Letters | June 3, 2020


The prayers of Jewish military chaplains

Thank you to Sheldon Goldberg for his May 28 letter, noting that Jewish servicemen and women “are an integral part of the Jewish American Heritage” (“Donning the uniform is part of Jewish heritage”).

One additional example of Jewish servicemen’s contribution to America: the participation by Jewish military chaplains in the tradition of opening sessions of Congress in prayer. Fifty-five Jewish military chaplains have done so, from all five branches, since Jan. 21, 1895. That’s when J. Leonard Levy, who three years later was an Army chaplain during the Spanish-American War, opened the Senate in prayer.

Since Levy, 12 percent of the 441 rabbis who have been a guest chaplain in Congress also served as a military chaplain. And 13 percent of the 610 prayers delivered in Congress by a rabbi since Levy were given by a military chaplain.

Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, who was a naval officer in the rivers of The Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War and gave the closing prayer at the 1982 dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, holds the record for most appearances by any Jewish guest chaplain in Congress, military or nonmilitary — 16 times.

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