The Fighting Rabbis: Jewish Military Chaplains and American History

By Weingart, Samuel | Shofar, April 3, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Fighting Rabbis: Jewish Military Chaplains and American History


Weingart, Samuel, Shofar


The Fighting Rabbis: Jewish Military Chaplains and American History

Rabbi Slomovitz's book The Fighting Rabbis is not only a stirring tribute to the bravery, heroism, and tenacity of American Jewish military chaplains in the face of war, hardship, and privation, but equally so, it is an eloquent testimony to the highest principles of patriotism and humanitarianism displayed on the part of the American Jewish community in supporting its military chaplains. Time and time again, as Rabbi Slomovitz chronicles, American Jewry had to stand firm against the forces of bigotry and prejudice that called into question the patriotism and loyalty of American Jews to the United States. The efforts of American Jews to win the right to have Jewish military chaplains serving in the armed forces, beginning with the Civil War, are carefully noted and described by Rabbi Slomovitz.

In the five decades between the Civil War and World War I, the American Jewish community, in striving to gain equal acceptance and recognition of the efforts and sacrifices of Jewish military personnel, including chaplains, had to deal with several significant historical developments. These were an increase in antisemitism in America, which led to Jews being falsely accused of being unpatriotic and not serving in the armed forces; the increasing number of immigrant soldiers entering into the American military, whose spiritual needs had to be met; and the rapidly expanding growth of Jewish communal organizations. Certainly the valorous deeds of Jewish military personnel, the extraordinary efforts of Jewish military chaplains, and the coordinated and vigorous campaigning of such Jewish communal organizations as the Young Men's Hebrew and Kindred Associations, the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the United Synagogue of America, and the Union of Orthodox Congregations, among others, were all instrumental in gaining for American Jews and their chaplains full recognition and support from the United States government and the military establishment.

While the great heroism and bravery of Rabbi Alexander Goode and his non-Jewish chaplain colleagues on the torpedoed U.

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