One Week After Memorial Day: Remembering Jewish Military Chaplains

As I mentioned last week, on Memorial Day, I attended a very moving ceremony at a local synagogue. And among the participants were several Jewish military chaplains.

I have to admit that this was hard for me. The last time I’d been in a temple to honor a Jewish military chaplain, I was attending the funeral of my family’s beloved Rabbi Barry H. Greene. Military chaplaincy was among Rabbi Greene’s many causes. He was himself a proud military chaplain; his coffin (it still feels terrible to write those two words) was flag-draped, and the director of the Jewish Chaplains Council spoke at the funeral.

It was in Rabbi Greene’s memory that I began contributing to the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) Jewish Chaplains Council. Last Chanukah, instead of buying gifts for all of my adult family members (the kids still got their packages to tear open), I wrote a check to support the Council’s Torahs for the Troops project, which, happily, is now very much under way, with a first Torah recently completed and brought to the Persian Gulf.

Now there’s another project I want to support. When I returned home from the Memorial Day ceremony, I picked up the summer edition of Reform Judaism magazine. A letter to the editor described an effort to raise funds for a memorial to Jewish chaplains in Arlington Cemetery. That letter is not available online, but I’ve found some articles that describe it further.

For instance, the Jewish Journal reported earlier this spring:

“Of the 311 Jewish chaplains who served during World War II, eight rabbis died. Two rabbis lost their lives in the Vietnam War. No Jewish chaplains are known to have died while serving during the World War I or the Korean War, although research is still being done to confirm that.

Sol Moglen, an activist in New York who is leading the effort….has already raised $17,000 of the $30,000 needed to build the memorial, a granite slab that will be erected on Chaplains Hill at Arlington, where memorials for Protestant and Catholic clergy already stand.”

I’m going to contact the JWB and contribute to this very worthy project. Perhaps you will, too?