27 Nov Frum in the Force: Q&A With LT. “Special Assignment” Ira Jablonsky
Name: Ira Jablonsky
Title: Commanding Officer of Brooklyn South Community Affairs
Precinct: Patrol Borough Brooklyn South which encompasses all 13 precincts of Brooklyn South.
Years as a cop: Currently in 18th Year
Family: A wife and five beautiful children
Yeshivas Growing up: Elementary School – Toras Emes High School – Chofetz Chaim of Baltimore.
Studied abroad in Yeshivas Bais Yisroel in Israel for two years. Currently Lives in: Marine Park, Brooklyn, NY
Davens at: KTA – Rabbi Eichenstein’s Shul.
Let’s start with the basics. Your father’s last name is Jablon. Your last name is Jablonsky. Why?
Legally our last name is Jablonsky. Years ago, my father and Grandfather both thought that for work purposes, it would be easier to go with Jablon, which stuck throughout the years. However, upon joining the NYPD I was required to use my full legal last name, Jablonsky. Nicknames are out! So it’s not as much of an identity crisis as people think. Even so, my wife, kids and myself still find ourselves using the name Jablon.
Being frum, what pushed you to join the NYPD?
I was working in the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) prior to 9/11 and I was going to Touro College at night. On that terrible day of 9/11, I witnessed the two planes as they crashed into the World Trade Center. I had been at work early, prepping for an event to take place later that day. What started as an ordinary morning led me to witness the most extraordinary heroes and what New York’s finest were truly all about. Our police officers were working non-stop to see what they could do for people that they didn’t know, even before taking care of themselves and their own families. They wanted to help anybody and everybody in any possible way. After seeing all the good that they’d done and people’s eyes lighting up as soon as they saw an officer, it occurred to me that this was a path I wanted to take, and I ended up on the road to the police academy.
What’s your favorite part about the job?
I have three favorite parts.
A chance to help people in a variety of different ways.
No two days are the same; every day is an adventure. I get a chance to make a Kiddush Hashem every day.
What’s the most challenging part about the job?
Not knowing what each day will bring and hoping I’ll be the right shaliach for any situation that comes my way. And trust me, if you think you’ve seen it all, something comes along that day, that minute, that reminds you that you haven’t. You have to face every situation as it comes and make sure you handle it the right way.
Is it hard being frum and being a cop?
Thankfully, the NYPD is extremely accommodat i ng when it comes to my religious beliefs and customs. They will ask me before a holiday or before Shabbos, “What can we do for you? We know there’s a holiday coming up… We know Sabbath is coming.” They know that during the winter hours the siren is going to ring early, but when I’m still at work and it’s getting close to Shabbos they’ll say, “Ira, what’re you still doing here?” They want to make sure I’m taken care of and I can adhere to all of my traditions.
Are there a lot of frum cops in Brooklyn?
When I first got on the job eighteen years ago, my answer would have been a lot different than it is today. Back then there was barely a handful of frum cops. A couple of weeks ago I went to the Shomrim Society Breakfast and when I walked in, I was shocked to see how many frum, yarmulke wearing cops were walking around. If I had to put a number to it, I would say there’s somewhere between fifty and seventy frum cops today in the NYPD. It made me feel a sense of pride that there are so many frum people wearing yarmulkes, patrolling the streets, and helping to keep us safe!
Give us a rundown of what you do on a typical day on the job?
Generally, there really isn’t a typical day. We respond to all community events, bias incidents, and anything else community related. We take care of all the large scale community events, such as parades. Events, such as the Labor Day Parade, are something that we prepare for months in advance. We also get involved in the Great Parade in Crown Heights. Currently, we have the Shluchim Conference that’s going on right now that we’re very involved in. We have thousands of Shluchim gathering in New York from all over the world, and we’re here to take care of them and make sure they’re as safe as possible. In addition, we constantly deal with the community councils, community boards, elected officials, community liaisons, and community activists. We just want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and safe.
Do you find a lot of anti-Semitism amongst your fellow police officers?
Like I said before, they are the first ones to try and help me when it comes to my religion. It’s a great job with great camaraderie. We are probably now more diverse than I’ve ever seen, yet we remain one big family. When I first got on the job, they saw me and what a Jew was really all about. They were interested and curious, and once you explained how and why things were done, they accepted it. For instance, we had a luncheon for Thanksgiving. The person organizing the lunch was in the office for only about 2-3 weeks, yet took the initiative to ask me, “What can I get you, Lieutenant? I know you eat Kosher and I don’t want you to feel left out.” Things like that are tremendous! Who has that? It’s a great job and I’m very proud to be part of it.
Speaking of anti-semitism, what are the local police precincts doing about all the antisemitism going on in Brooklyn over the last year?
