This past Friday, February 3, 2012, when the congregation gathered to welcome Shabbat at Washington Hebrew Congregation, the service marked the anniversary of the sinking of the WWII transport boat the Dorchester and the remarkable bravery of the Four Chaplains-- all of whom gave their lives that frigid night in the waters off Greenland so others could live.
Among the four chaplains was Rabbi Alexander Goode (pictured here), who grew up in Washington and who was a member of Washington Hebrew. His name was among those on the yartzeit (memorial) list read aloud during the service. Rabbi Goode's name is the first listed on the new Jewish chaplains memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
The story has been memorialized in many ways and guest speaker, Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, himself a former Navy chaplain, recounted it adding details from his service in Vietnam, the Far East, and Middle East.
As the service concluded, Rabbi Bruce Lustig reminded us that the Dorchester sunk in just 27 minutes -- a startling reminder of the fragility of life and the sacrifice of the Four Chaplains that cold night 69 years ago.
Congressman Turner -- recently elected from a New York district that is one-third Jewish -- had contacted our friends at the Jewish Federations of North America about showing him the monument. When the staff members at JFNA had scheduling conflicts, they called on us.
It was touching to explain the story of the effort to create the monument, both to the Congressman and the VOA crew. The picture here shows Milo, the VOA cameraman, and Congressman Turner in front of the memorial. Thanks to JFNA for letting me be a part of this visit.
Check out the VOA story, including a quote from me, here.
On Thursday, Ken Kraetzer (left), Admiral Harold Robinson (center), and Shelley Rood of the Jewish Federations of North America (right)--who have been spearheading the effort -- stopped by our office on their way to a meeting with the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which approves all monuments in the nation's capital and Arlington National Cemetery. They impressed us with their practice presentation, and apparently impressed the CFA with the real thing, as well--the design for the monument was approved, with only minor tweaks!
All of the funds needed for the creation of the Jewish Chaplains Monument at Arlington have been raised. Since last fall, we've been creating an accompanying booklet about Jews buried at Arlington (in cooperation with the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington). We've raised $2,000 of the $10,000 needed for that project; click here to donate (indicate that your donation is for Arlington Cemetery).
We'll look forward to the monument's dedication -- now a step closer to happening.
Our Collections Committee held a workday in the JHSGW archives on Monday. Volunteers worked for several hours sorting through dusty old boxes from the Rabbi Tzvi Porath collection, acquired by JHSGW in 2004.
Sam and Gail discovered a large series of papers including sermons, correspondence, and memoranda from the Jewish Welfare Board documenting Rabbi Porath’s chaplaincy during World War II. Brenda and Janice found dozens of Rabbi Porath’s sermons as well as event programs, invitations to the White House, and correspondence. Lenny uncovered dozens of photographs of Montgomery County Jewish Community and Ohr Kodesh, where Rabbi Porath served from 1952 to 1984 (see the photo below of Rabbi Porath with Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill!)
Meanwhile, Elsie continued her ongoing project with the Society’s institutional archives from the 1960s and 1970s.
It’s amazing how much a small group can get done in a few short hours! If you’d like to volunteer in the archives, fill out our volunteer application.