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Jewish group fights for chaplain monument at Arlington
On Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery, no monument exists to Jewish chaplains killed in action.
May 7th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

Jewish group fights for chaplain monument at Arlington

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Arlington, Virginia (CNN) – Three German torpedoes ripped through the icy waters of the Atlantic off the coast of Greenland. On February 2, 1943, the USS Dorchester was transporting 902 U.S. servicemen to war. Only one torpedo hit, but it struck a deathblow - killing scores instantly and resetting the ship's course to the bottom of the ocean.

Amid the chaos, survivors later recalled, four U.S. Army chaplains fought to bring calm and comfort, praying for the dead and encouraging the living to fight for survival. They helped frightened servicemen find life jackets and head to rescue craft. Each of the four chaplains gave up his life jacket to save the life of another.

All four stayed on the ship's new course to the bottom of the ocean and gave their lives so others might live. The last thing survivors saw of the four chaplains, they were huddled together praying.

Lt. George Fox, a Methodist chaplain; Lt. John Washington, a Roman Catholic chaplain; and Lt. Clark Poling, a Dutch Reformed chaplain, are each memorialized on Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery on monuments honoring the service of Protestant and Catholic chaplains killed in the line of duty.

Graves at Arlington are marked with religious symbols.

But amid the sea of white marble tombstones and granite monuments, one name is missing - Lt. Alexander D. Goode, the fourth chaplain from the USS Dorchester.

He was Jewish - a rabbi.

On a quiet hill at Arlington, three large granite and bronze monuments to chaplains overlook a host of graves of fallen military chaplains. One honors chaplains killed in World War I, one honors Protestant chaplains, and one Catholic chaplains.

"I knew the story of the four chaplains," said Ken Kraetzer. "I found three names, the Catholic and the Protestants, but realized there wasn't a monument to honor Rabbi Alexander Goode."

Kraetzer, who is Catholic, was researching a book on veterans from his hometown when he found the gap. A bank consultant by day, he hosts a weekly radio show about veterans and military issues in New Rochelle, New York.

He quickly alerted Jewish military groups to the missing monument.

Since World War I, 13 Jewish chaplains have died while on active duty.

"It's a matter of principle. It's a matter of keeping faith with those who kept faith with us," said Rabbi Harold Robinson, a retired admiral who served as a U.S. Navy chaplain for nearly two decades and who now heads the Jewish Chaplains Council.

"There are about 255 chaplains who died in active service; 242 of them are memorialized on Chaplains Hill. From my perspective that's wrong," he said.

"If you've been in the military, you know about the bond," he said. "You don't leave 13 behind. I don't think anyone intentionally did that. I think that's where it's at, and I think we have a chance to bring them home."

Robinson and Kraetzer got the ball rolling three years ago. They reached out to Arlington officials who, they said, told them if they raised the money privately and had the monument approved by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, it could be erected at Chaplains Hill.

They partnered with veterans groups, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and quickly had enough money and a design.

"The money's been raised. The design is analogous to the existing monuments," Robinson said.

But things went south at Arlington after a scandal over mismarked graves forced a former superintendent out. The new administration at Arlington said the group would need an act of Congress to put up the new memorial.

"To have the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate pass a bill to allow a memorial, while not very controversial in and of itself, is not the easiest thing in the world to do," said William Daroff, who is government affairs director for the Jewish Federations of North America.

The Jewish Federations of North America was asked by the Jewish Chaplains Council to help get the attention of Congress to pass the bill.

William Daroff of the Jewish Federations of North America walks among the graves at Arlington.

"Over the last decade or two there's been a feeling in Washington there's been too many memorials to begin with," Daroff said, standing in the shade by Chaplains Hill. Congress wanted to make the process more restrictive.

"It's not about Jewish chaplains to begin with but rather it's just about a process to make sure these things aren't going up willy-nilly," he said.

"I don't think it was a purposeful slight of the Jewish community," Daroff said. "But now that it's come to our attention and the attention of Jewish chaplains, it's natural that our nation should stand up and say thank you."

They have enlisted several members of Congress to try to help pass the bill. The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the matter this month. If the bill makes it out of committee, it would head to the House floor for a vote and, if passed, would go to the Senate.

As the memorial moves closer to reality, the excitement is building among members of the group involved as well as family members of the fallen chaplains.

"It's very, very meaningful to the families," Kraetzer said. "We're hearing from more and more of the families of the 13 chaplains, and it means the world to them to have the recognition for their family member."

"Every cross, every monument, at Arlington bears a story," he said. "That's one of our goals - to get the story out."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • DC • Judaism • Military • United States

soundoff (352 Responses)
  1. Chris

    I think the Jewish Chaplains should be recognized in Arlington. I do not agree that it should take an act of Congress for the monument to be built!
    God bless the USA and our troops!

    May 23, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Pagan

      Considering the amounts of money the present Administration is lavishing on our enemies an monument is nothing in the way of cost. TAKE CARE OF OUR FALLEN.

