Sunday, August 14, 2011

[Shefa] It Must Be Us


I always knew I wanted to be rabbi - just not a pulpit rabbi. 
With some encouragement from friends and a visit from the NAVY recruiter, I took my commission and went to Officer Development School (ODS) for naval officers this summer. I expect to go active duty this June after ordination from JTS.

Here is what I have come to understand. 

The NAVY needs rabbis - Conservative rabbis. 

1) There are Jews in the military and there are not enough rabbis to minister to them. 

I have heard from so many people that while they serve, there are no rabbi available. If there is a chaplain, they are usually Chabad-like Christians on a mission and make the Jewish service-people uncomfortable. They have no one to turn to when others try to get them to convert. There is no one to explain and educate them and others, to lead services, to run Seders. These Jewish service-people spend their days putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom and we must now take up the call to strengthen their ability to be Jews - however they define themselves.

2) We are a Halachic movement which can work within the structure of military life. 

We are not so rigid that we can not integrate ourselves with the sailors around us and we are flexible enough to maintain standards of Jewish observances within the military framework. We believe in Klal Yisrael and extend our hand to other sects at every opportunity.  We are creative in maintaining a Halachic structure while being welcoming to all at the same time. 
I was able to keep Shabbat and Kashrut and have that bond within my unit. It was inconvenient, not impossible at ODS. My presence gave other Jews the strength to openly identify as Jews. 

3) We are confident in our Judaism so that we can happily co-exist with other religious groups.

I became close with other religious Christians in my unit. We had a mutual respect for each other and I did not feel the need to defend Judaism and its existence. There was also a built-in understanding by Christians that Judaism was the basis of their religion.
We had interfaith dialogue where we taught each other the unique parts of our religions. Through these discussions, our respect for each other grew.  We as Conservative Jews focus on interfaith dialogue to build strong relationships with our spiritual brothers. 

We are too few rabbis/chaplains trying to a yeoman's job. 

Navy chaplains serve as hospital chaplains, marriage counselors, social workers, teachers, preachers, preside over life cycles and service leaders. We are responsible for everyone in our unit, regardless of religious affiliation.

Where else can I do every aspect the rabbinate has to offer?

To do this does not mean that I love Israel any less. It means that Israel is my spiritual home and I am taking care of Klal Yisrael and those who serve alongside her in defense of democracy around the world. 

Yes, the job comes with some challenges and discipline but that sacrifice is worth it when it means I can serve God and Country and be a light unto all people as a rabbi/chaplain.

Consider this if you are contemplating the rabbinate. 

ENS Yonina Creditor
ODS Class 11070 Kilo Company

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