Jewish chaplains’ memorial gets congressional go-ahead
Two years ago, Caldwell resident Sol Moglen learned that while there were monuments to Protestant and Catholic chaplains at Arlington National Cemetery, there were none for this country’s Jewish chaplains.
Moglen set out to change that.
With Westchester resident Ken Kraetzer, he spearheaded a fundraising effort to create a memorial. And with artist Debora Jackson, he designed one.
The fundraising campaign raised $50,000.
And Monday night, the House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill allowing the monument to be built at Arlington.
“It was a great night,” said Moglen, the morning after the congressional vote, which he watched from the gallery.
|Planned memorial for Jewish chaplains.|
On Thursday night, the Senate approved the measure as well.
Now, Moglen can go ahead and order the granite for the memorial, which he hopes to be able to dedicate in September. He said that area Jewish War Veterans posts plan to send busloads of veterans from New Jersey to the dedication.
When Moglen began working on the project, he thought the challenge was only raising money. He spoke before JWV groups in New York, New Jersey, and Florida and solicited contributions. Firefighter and police groups also contributed.
Then he discovered that it wasn’t enough just to raise money. Rules for placing monuments at Arlington had been tightened, requiring congressional action before the cemetery’s art commission could approve a monument.
For help in navigating the Washington legislative process, he turned to Rabbi Harold Robinson of the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, and to the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America.
Robinson, who served as a chaplain in the Marines and Navy and has the rank of admiral, was an important lobbying asset.
“It’s amazing how, when you walk in with an admiral, the doors open up for you. Even if you’re a Jewish admiral,” said Moglen.
Locally, the Jewish War Veterans lobbied the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations. The House measure was introduced by New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, and the many co-sponsors included the representatives from northern New Jersey.
“I am proud to support this important bill to honor the memory of Jewish chaplains who died while serving on active duty in the United States armed forces,” said Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5).
“This memorial is long overdue, but nonetheless very welcome,” said Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9).
Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-8) stressed the importance of chaplains for the many soldiers for whom “faith plays such an integral part in whether they successful in battle, whether they meet their objectives, whether they survive the ordeal of war. This long-delayed memorial will be an expression of a nation’s gratitude to our Jewish chaplains who gave their lives while keeping the faith of American soldiers alive.We will never know, in any tangible sense, the impact these brave and selfless chaplains had on Americans who fought in defense of our country. Only God knows the full breadth of their service. We only know that the United States of America would not be the nation it is today without them.”
For his part, Moglen is still amazed to have heard his name mentioned on the floor of Congress. And he is proud to be fixing the slight to Jewish chaplains that began with the erection of the monument to their Protestant counterparts in 1981.
“Persistency worked,” said Moglen. “You just have to have enough kayach to do it.”
More on: Mission accomplished
The most famous Jewish chaplain to fall in the line of duty was also the first.
Rabbi Alexander Goode was on board the U.S.S. Dorchester on Feb. 3, 1943, headed to England, when it was struck by German torpedoes off the coast of Greenland.
With three other chaplains — one Catholic, one Methodist, one Presbyterian — Goode stood on the deck of the sinking ship, helping to hand out life vests and calm the troops. When life vests ran out, the four chaplains handed their vests to four other soldiers. When the ship went down, they were last seen linked arm in arm, praying.