On a memorial wall in Washington, D.C., more than 19,000 names are inscribed. They are not the names of men and women who died fighting distant enemies in far-off lands, however. They are the men and women who protect and serve right here at home. The wall belongs to the National Peace Officers Memorial. Wednesday, May 15, was the annual memorial day for these people, who gave their lives in the line of duty. The day comes amid what is known as “Police Week,” which runs through Saturday.
Jews have a long history of distrust for the official police. In all the lands in which we lived over the last two millennia, the police or their contemporary equivalents were the ones who came to herd us from our homes, who publicly humiliated us for sport, and who even put us to the sword, or the gun.
Those days are behind us, however. The men and women who put on their badges or shields, to use the term favored by the New York Police Department, knowingly attach a target to themselves so that we may be safe in our homes and on our streets.
In our area in the past year especially, these people worked overtime – and continue to do so – to protect our synagogues and schools from threats, both real and suspected. When more than a year ago we experienced a series of anti-Semitic incidents that evolved into a potentially lethal firebombing, they turned over every stone until they arrested the perpetrator, even as they placed an even more watchful eye on Jewish neighborhoods and institutions.
It is truly sad that Peace Officers Memorial Day goes by unnoticed by most people in our country. Our community is no different.
Perhaps next year, as a community, we can do something meaningful to mark the day, or the week.