I’m sure you’ve seen that there has been a tremendous increase in coverage, both uniform coverage and patrol coverage. We go on operations in which the community isn’t even aware that we’re out there trying to catch these guys. We also reach out to see how we can help the community that was affected. For the last couple of Friday nights, Community Affairs had been involved in operations and extra patrol coverage where these incidents were happening. We’ve met with elected officials and community members and bounce around ideas to help ensure the safety of each individual. There have been some arrests already in some of the recent high profile anti-Semitic attacks, and we’re going to keep doing whatever we can to make the community feel safe.
Should Jewish people in Brooklyn feel safe walking the streets right now?
Absolutely! I’ve been a lieutenant for quite some time, and I am comfortable sending my own family out with no fear because I know that the NYPD has a finger on the pulse and an ear on the ground.
What is the relationship like between the local precincts and organizations like Shomrim, Chaverim & Hatzolah?
I believe we have a great rapport. Like with everything, there is room to grow. We do wonderful things with these organizations, and even foster our relationship in unique ways. For example, summers often found the NYPD and Hatzalah competing in friendly softball games. These games began in a small field in Red Hook, and over the years, evolved into a large summer event taking place in MCU Park, a full sized stadium. I actually play in that game. This year, thanks to Flatbush Hatzalah, there was free admission. It was so packed that there wasn’t enough room for people to come in! It was wonderful to see the community come out and support us. These events allow us to build the trust that is necessary in dealing with events of a more serious nature. These organizations are a gift to us, and hopefully the feeling is mutual.
Do you find people in Brooklyn to be supportive or against the local police?
I believe they’re very supportive. They do wonderful things and they’re out there always looking to help in any way possible. There was a line of duty funeral and the abundance and outpouring of people showing up and lining up for a fellow brother that lost his life in the line of duty says a lot. It shows us that people really do care. That day really stuck in my mind. They could have been anywhere else, but they chose to be there. When thousands of people come out and stand in line for a line of duty officer, it shows you what people really feel about the NYPD.
It’s public knowledge that a lot of police officers have committed suicide over the last year. Why do you think that’s the case?
This job is not like any other. Unfortunately, many times you get to see and experience things that most people can’t fathom. Cops are human. They have private lives also and people go through different things in different ways and interpret things differently. It’s a job that you have to have tough skin for. Suicide is a very sensitive topic, but we’re doing a tremendous amount of outreach to all officers. The police commissioner himself is addressing this issue very seriously. It’s not just in the streets when we’re on duty, but it goes beyond our work hours. The NYPD has set up a tremendous amount of support and options.
If a frum boy or girl is reading this article in the Jewish Vues and they want to become a cop when they grow up, what would you tell them?
I would tell them it’s a phenomenal job. It may sound foreign in our circles, but once you experience a job like this, you realize how amazing it is. There’s stability, job security, and a multitude of units out there so you can work in an area that suits you. To name a few, there’s harbor, mounted, and aviation. There are many means to advance your career. There are promotional opportunities, and you get to be a part of the best police force in the world. It’s a great job with great people and I’d tell someone that if they even have a small notion to do it, then go for it! Why push off until tomorrow what you can do today?
Would you tell your own kids the same thing?
Yes! If that’s what they wanted to do, I’d be supportive. I truly love all of my kids and if they wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement, I would love for them to do it. It’s up to them. They live with a cop, a lieutenant. They would understand more than anyone else what this job is all about. I’d be behind them 100%!
Many people know your father Douglas Jablon from Maimonides Hospital. Were your parents supportive when you told them that you wanted to join the force?
I have never met a more supportive and phenomenal human being as my father. He is tremendous; he is the men of men, like an angel walking on earth. And when I told him the plan, he was extremely supportive! It’s a stable job and it’s what I wanted to do, so he was very pro the idea. He knew a lot of cops, and understood the good work they do day in and out. It was also always important to him to be able to help the community, and for me this was a great opportunity to follow that aspect of his persona.
My mother was like every mother would be, nervous and scared of the unknown. But once I went into the academy, she was a lot more relaxed and she was okay with it a little more each day. Now she’s very proud of everything I do and always has a big smile on her face!
Is there anything else that you would like to discuss that we did not talk about?
I just want to thank Commissioner O’Neill for everything he’s done for us here in Brooklyn. He’s had a phenomenal run. I’m hearing great things about incoming Commissioner Shea, so I look forward to working with him. He’s a community man. I’m actually going out today to an event with incoming Commissioner Shea at the Jewish Children’s Museum to meet with the Jewish community. They’ll be able to see firsthand how supportive he is of the Jewish community. It’s great to keep going on that run with commissioners that know communities. I’d like to give a shout out to my in-laws, to my parents, and to my wife and amazing children. I’m sorry if there are parties and events that I’m missing; it’s all for a good cause and I love you guys. My wife especially is the backbone of my whole family, and we’d definitely be lost without her.