      May 24, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • Alex Gessong

      @Pagan: the present administration is not lavishing money on our enemies any more than previous administrations have, which is none. In fact, the present administration has taken action to ensure that military families and wounded veterans receive more attention than they have during previous administrations. This story is about the need for our country to recognize the sacrifices of Jewish chaplains, not the needs of conservatives to take jabs at the President of the United States.

      May 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  2. Rob

    I love it.

    May 23, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  3. CPT Phil (Ret.)

    I am deeply disturbed that 13 Jewish chaplains have apparently been intentionally deprived of the recognition they and all chaplains deserve. I have attended services under the sky with an M16 next to me, a helmet as a pew, and a truck hood as an altar not because I am religious but because the chaplain always had words of encouragement and comfort. The Army recognizes more than 200 separate religions and each chaplain is expected to provide for the needs of every soldier, sailor, airman, or marine, no matter what or whom they worship or not. Most units don’t even have a chaplain and most service members have never even seen a Jewish Chaplain. Exemptions for Jewish Chaplains to wear a beard are not granted easily and in fact the prohibition serves no purpose. Chaplains serve in harms way on the front lines every day, they comfort and care for the sick and wounded, they notify service members when there is a death back home and provide comfort, they help coordinate with the Red Cross to bring service members home for funerals and to care for ill family members, they provide guidance and comfort to the homesick and forlorn, they are counselors, friends, and advocates for justice, and much more. How many friends do you have that would hand you their life jacket in the icy Atlantic and then pray for you. Even a stubborn atheist such as me understands selflessness and the recognition it deserves.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  4. Tiburonman

    Nice that this was initiated by a Non-Jew...a Catholic no less.

    May 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  5. Tim

    If it takes an act of congress to do clearly what is honorable, then the people who head up the National Cemetery should be taken out of their jobs. They have no idea what it takes to lead, make decisions and act responsibly......i.e. do their jobs.

    May 21, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  6. E. Wilson

    At least there are Stars of David on the graves in the great Normandy Beaches of D-Day. Everyone who served and died in any war deserves a monument...their religion should be recognized with symbols of their faith There will soon be Muslim chaplains who give their life for our country – there may well be some already, Any snickering on this site is just plain shocking.

    May 21, 2011 at 3:41 am |
    • Suprcel

      There are Jewish symbols on the grave sites of fallen Jewish soldiers. This article is not talking about gravesites or headstones. it is referring to a separate monument. Since there are non-Christian chaplains, I think it would be more fitting to remove the Catholic and Protestant monuments, and replace them with 1 monument honoring all chaplains. Otherwise we will need hindu, Muslim, Jewish, and many many more monuments built. And since Congress doesn't want more monuments, this would make it easier to pass through Congress.

      May 23, 2011 at 2:15 am |
  7. Loki

    I want a Danish monument! Hail Odin!

    May 20, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • PasadenaGuy

      Uh . . . . Odin did not give up his life on the USS Dorchester - or on any battlefield. He doesn't qualify for a momument.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  8. Jordan

    I'm actually shocked and insulted that this doesn't already exist. I'm Jewish and my Mother's cousin died on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor and my grandfather was a sgt. in Patton's army. He was awarded several medals (including the purple heart). He refused to EVER talk about the war and what he saw. I cannot even imagine if he knew this did not already exist, what that would be like for him.

    May 20, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  9. SSampson

    I'm an atheist... but when I was in the Military I was aware of the presence of chaplins (obviously) – While they were of no use to me, they were to many others.... They certainly put themselves in dangerous situation and should be treated with respect for the role they played – as such, it is perfectly reasonable for there to be a monument that reflects the sacrifice of jewis chaplins (rabbi's) – There are also Muslim Imans now I believe (I never met one first hand myself, but then that was a long time ago) – as such, they too should be given a monument for their service...

    Despite what everyone wants to believe these days, people from almost all faiths participate in the military at all levels. They all make commitments to this country and serve proudly; effectively. (I say almost all, because some subsets of certain religions do not permit militay service...)

    May 20, 2011 at 1:40 am |
    • Wolf

      I'm a Christian, and I thank you for your words. I don't have much to say except to echo what you said – but I thank you for being moderate and not like so many (Christians AND Atheists) who seem to have nothing but condemnation for the other side.

      May 20, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • 14Mickey

      Good, reasonable and well thought out comment. Well said.

      May 21, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • Makos62

      I would like to echo the words expressed, as pale as my echo is. Your thoughts and words truly sum the issue up.

      May 22, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  10. Joe

    Having been a US Army Chaplain's Assistant I can certainly understand the need for a Memorial honoring Jewish Chaplains. What busts my chops is the short-sighted bigotry some seem to hold so dear. These men and women left home, family and friends to serve complete strangers to honor their faith in God. Some paid the ultimate price, try walking a mile in their moccasins!

    May 19, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  11. Harold Beavis

    Nothing will be proven when Saturday comes and goes without incident. The nutjobs and Yahoos will just move the target as they always do.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • AntiPalinAlaskan

      UH, you're in the wrong thread, dude. This is about monuments to chaplains at Arlington National Cemetary...not the Rapture.

