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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. All Religion Is Evil

    The other three memorials should be removed and no new memorial for the 13 Jewish chaplains erected because "Over the last decade or two there's been a feeling in Washington there's been too many memorials to begin with", as the article quotes Mr. Daroff to say. That would make everything equitable and remove a few of those excessive special memorials. And, no one would have to waste time and resources on their "us too" campaign.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  2. JimDandy

    Just take all the monuments down for everyone.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  3. Nancy

    Cemeteries are a waste of space. Go memorial gardens.

    May 7, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Jesus

      In a more educated society, they would be turned into parks and golf courses.

      May 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Scramas

      a more educated society would also get rid of golf courses

      May 7, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  4. newengland2

    I am confused what's problem to put them in. Evenyone should been same. However, what was really push from those Jewish groups (most of them are dual citizenship). They wish the 51th Sate of America is Isreal.

    May 7, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Sydney

      Honestly, I'm confused at what you said... And you're saying that the 6.5 million Jews in the US are the same as the 5.8 million Jews in Israel? I think you're right- you ARE confused.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • American First

      I'm Jewish, and I know lots of Jews, and none of them have dual citizenship. They are all single-citizenship American citizens that were born in the US..

      May 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Ari

      I'm Jewish and I know a lot of Jews. I do not know one that has dual citizenship. I know some Israelis, but they only have Israeli citizenship. We are eligible to immigrate to Israel whenever we want, but we are not dual citizens.

      We are as American as George Washington.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  5. HONOR THIS HERO

    I can not understand why they would leave off the name of this true HERO. Give Lt. Alexander D. Goode the monument he deserves. To his family THANK-YOU for the courageous service your love one gave to our country.

    May 7, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  6. frootyme

    They leave no stone un-turned to raise this kind of issues around the election time.
    What is new..

    May 7, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Scramas

      ugh

      May 7, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  7. Pro Monument

    All we need for immediate action. . . Get the attention of the President for five minutes to explain the need for this memorial to correct the antisemitism. It can be commanded by executive order.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  8. Bannister

    I have no problem with a monument to Jewish chaplains. But try to put a Christian cross on federal lands (even out in the middle of the desert) and Jewish run groups like the ACLU will scream about Separation of Church and State!!!

    May 7, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • frootyme

      Yup, Jews make 90% of Libs.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Jesus

      As they should. A cross or star of David should be confined to INSIDE of a house of worship, not outside and at the highest point.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Jeffrey Farber

      The ACLU is a Jewish group? Funny, I never knew that.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • mtt

      I don't see the ACLU complaining about the crosses at Arlington. Do you?

      May 7, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • RuralGuy

      90% of Libs are Jewish!?! No way as of 2010 22% of voters identified themselves as liberal but only 2% of voters are Jewish. And not all Jewish people are liberal. So the largest group of liberals are not Jewish.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Plurb

      The sole purpose of the ACLU is the protection and enforcement of the bill of rights. The foundation of the rights we enjoy as US citizens. So as a US citizen why are you against the Bill of Rights? Why are you not a member of the ACLU?

      May 7, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Ari

      I'm Jewish and a conservative, and so are my parents.

      It is true that many Jews are liberal, but that's mainly due to that fact that they live in liberal areas, like NYC and LA. Everyone from those places is liberal, regardless of their religion or ethnic background.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  9. Ron

    If these men or women willing gave their lives in service to the country and other service men or women, they should have a monument reflecting.

    As it has been suggested about the numbers of a particular religion being the determination of if whether or not one is given a monument, that is irrelevant. If you serve and especially if you gave your life, that's all that matters here.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  10. ELH

    It is astonishing how blind bureaucracy can be. There simply is no point in denying a place of honor to Lt. Alexander D. Goode. I will contact my congressional representatives immediately.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  11. myklds

    They've been already honored in heaven, the four of them including the Jewish Rabbi. Since man tend to procastinate and subjective but not God.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • myklds

      @jesus..quote a single verse that supports what you spew, otherwise, advertise your ignorance somewhere else.

      May 8, 2011 at 2:30 am |
  12. Nancy M. B.

    This is a no-brainer but, as someone said, it will probably take Congress another 50 years to approve the monument. Red tape - ain't it grand???

    May 7, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  13. John Noonan

    A tip of the hat to Ken Kraetzer a Catholic who got this rolling. Let's honor our Jewish brothers who served and sacririficed for our country. Semper Fi!

    May 7, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Jesus

      As a former combat vet, I never could understand the chaplain position. Were they there to soften the "Shall Not Kill" commandment or to assuage concerns that after you're dead nothing happens other than decomposition? The chaplains I met in the service were toadies in the command structure waiting to collect their retirement after doing 20 years.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • One of Many Keiths

      Almost all armies throughout history have had representatives of the prevailing religion accompanying them, asserting the holiness of the slaughter. The KKK had numerous pastors as members, and lynchings of blacks often had pastors giving a little religious service for the victim before he was hung.

