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Recollections of a Jewish Air-Force Chaplain

March 21 2018

During the Korean war, Chaim Feuerman—then studying at an Orthodox yeshiva in Brooklyn—joined the U.S. Air Force to serve as a chaplain. After very brief training, he was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to minister to new recruits. He relates some of his experiences:

Most of the chaplains [at the base] were in their mid-forties or fifties. I was a very young chaplain, just twenty-three. My trainees were much younger—seventeen. . . . When the trainees first landed on the base, their heads were shaved right away; they were then sent to the showers and stuck into loose-fitting dungarees—fatigues. No snappy uniforms for them yet.

The next stop on the assembly line was the chapel. The boys now had to hear an inspirational talk from a chaplain, any chaplain, be he a reverend, priest, rabbi, or imam—it was all the same to the military. My assignment was to tell them to be good boys, to stay away from drinking and nonsense. . . . It didn’t matter that my “congregants” weren’t Jewish. My job was to serve the spiritual needs of all faiths—to encourage the men to be patriotic, honest, “brave, courageous, and bold.”

Many of the Christian chaplains gave very long and tedious sermons. To their thinking, they finally had a captive audience—a chapel full of people—and they weren’t going to let these boys go so quickly. Their long sermons would then hold up the next group of inductees waiting to get into the chapel. This put the chaplains in conflict with the barbers, who wanted the assembly line to move quickly—they were paid by the head.

At one point, the Christian chaplains wanted to build a baptistery on the base. . . . After I looked at the plans and dimensions, I realized the baptistery could also serve as a kosher mikveh. . . . I asked [my mentor, Rabbi Isaac] Hutner if I could use it, [even though it was built with Christian religious ritual in mind]. He told me I could, because the baptistery was owned by the U.S. government, which is committed to the separation of church and state.

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More about: American Jewish History, History & Ideas, Jews in the military, U.S. military, Yitzchok Hutner

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations