After the Nazis torpedoed the U.S. transport ship Dorchester in February 1943, Rabbi Alexander Goode and the three Christian chaplains on board gave up their own life preservers to help other servicemen to escape.
As a result of their heroic acts, Goode, Methodist Rev. George L. Fox, the Roman Catholic Priest John P. Washington, and the Reformed Church in America Rev. Clark V. Poling drowned as the ship sank.
All four chaplains were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross, and Congress created The Four Chaplains’ Medal in 1960. At Arlington National Cemetery, however, where three memorials stand in honor of military chaplains, Goode’s name is not to be found, nor has any memorial been erected for this country’s Jewish chaplains.
Sol Moglen of Caldwell is working to change that.
The monuments at Arlington are in a section called Chaplains Hill. The first monument was created on May 5, 1926, by a group of chaplains who served in World War I, and dedicated to 23 chaplains who died in that war. In 1981, a memorial to 134 Protestant chaplains was dedicated, and in 1989, a monument to 83 Catholic chaplains who died in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam was created.
Moglen learned of the missing Jewish memorial last year from Ken Kraetzer, a Westchester resident who is a member of the Sons of the American Legion. Now the pair are spearheading a fund-raising effort through The Association of Jewish Chaplains of the Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs to create a memorial, designed by Moglen and Brooklyn artist Debora Jackson, to the Jewish chaplains who died in World War II and Vietnam. (No Jewish chaplains’ deaths in other wars have been recorded.)
“This way the whole country knows about what we’re doing,” Moglen said. “It’s the cemetery of our presidents. It’s the cemetery of so many special people and now we have a chance to put something special there to honor our chaplains.”
They have collected more than $17,000 of their $30,000 goal and plan to erect a monument at Chaplains Hill in the fall. The response, according to fund-raisers, has been tremendous.
“It’s in our tradition to give,” said Richard Manberg of Hackensack, who has been helping Moglen publicize the project locally. “When people hear about a noble cause like this, they give.”
Manberg has been making contacts with synagogues and Jewish War Veterans groups because Moglen, he said, wants to focus on individuals and small groups, rather than go to large foundations for help.
“What’s very noble about this is he doesn’t want any big donors,” Manberg said. “He wants small donations so everybody feels a part of it. We want to give back and that’s what Sol’s trying to do. Those people dedicated their lives to other people.”
Moglen, who served in the U.S. Army in the late 1950s, recalled meeting a Jewish chaplain while stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. It was just before Rosh HaShanah, and the chaplain arranged dinners for Moglen.
“It was a wonderful experience for somebody 18 years old,” Moglen said. “It was a wonderful thing how the chaplains took care of us. It’s not just the Jewish chaplains, but all the chaplains are there to help.”
Sy Lazar, a member of Jewish War Veterans Lt. James Platt Post 651 in Fair Lawn, was shocked when he learned from Manberg that there was no memorial at Arlington for Jewish chaplains. He intends to present the project to his JWV chapter and propose that it make a donation.
“This is like an oversight,” Lazar said. “We had no idea about this. It’s a shanda.”
Lazar had never noticed that a memorial was missing during his visits to Arlington, and, he said, he was sure other Jewish veterans were unaware of the lack as well.
“I consider this personally a very, very worthwhile charity,” he said. “I hope to spread the word as much as I can about it.”
The response to the project, according to Rear Adm. Rabbi Harold Robinson, director of the Association of Jewish Chaplains of the Armed Forces and Veterans Administration, has been “overwhelming.”
|How to help|
|For more information about or to contribute to the memorial fund, call Sol Moglen at (201) 415-1141 or write to The Association of Jewish Chaplains of the Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs, 520 Eighth Ave., 4th floor. New York, N.Y. 10018.|
“What a wonderful idea,” he said. It is “long overdue. Let’s get this done.”
Robinson credited Kraetzer of the Sons of the American Legion, who, he said, pulled together “an ad hoc group” of Jewish War Veterans, chaplains’ organizations, and rabbis. In addition to serving as the treasurer for the monument effort, the Association of Jewish Chaplains has also been coordinating with Arlington National Cemetery, which Robinson said has been very helpful in moving along the approval process.
“I agreed that this was an appropriate addition to Chaplains Hill at Arlington and we have been working to assist [the group] with this request,” said John Metzler, superintendent of the cemetery, in an e-mail to The Jewish Standard on Wednesday.
Jews have a long history of military service in this country, dating back to the Civil War. According to the Association of Jewish Chaplains, 8,500 Jews out of a population of 150,000 fought in the Civil War. More than 250,000 signed up to serve during World War I, and more than 550,000 served in World War II. More than 300 rabbis volunteered during World War II and worked with survivors in the Nazi concentration camps.
“Chaplains are doing wonderful mitzvahs that should not be forgotten,” Moglen said. “If we don’t [put up this monument] in our generation now it’ll never get done.”