphia And The Delaware Valley
Public safety officers of the Jewish faith joining together for the welfare of all.

-- Larry Angert

The Shomrim ("guardians" in Hebrew) is a national organization of Jewish law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other public safety professionals. I was welcomed warmly when I visited the local chapter at their January monthly meeting, the first I had attended in nearly thirty years. (I was a member of the organization during my years as a Philadelphia police officer.)

The first Shomrim Society was formed in New York City in 1924 by and for that city's Jewish policemen. Their annual Person of the Year award then, as today, honors Asser Levy, a Jewish refugee from the Portuguese colony of Recife (in Brazil) who fought for and eventually won the right (in 1655) to protect his community of New Amsterdam as one of the town's "Burgher Guard." The Jewish representation in that city's public service community has been significant ever since.

Likewise in Philadelphia, where the value and importance of its Jewish members has always exceeded their numbers. The Shomrim of Philadelphia was founded in 1937, and the organization's name was changed in 2000 to reflect today's more diverse membership. It is now the "Shomrim of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley."

The National Conference of Shomrim Societies was formed in 1958, solidifying the connections among the country's many local Shomrim Societies. Today there are twenty chapters from coast to coast. Their motto is "So that Police, Fire and Public Safety Officers of the Jewish Faith May Join Together for the Welfare of All."

While the faces and demographic have changed over the past thirty years, the fundamentals were as I remembered: pride in their Jewish identity, pride in the importance of the jobs they perform, and ardent patriotism. Apparent changes included the addition of members from the region's other states and counties, including their sheriff's deputies, county detectives, District Attorneys' officers, and public welfare agency staffs. But the most striking and welcome change was the large number of women members, reflecting the increased representation of women in public safety careers generally, and the large number of Jewish women choosing those worthy professions.

When I asked the current President, Merrill Kelem, what message he would most like our readership to hear, it was his pride in the tikun olam undertaken by the group. He mentioned specifically that the local chapter--and others around the country--sent both manpower and relief material to New Orleans in the weeks following the devastating flood. The organization's chaplain, Hazzan Alan Edwards, added that they sent scores of talaisim as well.

The Shomrim serve their members by providing fraternal services at times of illness and bereavement, and they proudly sponsor college scholarships. All are welcome to join, regardless of vocation. Monthly meetings are held at the Klein Branch JCC, Red Lion and Jamison Roads, in Northeast Philadelphia.

As with all organizations, fundraising is an important function and their annual "ad book" helps raise money to support their good works. They are a 501(c)(3) organization and welcome tax deductible contributions at Shomrim of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, POB 14543, Philadelphia, PA 19115.

Past Networking Central Groups of the Month

In this section, we highlight a new local group each month in order to encourage networking.

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