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The Southern Jewish weekly. [volume] (Jacksonville, Fla.) 1939-1992, August 23, 1940, Image 2

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Page Two
A Jewish Chaplain at
The U. S. War Games
#
By ARYEH LEV
(Ist Lt. Chaplain Reserves)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rabbi Lev, executive director of na
tional Young Judaea, was called by the Army for chap
lain duty during the practice maneuvers in northern
New York, and was released for service by his organi
zation. In the following article he tells some of his in
teresting experiences.
Civilians back home reading about the Army maneuvers
have no idea what a sight it is to see entire cities of tents
pitched on every field and in every valley. You can travel
for miles, and at every break in the road you see signs lead
ing to more and more units. There must be close to 100,000
men in our corps alone, complete with mechanized forces
and planes. I
It is the task of the chaplains j
to minister to these men, to satis
fy their spiritual needs, to guide
them morally, to care for them in
time of illness, and even to render
physical aid where necessary. I
am the only Jewish, chaplain in a
group of forty, the rest all Cath
olics and Protestants. The veter
an colonel in charge of our group
greeted me with a handshake and
the comment, “Yessiree, you’re
the only cat of your kind in this
part of the alley, and we’re
mighty glad to have you.”
The Protestant and Catholic
chaplains are spread out down the
line through the divisions, brig
ades and regiments. As the only
Jewish chaplain I have to travel
around the territory seeking co
religionists among the uniformed
men. I carry with me prayer
books, Bibles, Jewish calendars
and stationery, supplied by the
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Committee for Army and Navy of
the Jewish Welfare Board. In
short, I constitute a travelling
synagogue, and conduct services
wherever I contact members of
my flock. Moses certainly had
nothing on me with his portable
Tabernacles in the wilderness.
On my first day on duty I had
a most interesting experience. I
was sitting in the Chaplain’s tent
when a buck private entered and
saluted. In a halting voice he be
gan to speak, asking if I could
obtain transportation for him in
to Ogdensburg, a nearby city.
When asked for what purpose, he
stammered that he was Jewish
and that according to his faith he
had to go to a synagogue once
each year on the anniversary of
his father’s death.
I smiled at him reassuringly and
told him I would see to it that
transportation would be provided.
“I understand,” I added. “You see,
I’m a Jewish chaplain.”
For the first time he then no
ticed that my chaplain’s insignia
bore the tablets of the law with
the Star of David, instead of the
usual cross, and his face lighted
up.
“My, but it feels good to know
that we have a rabbi in our
midst,” he exclaimed. “I must tell
the boys about it,” and off he
dashed.
The army officials went out of
their way to help our Jewish serv
icer. Orders went out throughout
the camps, and at one service a
major personally brought down a
boy from one of his companies, to
make sure that he would not be
stopped on the way.
At the conclusion of one service
I asked any mourners present to
join me in reciting the “Kaddish.”
There, were none. Then I asked
how many, who had lost one or
both of their parents, had not said
the “Kaddish” at all during the
year. Seven hands went up. They
joined with me in the second ‘Kad
dish.”
When services were over one
boy took me aside and with tears
in his eyes thanked me for allow
ing him to say it, for though he
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had promised his mother on her
death bed to observe her Yahrzeit,
he had never gotten around to it.
He resolved there and then to as
certain the proper date and never
again miss the prayer.
The presence of a Jewish chap
lain relieved many regimental
commanders of a headache. For
lack of a rabbi they often had to
conduct services of a non-denom
inational character. One lieuten
ant-colonel, a Methodist from Al
toona, Pa., upon being introduced
to me produced a small patch of
cloth and asked if it were not
mandatory that something like it
be used during a Jewish service.
Upon examination I discovered it
to be a fragment of a prayer
shawl, which he had used, together
with a Bible, to conduct services
for the Jewish boys at least once
during each training period. He
had originally received this equip
ment from a rabbi during the
World War and had kept it for 22
years, in a conscientious effort to
conduct genuinely Jewish services.
He asked for further informa
tion on Jewish services, and added:
“When I’m retired I’m going to
enter one of your Jewish semi
naries and learn what it’s really
all about.”
We travelling chaplains call our
selves the “Sky Patrol Battalion,”
and we get a fine reception where
ver we go. Many people comment
on the sight of three clergymen,
Catholic, Protestant and Jew,
working together. We live daily
the life of perfect brotherhood.
As a chaplain, one is immedi
ately ranked as a first lieuten
ant. This is quite a high rank, but
at headquarters you feel like a
peanut in a sack of captains, ma
jors, colonels and generals. These
men are really the top men in
our army, and I was particularly
anxious to get their reactions to
a Jewish chaplain. I shied clear
of generals, but did have oppor
tunities to discuss matters with
others of high rank.
.. .Many were the questions they
asked about Jews and Judaism,
and I was the first man with
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whom they ever had opportunity
to converse freely on these sub
jects. I was a fellow officer, and
they felt that I could be trusted
as an authority. I was “one of the
boys.”
One colonel wanted to know how
many Jewish boys were in our
area. He had an idea there were
very few and not in proportion to
the civil population. The figures
I gave him surprised him. He had
an idea that Jews composed 10 or
12 per cent of the general popu
(Continued on Page Eight)
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