As previously noted, last year a Jewish US Army basic trainee at Fort Benning was assaulted for reasons that he claimed were related to his faith. His assailant was discharged, and the victim, Michael Handman, was allowed to leave the Army.
Several news sources are now crediting that scandal with recent activities occurring at Fort Benning. These actions have included the addition of Kosher MREs at the dining hall and a permanent party Jewish Chaplain. The base has previously had a Jewish Chaplain, though the relatively small number of Jewish Chaplains limits the number of bases to which they can be permanently assigned. (The Associated Press text also says that the drill sergeants were “disciplined,” though there is no public evidence to that effect.)
Last year the incident rose to scandal status, involving the MRFF, ADL, and NAACP. Read more
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has made a significant fundraising push over the past several months. In a July fundraising email, the MRFF used a letter from a Holocaust survivor who “pled” for financial support for Michael Weinstein’s organization.
In the letter, the author, Walter Plywaski (who notes he is “previously Wladyslaw Plywacki”), appears to associate “fundamentalist Christianity” in the United States with his Nazi tormentors, a moral equivalency that has also been implied by Weinstein in the past. Plywaski says that Christians are using methods similar to those instigated by the Nazis: Read more
The Stars and Stripes covers the efforts of a US military Jewish Chaplain serving the troops while in Germany. Chaplain Avi Weiss admirably faces a daunting task as one of the few Jewish Chaplains for members of a faith spread across much of the European theatre. He has previously served at the equally (or more) challenging Army facilities in South Korea, as well as Army bases in the United States.
The Chaplain already has a religious newsletter and has been called upon for an interesting reason Read more
The Air Force news published articles and pictures (see below the fold) of a Torah dedication ceremony in Balad, Iraq, on March 23rd, as well as the accompanying adult Bar Mitzvah of an enlisted Airmen.
Contrary to some assertions, such public displays of faith do not demonstrate an institutional favoritism of a religion (in this case, Judaism) by the military or by the government. Such expressions–even in a region of the world that has elements hostile to both Judaism and America–are not only permitted but also encouraged, just as the free exercise of other faiths is also supported.
Such displays are also wholly permissible in uniform, as these Airmen were. The Airmen wore yarmulkes Read more
Updated: Ed Brayton picked up the story for his blog, where commenters varied from ardent detractors to the supportive.
As noted at Jews in Green, a Messianic Jewish Chaplain candidate withdrew from Chaplain training after being told by the Navy that he would be required to wear the Christian cross, rather than the tablets worn by Jewish Chaplains.
In the 12 December article about candidate Michael Hiles, Rabbi Eric Tokajer says
This decision essentially bars Messianic Jews from serving as chaplains within the U.S. Navy because it would require them to wear an insignia inconsistent with their faith and belief system.
As previously noted, CAPT (USN) Neil Block is a Jewish lay leader who was personally involved in the investigation of alleged anti-Semitism in the Fort Benning community.
Now, Block himself is the target of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. In an article written by Jason Leopold, Michael Weinstein has called for his “immediate dismissal by Fort Benning” for his comments “trivializing” the incident, which Weinstein calls an “Army hate crime”:
Mr. Block displays a truly alarming and willful reckless disregard for the truth of this tragic Army hate crime and subsequent cover-up…Mr. Block is apparently the current reigning Poster Child for Army religious predator apologists.
[In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Leopold is a frequent advocate for the MRFF, and has received an award from them.]
The vitriol directed toward CAPT Block inspired an open letter [updated link] at Jews in Green.
Also noted at the Religion Clause.
According to the Associated Press, the Army has given non-judicial punishment to a soldier who assaulted a fellow trainee (previous discussions). The assault has been widely reported in concert with the victim’s complaints of discrimination because of his Jewish faith; however, the Army indicates there was no evidence the incidents were related. Michael Weinstein disagreed, saying
Michael Handman was turned into a punching bag for the Army because of his religious faith.
The incidents were also reported at the blog Jews in Green, where CAPT Neil Block, USN (Ret), has commented. He was the retired Jewish officer and local leader brought in to provide an assessment of the situation, and his comments are enlightening.
Also noted at the Religion Clause.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution carries an article on the recent complaint of a Jewish Army trainee regarding religious discrimination (see previous discussion).
The AJC notes that there were three “offenses”:
- The trainee was told to remove his yarmulke. As previously discussed, the drill sergeant was incorrect Read more