      You would think that God and religion would be totally against something as obviously wrong as war, but they are almost always right in the middle of it, encouraging it's progress.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  14. Bill D

    This is a long over-due honor. One small correction... the ship was NOT the "USS" Dorchester, but rather the USAT (US Army Transport) Dorchester.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  15. Andrea

    With any religion they should go according to how many of that religion served in the military.
    From what ever part of the world.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • Ron

      irrelevant!

      May 7, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Jesus

      If that were the case, atheists would comprise the second or third highest percentage with somewhere between 15 to 20% of the population being nonbelievers. How would you handle that? Or the 1-3% that comprise Wiccans and Witches?

      May 7, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Ron

      As a Wiccan, Jesus, I'd be all for it. If any group serves and is willing to give their life for the country, they should be honored as well. btw, there are Wiccan Chaplins too.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Bwitches

      You lied! we are the one composing the 15-20, while there was none a single atheist in foxholes.

      Atheists are born liars!

      Witches Rule!

      May 8, 2011 at 7:17 am |
  16. DC

    Seems like it should not require Congress. There is already a chaplains memorial and these are missing from it. The money has been raised. If the original bill authorizing the existing memorial does not overtly EXCLUDE rabbi's then just get it done! And if it does, it is shameful and should be corrected without a lot of wrangling. How about an executive order and dare anyone to try to block it in court?

    May 7, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  17. Alfred Brock

    No.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • Scramas

      did someone ask if you were intelligent again?

      May 7, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  18. WeirdMN

    Well that's a no-brainer; clearly that memorial should be included with the others. Since it's a no-brainer, it should only take congress 50 years to do it.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • Jesus

      Anti-semitism was prevalent during the 1940s and 1950s. It was accurately portrayed in the movie, "Gentlemen's Agreement". The late 1940s and early 1950s brought us Joe McCarthy, the HUAC, and "under God" being inserted in our pledge of allegiance and inserted almost everywhere else. It was a sick era.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • M

      Since it's a no-brainer, Congress is just the group to take it on.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  19. mb2010a

    Long overdue...I will write my congressmen for immediate approval.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  20. myklds

    Glory to those who give comfort for those who need comfort; to those who mourn with those who mourn; and to those who give their lives so that others may live. In the name of God.

    My Salute to the "four" Chaplins.

    May 7, 2011 at 5:40 am |
    • Jesus

      How about a monument for all the atheists that died. 15-20% of our population today are nonbelievers. There must have been a significant minority back during the 1940s. That significantly more than Jews or Mormons. Let's erect a monument to dead atheists.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Ol cranky

      @ "Jesus" the chaplain memorials aren't memorials to various religions/ideologies of service men & women, they are specific to chaplains who gave their lives. While I don't understand why the felt a need to have chaplain memorials dedicated to specific religions/denominations, the fact that they have one for Catholic chaplains and one for Protestant chaplains but none for chaplains of other religions who have served and died as valiantly does at least give the appearance that the armed forces believe non-Christians are inherently less worthy (especially given the scandals in which christian fundamentalism/orthodoxy runs amuck in the armed forces).

      May 7, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • esteban

      Wow,

      It's been a long time since I read the Bible but I didn't realize Jesus was an absolute troll...

      May 7, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Finger Puppet

      @ Ol crankey,

      "at least give the appearance that the armed forces believe non-Christians are inherently less worthy (especially given the scandals in which christian fundamentalism/orthodoxy runs amuck in the armed forces"

      You got THAT right. Check out the scandal at Fort Bragg. The Commander allowed/supported/enabled a "revival" by the fundies, then made it impossible for the other point of view to have a rally too. Funny that someone who is so ant-i-th-etical to real American values, would be allowed to command anything in the country that "says" it espouses freedom for all.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • JimDandy

      Just take all the monuments down.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Dave

      @Jesus- Religions need to build monuments to themselves otherwise the public would forget. It is subliminal advertising.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Jeff B.

      There ARE no atheists in a fox hole.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Dexter Skagway

      Estaban, Jesus is not a troll. I have actually seen him. He has the dark hair and complexion that you would expect from someone from Nazareth, and he speaks in a tongue I do not understand, and pronounces his name in a foreign way, Hay-sooss. And I must admit, the Son of God does a really great job mowing my lawn. He is also very reasonable priced.

      May 7, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Scramas

      jeff i would love to be with you in a foxhole you would not live very long

      May 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Dexter Skagway

      So the Red Army didn't use foxholes?

      Really, if the "no atheists in foxholes" cliche were true, then communism in Russia would not have survived the Civil War the immediately followed the October Revolution – the army would have converted and thrown out the Bolsheviks. Then again, most of the Red soldiers back then had already fought in World War I, and instead of becoming religious, they became communists and took over the country.

      Looking at what has actually happened in the world, you would almost think the whole idea of "no atheists in foxholes" is such obvious bullsh1t that even a total idiot would know it's not true.

      May 7, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
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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.