Military sadly deficient in Jewish chaplains

Posted on 13 October 2016 by admin

The original title of this column was “Happy Birthday U.S. Navy!,” because it was Oct. 13, 1775, that the new American government allotted money for the construction of two warships, thereby establishing the beginnings of the American Navy.
Naturally, I checked out our Navy’s current strength, finding that we have the most modern high-tech ships afloat with China and Russia close behind.
But, in checking on manpower, I found that our Navy and all other of our military (Army, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard) are all deficient in one aspect, not enough Jewish chaplains to serve our active-duty Jewish military and their families.
Specific numbers are not easy to get from the U.S. Defense Department, but the Jewish Welfare Board offers these estimates:
Total number of active duty Jewish personnel in all five branches, 10,000. Adding spouses and dependents, 25,000.
Number of full time active duty Rabbi chaplains: Army: 12, Air Force: 7 Navy, Marines and Coast Guard: 11, a total of 30 Jewish chaplains.
Even with part time reserve and National Guard chaplains, it’s an impossible task for 30 chaplains to serve 10,000 service-members and their families all over the United States and overseas.
In order to attract more rabbis into the chaplaincy, restrictions are being lifted and regulations are changing. Beards for Jewish chaplains are now allowed, opening the door for Orthodox rabbis. Scholarships for rabbinic students are being offered. Cantors now have a pathway to become chaplains.
Sure, it’s easier and probably more lucrative to serve a congregation, as a chaplain, you serve your country and fellow man, impact the lives of non-Jews and Jews, each an honor and a mitzvah.
Perhaps someone reading this will share our military’s need with a potential rabbi. The Jewish Welfare Board and the Aleph Institute are helpful sources of information.

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