The Challenge of Shabbat in Baghdad

The Jewish Journal documents the story of US Army Captain Eric Goldie, a Jewish soldier deployed to Iraq and trying to remain faithful to his religious exercise in an article entitled “Shabbat in Iraq: Under the Gun“:

On Shabbat, Goldie and a small group of soldiers, embassy workers and contractors — and even one Iraqi-Jewish woman — would gather in the U.S. Embassy to daven. That woman, Halida, would sneak into the embassy to participate, a considerable risk in a city where Jews were hiding their true identities…

Goldie endured a gauntlet of barriers himself just to get to the embassy for services.   “I had to take an armored transport, wearing 60 pounds of body armor, with my weapon, to attend,” he said.

The article contains what may be a swipe at the military chaplaincy:

Lay leaders led services with limited prayer books occasionally supplied through the military’s chaplain system.

“They rarely supplied anything,” Goldie said.

That might be a little unfair.

Goldie describes his services held at the Embassy, which means he was going outside of the military for his religious support.  The Army should have tried to provide what it could for him and his fellow Jewish soldiers, but it cannot conceivably provide for the Embassy staff and even Iraqi nationals.  (After all, the chaplains knew they couldn’t give the Iraqis Bibles, so they certainly weren’t going to give them Jewish supplies — even if they ask for them…)

Even so, the chaplaincy can and should attempt to provide resources to those who ask for them.  Regrettably, there is no guarantee, but the only valid criticism would be against a chaplaincy that simply declined to support such requests.

The article remains an interesting read, including noting the exception the group got for Manischewitz.

Via Jews in Green.