      May 19, 2011 at 4:58 am |
    • jumpbigr

      Hey Beavis you should take your head out of your Partner Butthead huh huhh hhuh huhh you are what the rest of the real world calls a nightmare with your shotgun in your pick me up truck and as long as you have someone with you with a pretty little mouth your happy Have a good time Saturday

      May 19, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  12. Bill

    My God. Can't this country even manage a cemetery without involving Congress in every thing. I think congress and the senate needs to be spending their time on getting a fiscal budget done before the beginning of every Fiscal Year as Priority #1.

    Every veteran should be able to be buried with recognition at national cemeteries. In fact the plot, box, and services should be paid for by the US Government. If a president, senator, congressman, or their spouses die they get buried with full honors, plot, box, and services free of charge. Some may have never even been in the military. We all put our life on the line, when we serve. We don't have to get shot in the can or dropped in a battle field or over the side of the ship to have earned the same respect. Let's try respecting those soldiers and veterans who are still with us.

    Viet Nam Vet and USN government servant
    Bill

    PS: Use prison labor to build coffins, dig holes, maintain the cemetery grounds etc... Might just lower the cemetery costs and lower our crime rate?????

    May 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  13. Thomas

    Certainly the ACLU will be along shortly to sue the government for putting up religious symbols on federal property such as Arlington?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • jumpbigr

      So what is wrong with putting a jewish symbol on a fallen Jewish soldier Headstone. Is there a problem with that?

      May 19, 2011 at 8:04 am |
    • Peacemaker

      Doubt that the ACLU will do this. You are one of those people who love to spread fear & lies. Stop it. Arlington's graves have had religious symbols on them for over a 100 years. Those buried there without a faith, are free to not have a symbol on their tombstone. Take a breath.

      May 19, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • cweinblatt

      Thomas, religious symbols (the cross) existed long before there was an ACLU. The only problem is that the religious symbol was Christian. Aerica is NOT a Christian nation. We are a nation of many religions, races, ethnic creeds and agnostics. In fact, religion should not enter into it. There should be recognition of every father, grandfather, brother sona dn grandchild who perished in teh name of America – REGARDLESS OF RELIGION

      May 19, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • cweinblatt

      Thomas, religious symbols (the cross) existed long before there was an ACLU. The only problem is that the religious symbol was Christian. Aerica is NOT a Christian nation. We are a nation of many religions, races, ethnic creeds and agnostics. In fact, religion should not enter into it. There should be recognition of every father, grandfather, brother sona dn grandchild who perished in teh name of America – REGARDLESS OF RELIGION

      May 19, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  14. Bandit6

    As a Canadian catholic reading these comments I'm in shock. We are all the same, why must there be so much hate. Every religion came together to fight for what was right. All should be honored not forgotten. Let them rest in peace.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  15. Lisa Kaiser

    My rabbi is a military chaplain–a full colonel in the uS Army Reserve. She is the first female rabbi to serve as chaplain and she has served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, along with her regular stateside assignments. Her name is Rabbi Bonnie Koppel. Her service and the service of all military rabbis deserves recognition.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  16. Nadine

    I am Jewish. My father and every single boy he grew up with - all Jewish - served in the military in WWII. My father lost his hearing. His best friends forehead was shot out with his eyes and he lived the rest of his life blind. Another good friend was serious wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and carried shrapnel all over his body till he died and lost the sight of one eye. Only one of them came back in one piece. They died so that the rest of their country could live free - including some very stupid and worthless forbears of one or two people on this page.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • jumpbigr

      You tell all those ignorant people who post anti-jewish sentiments on this page

      May 19, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  17. THOR

    I AM THOR

    May 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • No One Is Safe

      well, go buy some KY for your boyfriend to use on you, then...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  18. Mike in SA

    Put up the monument next ot he other chaplains! It is a travesty that these individuals were ever left off. During my 21+ years of service, I've dealt with Chaplains from all faiths. All are there for the soldiers! Put up the monument!

    May 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • jesse

      I agree they may the hardest job they hear everything and see most they comfort wounded soldiers and dying soldiers how hard is that. THANK YOU

      May 18, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Guest

      How about instead of erecting a seperate monument, remove the first two and have one for Chaplains' regardless of their faith instead of continuing a pointless distiction between them.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  19. Glen

    There should be a monument to recognize their great sacrifice for our country and for our freedoms.

    May 16, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  20. WomenVetVietnamEra

    So much bigotry and hate in this world its sad. We should honor all those who served the United States of America in all Armed Services no matter what race, religion or nationality. Especially for those who gave their lives in service like the 4 chaplains. Why not a memorial stone to honor Rabbi Goode. Why not honor a muslim priest too. As for HawaiiDude who thinks that all Jews are rich think again. What about Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Hugh Hefner, The Hearsts, the Gettys, Trump, Howard Hughes, etc the list goes on of all non-jews who are billionaires. Did I forget Oprah?

    May 15, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Ash

      Very true. My parents being Jewish are not rich at all, far from it. And my father's parents are not rich far from it and have struggled all their lives with my grandma dying and the funeral costing my father and his siblings a fortune because my grandparents have nothing.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:14 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.