General Officer, West Point Colonel Highlight Religious Conference
Jews in Green recently announced LtGen Howard Bromberg, US Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, and Col Glenn Goldman, Director of Military Instruction at West Point, will be speaking to the Aleph Institute’s 2013 “Military Training Course” in January. (Gen Bromberg has spoken there before, and prior speakers have included Speaker of the House John Boehner.)
The annual conference is intended for Jewish members of the military who are chaplains or lay leaders, though attendance is open to all Jewish military members. This year’s topic is “Being a Successful (Jewish) Military Chaplain / Lay Leader in a Highly Diverse and Multicultural Environment.” The announcement even notes the registration fee for the conference is reimbursable as an official military expense.
The Aleph institute has emerged as one of the leading religious support organizations for Jews in the US military. Their perceptions of life in the military haven’t always been perfect (when compared with reality), but they are clearly sincere in their support of Jews in the US military. Their service is not unlike that of Officers’ Christian Fellowship or The Navigators (or other groups listed here), which similarly provide resources and support to help Christians be “successful Christians” as they serve in the US military. A similar Islamic organization existed for a time but now appears to be defunct.
(Believe it or not, one or two organizations to support atheists’ beliefs have also tried to emerge, with mixed success. At least one has degenerated from a positive support of atheists to being little more than a group of people collaborating on how to complain about the presence of faith in the military.)
It is admirable that outside organizations would be willing and able to support US troops in their faith, particularly when they seem to receive no direct benefit for doing so.
It is also admirable that the US military allows high ranking individuals not only to practice and express their faith, but also to proactively encourage those who share their faith to do the same. This may be particularly true in this case, given that many of America’s extremist adversaries’ primary motivations are against Israel and the Jewish people. The US military has neither silenced nor disavowed its Jewish chaplains or Generals simply because al Qaeda doesn’t like them, despite the claim by wilting critics like Michael Weinstein that the sensitivities of religious extremists should determine the extent to which the US protects human liberties. In fact, the US military does the opposite: It proudly publicizes, for example, the work of Jewish chaplains in Afghanistan.
In this case, the examples of Gen Bromberg and Col Goldman will no doubt be an inspiration and motivation to Jewish servicemembers — a clear virtue to the conference. The troops who speak — and those who listen — will benefit from the exercise of their religious liberty, and the US military as a whole will benefit from its protection of it.