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Mission accomplished

Jewish chaplains’ memorial gets congressional go-ahead

 
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Two years ago, Caldwell resident Sol Moglen learned that while there were monuments to Protestant and Catholic chaplains at Arlington National Cemetery, there were none for this country’s Jewish chaplains.

Moglen set out to change that.

With Westchester resident Ken Kraetzer, he spearheaded a fundraising effort to create a memorial. And with artist Debora Jackson, he designed one.

The fundraising campaign raised $50,000.

And Monday night, the House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill allowing the monument to be built at Arlington.

“It was a great night,” said Moglen, the morning after the congressional vote, which he watched from the gallery.

image
Planned memorial for Jewish chaplains.

On Thursday night, the Senate approved the measure as well.

Now, Moglen can go ahead and order the granite for the memorial, which he hopes to be able to dedicate in September. He said that area Jewish War Veterans posts plan to send busloads of veterans from New Jersey to the dedication.

When Moglen began working on the project, he thought the challenge was only raising money. He spoke before JWV groups in New York, New Jersey, and Florida and solicited contributions. Firefighter and police groups also contributed.

Then he discovered that it wasn’t enough just to raise money. Rules for placing monuments at Arlington had been tightened, requiring congressional action before the cemetery’s art commission could approve a monument.

For help in navigating the Washington legislative process, he turned to Rabbi Harold Robinson of the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, and to the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Robinson, who served as a chaplain in the Marines and Navy and has the rank of admiral, was an important lobbying asset.

“It’s amazing how, when you walk in with an admiral, the doors open up for you. Even if you’re a Jewish admiral,” said Moglen.

Locally, the Jewish War Veterans lobbied the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations. The House measure was introduced by New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, and the many co-sponsors included the representatives from northern New Jersey.

“I am proud to support this important bill to honor the memory of Jewish chaplains who died while serving on active duty in the United States armed forces,” said Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5).

“This memorial is long overdue, but nonetheless very welcome,” said Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9).

Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-8) stressed the importance of chaplains for the many soldiers for whom “faith plays such an integral part in whether they successful in battle, whether they meet their objectives, whether they survive the ordeal of war. This long-delayed memorial will be an expression of a nation’s gratitude to our Jewish chaplains who gave their lives while keeping the faith of American soldiers alive.We will never know, in any tangible sense, the impact these brave and selfless chaplains had on Americans who fought in defense of our country. Only God knows the full breadth of their service. We only know that the United States of America would not be the nation it is today without them.”

For his part, Moglen is still amazed to have heard his name mentioned on the floor of Congress. And he is proud to be fixing the slight to Jewish chaplains that began with the erection of the monument to their Protestant counterparts in 1981.

“Persistency worked,” said Moglen. “You just have to have enough kayach to do it.”

 

More on: Mission accomplished

 
 
 

In the service of their faith and their country

The most famous Jewish chaplain to fall in the line of duty was also the first.

Rabbi Alexander Goode was on board the U.S.S. Dorchester on Feb. 3, 1943, headed to England, when it was struck by German torpedoes off the coast of Greenland.

With three other chaplains — one Catholic, one Methodist, one Presbyterian — Goode stood on the deck of the sinking ship, helping to hand out life vests and calm the troops. When life vests ran out, the four chaplains handed their vests to four other soldiers. When the ship went down, they were last seen linked arm in arm, praying.

 
 

Thirteen chaplains: A full report

Full biographical sketches of the 13 Jewish chaplains who died on active duty in the U.S. military, courtesy of Jewish Federations of North America:
 
 
 
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Stay tuned for the return of comments

 

A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

The converso’s dilemma

Local group goes to New Mexico to learn about crypto-Jews

Imagine that you were raised as a Catholic. Then one day — perhaps as a beloved parent or grandparent lay dying and leaned over to whisper something in your ear — you learned that your family once was Jewish. Your ancestors were converted forcibly some 500 years ago.

For those people all over the world who have had that experience, the next step is not entirely clear. Do they jump in with both feet and vigorously pursue their new Jewish identities, or do they simply go about their business, choosing to do nothing with this new information? These dilemmas, and more, were the subject of a recent Road Scholar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The topic — “New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews” — continues to fascinate both Jews and non-Jews, as evidenced by the religious identity of the attendees. Among those participating in this month’s session — there are 10 such programs held each year — were five residents from our area, including this author.

 

How to learn Hebrew

Confronting American Jews’ linguistic illiteracy, many programs offer help

Can you read a Hebrew newspaper or order a meal in an Israel restaurant? If you’re like the vast majority of American Jews, the answer is no.

“Half of Jews (52%), including 60% of Jews by religion and 24% of Jews of no religion, say they know the Hebrew alphabet,” according to last October’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” the famous study released by the Pew Research Center.

“But far fewer (13% of Jews overall, including 16% of Jews by religion and 4% of Jews of no religion) say they understand most or all of the words when they read Hebrew,” the report continues.

Alarmed by this finding, the World Zionist Organization, the Israeli Education Ministry, and several partner organizations recently launched the Hebrew Language Council of North America to help more Jews become conversant in the language of their literature, lore, and land — as well as the language of their peers in Israel.

 

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Israel launching drive to void Goldstone Report

WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would launch an international campaign to cancel the Goldstone Report after its author, ex-South African Judge Richard Goldstone, wrote in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post that Israel did not intentionally target civilians as a policy during the Gaza War, withdrawing a critical allegation in the report.

Netanyahu said he had asked his security adviser, Ya’akov Amidror, to establish a committee focused on “minimizing the damage caused” by the report.

 

Facebook and Zuckerberg does an about-face and deletes Palestinian page calling for a Third Intifada

Following widespread criticism, a Facebook page calling for a third Palestinian intifada against Israel was removed on March 29. On the Facebook page, Palestinians were urged to launch street protests following Friday May 15 and begin an uprising as modelled by similar uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan. Killing Jews en masse was emphasized.

According to the Facebook page, “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews.” The page had more than 340,000 fans. However, even while the page was removed, a new page now exists in its place with the same name,  “Third Palestinian Intifada.”

 

Did heated rhetoric play role in shooting of Giffords?

WASHINGTON – The 8th District in southern Arizona represented by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords comprises liberal Tucson and its rural hinterlands, which means moderation is a must. But it also means that spirits and tensions run high.

Giffords’ office in Tucson was ransacked in March following her vote for health care reform — a vote the Democrat told reporters that she would cast even if it meant her career. She refused to be cowed, but she also took aim at the hyped rhetoric. She cast the back-and-forth as part of the democratic process.

 
 
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