Paying tribute to fallen military chaplains

Paying tribute to fallen military chaplains

Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy eighth-graders received expert preparation for their visit to Arlington National Cemetery during their May 29-31 trip to Washington, DC.

Sol Moglen of Caldwell met with the students June 1, telling them about the multi-year effort to erect in the cemetery the Jewish Chaplains Memorial, which was dedicated last October. Moglen was among those who played an instrumental role in the establishment of the site honoring the 13 Jewish chaplains killed in wartime.

Memorials to Catholic and Protestant chaplains have long stood in Arlington.

Student Jake Schenkler said that “the inspiring memorial to the Jewish chaplains showed the amazing sacrifices of people who gave their lives for us.”

His classmate Jacob Nelson said that when he entered the cemetery, he was shocked. “I never thought there would be thousands upon thousands of graves, and I realized finally what war really is and how horrible it is.”

Ariella Shua said that the monument — which lists the chaplains’ names as well as a quote from Samuel II 1:22: “They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions” — “was well-designed to show that…Jews hold onto their beliefs until the very end.” Student Simon Mendelsohn agreed, saying, “The simple but elegant design of the monument truly showed the significance of each and every person’s sacrifice.”

Moglen had told the group that while many people are aware of the heroism of soldiers and veterans throughout United States history, few had been aware of the role Jewish chaplains played. He cited the case of one of those whose names are on the memorial, Rabbi Alexander Goode, who served during World War II. At age 32, Goode left his pulpit in York, Pa., to enlist in the army as a chaplain. In 1943, the ship he was on was torpedoed. The rabbi and three Christian chaplains gave their life jackets to others and remained on the ship, praying with those still on board. All four chaplains died when the ship sank.

Goode remained an unsung hero until 2003, said Moglen, when he joined others in rallying the Jewish community to create the monument at Arlington.

Moglen said he was “honored” to address the Kushner students. He said he told them “to be proud to be an American Jew and to appreciate the commitment Jewish rabbis make in the American armed forces.”

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