Ocean County Sheriff Tours Israel With Fellow Law Enforcement

TOMS RIVER – In a move destined to enhance local law enforcement strategies and community safety, Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy recently joined a delegation of senior law enforcement officials from across the United States on a trip to Israel.

The visit, funded by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), took place in mid-November. It was designed to provide American law enforcement officials with firsthand insights into the challenges and triumphs of Israeli police and security forces since the Hamas terror attacks on October 7.

Jonathan Thompson, the Executive Director and CEO of the National Sheriffs’ Association, reported that JINSA had prearranged a visit to Israel before October 7. Similar trips involving six or seven county sheriffs and police chiefs have been organized over the past several years.

“They (JINSA) chose to delay the visit after discussions with us, saying it was more important than ever for people to see what’s happening with law enforcement in the communities,” said Thompson. “They encouraged us to put a small group together and told us the Israeli government wanted to help.”

Sheriff Greg Champagne of St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, and Sheriff Jim Skinner of Collin County, Texas, joined Mastronardy and Thompson on the trip to Israel.

The significance of the trip was heightened in Ocean County, where approximately one in six residents are of Jewish descent. The delegation’s visit strengthened a sense of connection and understanding between the law enforcement agencies and the residents they serve.

“We have the largest yeshiva in the country with 9,000 students with Yosef Heinemann,” said Mastronardy. “It was interesting because I met a gentleman in Zakah who studied under Yosef’s father in Baltimore.”

Mastronardy said he stayed in daily contact with people from the Ocean County Jewish community who appreciated his firsthand accounts of the situation in Israel.

“It was an eye-opening experience, and I can relate better,” Mastronardy said. “I wish the trip was a little bit longer. I think seeing a few more things like the 911 center would have been even more beneficial.”

Throughout the six-day tour, the National Sheriffs’ Association representatives engaged in briefings conducted in classrooms, meeting with senior officials from Israel. Notably, discussions included sessions with high-ranking figures such as the general overseeing the Air Force, responsible for the entirety of the country’s airspace.

“That was a day we met from nine in the morning until almost nine at night,” said Thompson. “The briefings included the dynamics of the attack, the totality of destruction, lives taken, kidnaps, and things of that nature.”

The group engaged with Israeli police officers who have played a pivotal role in thwarting Hamas’ attempts to breach Israeli territory.

“The police did not have long guns and were fighting the terrorists with their handguns,” said Mastronardy. “If it wasn’t for the strong police response, it could have been much worse.”

“They had to sustain operations at the local level for almost twelve hours in some cases,” Thompson added. “Without military support.”

The delegation also had the opportunity to visit two of the impacted kibbitzes and see the remains of the Sderot police station after terrorists invaded. Eight officers and more than three dozen civilians died in that attack, with 26 taken as hostages.

On the first day of the Hamas terrorist attacks, 59 cops lost their lives. As the group from the United States moved from one police station to the next, they were deeply taken by the tributes to the fallen officers.

Mastronardy said that many individuals joining the fight against Hamas arrived from various countries, including the United States. He expressed amazement at the substantial involvement of women in both police and military operations. The average age of those fighting on Israel’s behalf is just 21 years old.

As he shared a photograph of a young officer, Mastronardy said she was from Spotswood, New Jersey, and in charge of the drone program for the Israel police. The Sheriff became emotional as he related the story of a 20-year-old woman originally from Atlanta, Georgia.

“This young lady said she was going to join the police in Israel,” Mastronardy shared, pointing to a picture. “She was in the kibbutz on October 7 and fought off some people where she lived.”

“Three weeks later, she got stabbed by a 16-year-old, who killed her,” continued Mastronardy. “We attended her service while we were out there.”

As reported by the Atlanta Jewish Times, Rose Ida Lubin had a longstanding desire to be a part of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In 2021, she moved to Israel and became a member of the IDF less than a year later. Lubin was on duty as an IDF border police sergeant near the Old City of Jerusalem when the fatal stabbing incident took place.

The IDF members who engaged with senior law enforcement officers from the United States conveyed their appreciation for the visit. The palpable sense of solidarity between them was unmistakable.

Meanwhile, the commonalities between Hamas and the cartels at America’s southern border is something that struck Thompson.

“They are both highly motivated for a slightly different purpose,” Thompson opined. “The cartels are purely for money; the Hamas, purely for evil.”

However, Thompson said that both groups have the same level of cleverness, dedication, and drive. He believes a similar attack could be replicated in the United States because people entering the country are not vetted properly.

As far as the level of antisemitism in Ocean County, Mastronardy acknowledged there have been ongoing incidents, particularly in Jackson and Toms River.

“We’ve seen a couple of incidents,” said Mastronardy. “But it’s leveled off.”

Mastronardy recently met with the leaders of three mosques in Ocean County. He was pleased to convey that there does not seem to be an issue with attacks targeting people of the Muslim faith either.

“I have to say that’s not the case in the rest of the country,” Thompon revealed. “In the last six weeks, we’ve seen a pretty dramatic increase in antisemitism and also seeing a rather significant level of violent response to Jewish communities.”

Originally published in Jersey Shore Online.