Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen
(left) and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik.

A Grateful City Honors
Heroes of Ground Zero

Story and Photo by Tim Boxer

EW YORK Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen got some unexpected praise at the New York Board of Rabbis annual Thanksgiving luncheon. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, board vice president and a fire department chaplain, declared, “Von Essen is a household name in Boca Raton. That’s all you hear there – essen, essen [eat].”

Von Essen joined NYPD Chief Allan Hoehl of Patrol Borough Manhattan South (standing in for Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik) and Richard Sheirer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, as they were honored for their role in guiding the gigantic ongoing cleanup at Ground Zero, the destroyed World Trade Center.

Rabbi Alvin Klein, chaplain of the New York Police Department, said the Big Apple has become the city of heroes.

Rabbi Marc Gellman, president of the New York Board of Rabbis, gave each honoree a tzedaka (charity) box as a token of appreciation from a grateful city.

NYPD Chief Allan Hoehl, Chaplain
Alvin Klein and Board of Rabbis
president Marc Grellman.

As this event took place on Thanksgiving Day, Gellman pronounced it an appropriate holiday for Jews. “We are told that in the Messianic Age, all prayer will be abolished except the prayer for thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the spiritual equivalent of breathing.”

Not so other holidays. He told of the time he taught philosophy and headed Hillel House at Northwestern University. He once scheduled a party for Feb. 14, not realizing it was a special day on the calendar.

A professor sent Gellman a letter: “Sorry I can’t attend the Hillel St. Valentine’s party, but look forward to the Hillel Easter egg roll.”

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