The new year will bring a new role for Rabbi Andrew Bloom. On New Year’s Day, the religious leader of Congregation B’nai Israel in Rumson was sworn in as chaplain of the town’s police department.
It’s a voluntary post he considers “a nice recognition for myself, for the synagogue, and for the Jewish community here.”
Bloom will be the department’s first Jewish chaplain. “It is a huge leap forward for our community and a way for me to give back to a group who gives so much to our synagogue and our whole community,” he told NJ Jewish News in a recent phone interview.
Although the town’s police department has no Jewish members, Bloom has maintained a close relationship with its officers ever since he moved to Rumson in 2005, after serving as assistant rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Woodcliff Lake.
His first day on the job, Bloom said, he met Rumson’s police chief, Richard Tobias. “Since then the rabbi and I have been friends and coworkers,” said Tobias.
Bloom’s predecessor as chaplain was the late Rev. Foster “Skip” Wilson of the First Presbyterian Church of Rumson, who died in 2008.
The chief and the rabbi plan to remain a phone call away from one another in case of emergency.
As chaplain, Bloom will be on call in case of a public tragedy and will be available to officers or family members who might be going through a rough time or a crisis.
“If there is a terrible accident or a suicide, I may need to go to inform the family,” said Bloom.
The town of 7,200 people has a low crime rate and a high median income of $147,148 —more than double the state’s overall level. “Rumson is not a high crime area, but we still have our sad events,” said Tobias. The police routinely handle accidents, burglaries, and domestic disputes.
The rabbi’s life has had its own moments of stress.
Between 1988 and 1991 he served in the Israel Defense Forces during the First Intifada and the first Persian Gulf War as a combat medic in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza.
Raised in Brookville, Md., Bloom moved to Israel after finishing high school. He lives in Rumson with his wife, Michal, their two daughters, and one son.
He serves on the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission as a representative of the Shore Board of Rabbis.
Bloom said he considers being a police officer “one of the most stressful jobs in the world. They’re always on call. They’re always putting their lives on the line, and every once in a while, there is a stressful situation that someone needs to talk about.”