By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
The Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, along with AIPAC, Texas A&M Hillel, Jewish War Veterans of America and the Jewish Welfare Board, will host the first Jewish Warrior Weekend: Aggieland, April 14-16, in College Station. Sponsors hope it will become an annual event.
“The military is a small world, and our Jewish community is also small but mighty. We are excited about sharing skills and military leadership from a Jewish perspective,” said Plano native Dan Rosenfield, a strategic communication major at Texas A&M University. The son of Andi and Stuart Rosenfield, Congregation Anshai Torah member, and a Plano West Senior High School graduate, he is set to graduate in May. “All of our guest speakers have received numerous military awards and decorations, and we are honored by their contribution to this weekend.”
The event, open to any Jewish ROTC or military cadet in the nation, including those from military academies and individual Jewish cadets from ROTC programs, will host a welcome from Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez, the Commandant of the Corps of Cadets. Shabbat services and a kosher for Passover Shabbat dinner and evening will be held. Hillel and Shabbat morning services and lunch will be at Rohr Chabad Jewish Center. The weekend will include a campus tour, speakers on leadership, and a visit to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Participants will be housed in dormitories. In addition to Shabbat dinner all meals will be kosher for Passover, and there is no charge for the Jewish Warrior Weekend beyond travel (and personal expenses). For those in need, there are travel subsidies available.
“We don’t want anyone unable to attend due to travel so I hope cadets will reach out to us as soon as possible so we can try to help,” said Rosenfield. He is coordinating the event with fellow Aggies Wyatt Kamin and Doug Mendelsohn, Texas A&M Hillel Executive Director and Campus Rabbi Matt Rosenberg and Project Advisor and Director of Fundraising, New York Region for the Navy Seal Foundation Marc Wolf (a 2000 A&M graduate). Upon graduation, Rosenfield will be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and move to Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, pursuing a career in public affairs.
“Jewish Warrior Weekend: Aggieland is sure to be a powerful and immersive Jewish experience not only for the visiting cadets but also for our Jewish Aggies and I am truly inspired by the leadership of the cadets who have pulled this amazing event together,” said Rabbi Rosenberg. He noted that the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M is the largest source of officers in the U.S. military, outside of branch academies. “This event is bringing together future Jewish military leaders from all branches of service, to learn about military leadership and to develop relationships with future colleagues. Since the percentage of Jews in the U.S. military is so small, only about 0.3 percent, it behooves future officers to meet and interact.”
Rabbi Rosenberg is proud of the involvement of the Jewish community at Texas A&M, albeit a small group of close to 200. On a typical Friday night, between 40 and 50 Jewish participants will celebrate Shabbat together, with many calling Hillel “home,” spending many hours during the week for both study hours and socialization.
Former Deputy Surgeon General Maj. Gen. David Rubenstein (U.S. Army, retired); Air Force Chaplain Maj. Sarah D. Schechter; and former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, USAF (retired) will address the cadets during their stay.
Rubenstein is an A&M graduate returning for the program. Now clinical associate professor of health administration at Texas State University, Rubenstein recalls his time as a cadet from 1973 to 1977, as a positive experience where Hillel was active.
“The most important part of this weekend will be Jewish cadets from a variety of military and civilian universities realizing there are other Jewish cadets, soon-to-be-officers, whom they can connect to, call and rely on. This is about building relationships, which is key, given the few number of Jews in our military forces.”
Rubenstein will speak about being Jewish in the military, leading oneself in order to best lead others and how American Jewry has an impressive record defending the nation’s security.
“As President Roosevelt wrote in 1938, American Jews ‘have played a great and commendable part in the defense of Americanism.’ One can be Jewish and practice a Jewish lifestyle while also serving as an American warrior,’ he said. “These cadets will soon be officers, leaders, in our armed forces, and to excel as leaders they need to first lead themselves,” he added. “I applaud the Jewish cadets at West Point for starting the Jewish Warrior Weekend series in 2001 and I applaud Cadet Rosenfield, Rabbi Rosenberg and Brig. Gen. Ramirez for the expansion now to the civilian university setting.”
Schechter is the branch chief of plans and programs at the Air Force Academy. She is the rabbi and chaplain to the dean of faculty, and the first female rabbi in the Air Force. She directs the largest religious respect-training program in the Air Force, advises leadership and ensures the free exercise of religion for cadets and Academy personnel.
“Jewish Warrior Weekends have existed for many years and I think they are absolutely wonderful. Kudos to Texas A&M for hosting it and for all the hard work and effort they have put into a phenomenal-looking program,” Schechter said. “The Warrior Weekends have two positive outcomes: On a personal level, it’s great for Jewish cadets to widen their pool of Jewish cadet friends as it’s nice to get away and meet new people with whom you share cadet and religious bonds, and secondly, on a professional level, these weekends help cadets learn more about the different military branches. It’s hard enough to master one’s own service, all the more so the other services are mysterious and these weekends create those cross-service connections.”
Schechter served as chaplain to the 89th Airlift Wing/Air Force One and will speak about how she became a military rabbi. She notes that comprising separate branches, the military is a joint team relying on the skills and technology of each other, and a frustrating situation can quickly become demystified and resolved by picking up the phone, calling a friend that one made at such an event and asking for help. “On many levels, these weekends are wonderful and easy to justify to leadership why cadets should attend them,” she said. “On behalf of myself and the seven USAF Academy cadets who are attending this event, thank you Texas A&M.”
Schwartz has served for more than 40 years, during which he was the senior uniformed Air Force officer responsible for the organization, training and equipping of 680,000 active-duty forces serving in the United States and overseas, and was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, functioning as military advisers to the Secretary of Defense, National Security Council and the president.
“The Jewish community and our Jewish student community has grown continuously over the 10 years we’ve been here and this program is, I’m sure, going to be a great experience,” said the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center’s Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff, who regularly hosts 80 students for Shabbat dinner and also has learning and social programs that are well-attended throughout the week. “We are thrilled to welcome the cadets for Shabbos Pesach davening, lunch and celebration — to share some Yiddishkeit — and to honor this wonderful group of leaders.”
For more information or to register, email JWWAggieland@gmail.com.