Serving with (a) distinction

Meet McHenry County Sheriff Robb Tadelman

Jewish Sheriff  image

When Robb Tadelman was sworn into office as the Sheriff of McHenry County in December 2022, he became, according to those in the know, the highest-ranking Jewish law enforcement official in the State of Illinois. 

McHenry, about 60 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, does not have many Jewish residents-and only one synagogue, of which Tadelman and his family have been members-so his visibility as a Jewish public official has been remarkable. 

Tadelman has been embraced by the Shomrim Society of Illinois, the state chapter of a national organization comprised of Jewish law enforcement professionals and first responders. Tadelman joined last year, and he takes pride in his affiliation with the local organization, founded 65 years ago. 

On the negative side, he added, he has encountered a small but vocal chorus who have reminded him that "antisemitism is alive and well in McHenry County." There was grumbling of "Jews trying to run the county," he said, during his campaign for sheriff in the fall of 2022, and anti-Jewish tropes continue to pop up in local blog posts to this day. 

Tadelman's response is to pay such remarks little heed, so that they do not gain credibility, or distract him from his work. 

He said that one of his major objectives is focusing on the health and well-being of his nearly 400 employees. Law enforcement is tough, he said, "and the work affects us in different ways." In the past officers who have experienced trauma in the line of duty-whether as victims of violence themselves, or as witnesses to the harm done to others, as in cases of child abuse-have been told to clamp down their feelings and move on. That "old-school philosophy," he added, is not effective, because many officers continue to struggle with PTSD years after a triggering event. 

Tadelman said he has implemented peer support programs, retreats, mentorship programs, and other measures to ensure that his staff receive assistance following difficult work episodes. "That benefits the public," he noted, because when officers get the support they need, they will be better able to serve their communities. 

Tadelman is well acquainted with his officers' needs. He has been among them for more than two decades, having risen in the ranks from a Deputy to Undersheriff during his tenure with the McHenry County Sheriff's Office. 

His rise in law enforcement was not a given, Tadelman said. He grew up in suburban Chicago - his first nine years in Skokie, the rest of his youth in Hoffman Estates-and, with his family, attended Beth Tikvah Congregation, where he celebrated his bar mitzvah. 

Like his father, a star baseball player at Niles North High School and Iowa State University, Tadelman excelled in sports. After graduating from William Fremd High School in Palatine, he won a B'nai B'rith sports scholarship, which he used at Western Michigan University to study aviation flight and science. When 9/11 occurred, he shifted gears to criminal justice. 

Tadelman said that he identifies as a "small-government" conservative, but that "politics stays out of the office." As a counter to the one-size-fits-all approach, he stressed that it is important to understand "that there are different lenses to look through" when assessing any given situation. 


Robert Nagler Miller is a journalist and editor who writes frequently about arts- and Jewish-related topics from his home in New York. 


 



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