The Jewish Daily Forward notes that Jewish American military members are able to celebrate their religious holidays even while deployed to a combat zone — in a country with an official Islamic constitution, no less.
Rabbi Jacob Goldstein will lead Yom Kippur services this year dressed not in the black fedora of his Lubavitch Hasidic sect, but in full battle gear at a Combat Operating Base in eastern Afghanistan.
And Rabbi Laurence Bazer won’t be delivering the sermon at Temple Beth Sholom, his Conservative synagogue in Framingham, Mass. Instead, he’ll be ministering to the cheekily named Congregation B’nai Kabul in the heart of the Afghan capital.
Four Jewish Chaplains are currently serving US troops in the region, with three on short-term orders specifically to support troops for the holy days.
While Chaplain Bazer notes the special nature of the holy days, he also reiterates his role in serving all troops.
“At this point I’m specifically taking care of the Jewish community,” Bazer said of his work during the High Holy Days. That marks a departure for the rabbi. “My real role,” he said, “is to take care of all service members and contractors and the government officials that fall under our command. That’s something I’m very proud of, and that’s why I’m called chaplain.”
Interestingly, there were near-daily, readily-available military news articles on Ramadan over the period of the month, but this non-military source is currently the first, and only, equivalent on the Jewish celebrations starting last week.
Photo: U.S. Army Chaplain (LtCol Avi S. Weiss…now the Installation Management Command Europe deputy chaplain, blows a shofar during a Rosh Hashanah service at Freedom Chapel here Sept. 29, 2011. Weiss will conduct services throughout the 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s area of responsibility in observance of the Jewish New Year.