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. USAF

    I have served in the military for seven years and I personally find the rabbis to be the most compassionate of the chaplains. Since we have a tradition of including them in our service we need a tradition of including them in our rememberance

    May 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Jesus

      How did you conduct a "compassion" survey amongst chaplains? I was in the Army and found chaplains to be the sycophants of the command structure. They'd relay soldier's confessions to their commanders. They were not to be trusted.

      May 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  2. Mr X Katolick

    Time to right this wrong, equal time for all the 4 Chaplins killed.
    The only Jew I don't want to see our Government saluting
    is Donald Trump for the man, not his religion.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Sam-I-Am

      Donald Trump is Presbyterian.

      May 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Shayna

      Trump is not a Jew

      May 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Hal Shapiro

      Hate (NOT) to break this to you. But Donald Trump is not, I repeat, not Jewish. He is a supporter of Israel (I could do without his) and his daughter married and converted to Judaism. But that's as far as it goes. So you can rest easy knowing that he doesn't make us look bad, cause he ain't one of us. Hope this helps you rest easier.

      May 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  3. Adam

    So because of incompetence at Arlington, they now have to get approved by Congress? They might as well told them no, there are more anti-semites in Congress than we want to know exist.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  4. Adam

    So what if all monuments honoring fallen Christian soliders and chaplains were tore down since you say matters of religion and state shouldn't exist? Try thinking once in a while.

    May 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Adam

      My bad that was in response to jamm.

      May 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Jamm

      No, there should be monuments to dead soldiers. It's just not necessary to tie their deaths to fiction they enjoyed, especially at state expense. You should try thinking once in a while, it might clear your head about religion.

      May 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  5. mdblanche

    Why not take down the memorials that are there now and replace them with a single memorial to chaplains of all faiths? That would memorialize everyone without having to worry about having too many monuments. If these chaplains died together, surely they would approve of being memorialized together.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • gpiscopo

      Memorials are personal, each person has their own. The problem here is that the jews chaplains are the only ones without a monument, not to "Jews" but to them personally. It's obvious there has been a bias that should be corrected.

      May 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Adam

      You try explaining to the Catholics why their monument is being taken down.

      May 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Just Me

      I agree 100%

      May 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  6. Old Veteran

    Correct this mistake and give the rabbis a memorial. This "oversight" probabl;y did have anti-semitic roots but it is past time for allowing that to stand. I am really against the "hyphenization" of Americans but if there are memorials to other chaplains by denomination, then the rabbis deserve the same respect. And yes, there will be a memorial to honor Muslim chaplains someday and Hindu, if we need them. They are all God's children who gave their lives for us.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  7. Kana

    Since the monument is to recognize the Chaplains from the USS Dorchester than you have to include all of them the Christian ones and the Jewish one as well.

    I believe moments should be erected to honor extraordinary people that have gone way beyond what is expected of them.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Old Veteran

      As a follow up point, is there a memorial to medics? Like the chaplains, it is something different altogether to be in combat without a weapon with your sole mission to put the lives of others ahead of your own. There are some remarkable stories of incredible heroismI dsiplayed by medics. I would make that a rather tall memorial.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Scramas

      we should honor the truck drivers as well

      May 7, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  8. ndlily

    So . . . here's a question for you. Why do these groups each have to have a separate memorial? Why can't we just honor all the chaplains and lump the Jewish people with the Christian people (I love how we list Catholics and Protestants as if they are separate, exclusive groups). Or is it anti-semitic now to suggest that we include Jewish chaplains in with Christian chaplains rather than give them their own separate memorial? And how about if we have a Greek Orthodox chaplain or a Muslim chaplain killed in a war. Will we have to build a new memorial to that chaplain?

    It's funny how "separate but equal" is only wrong as long as we're discussing the living.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • jona


      May 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • gpiscopo

      Groups don't have separate memorials. Groups don't have memorials, people do. There has been an oversight where the chaplains left without memorials happen to be jews. 255 chaplains died in service, 242 have memorials, 13 don't and they are jews. Obviously a bias discordant with the inclusive society that most Americans want today. It's a matter of justice and inclusion. No matter what religion they belong to, if a chaplain dies in service, he/she should deserve a memorial like the rest, and yes that includes muslims, budhist or any other religion. And I'm catholic BTW.

      May 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • cweinblatt

      A separate memorial would be fine, as long as it and all other memorials have no identfiable religious symbols (no crosses, etc.). That would simply be a tribute to all chaplains – fair and justifiable. But, everyone would have to agree to remove the crosses from existing memorials. To be fair, their could be no existing religious symbols.

      May 12, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  9. Brian

    "Why because Jews make up 2% of the US population; "............................

    Depends how you define "Jew." I have seen estimates as high as 5%.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Jesus

      Like Mormons, the Jewish community "claims" more followers than there actually are. It is barely 2%. Many Jews identify with Jewish culture, not Jewish biblical dogma. Many haven't been in a Temple in decades. Are these folks really Jews?

      May 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • hehe101

      Yes. To respect and honor the tradition of Judaism is enough be cared for and loved by the Jewish community. To recognize yourself with rich and fruitful culture that is being Jewish is more than enough to be a Jew. Again, your answer is Yes. Those who don't believe in adoni are still Jewish despite their lack in belief in the stories that are in the torah, mishna, and talmud. I am Jewish (and now a proud member of humanistic judaism community), but I do not believe in a god nor that the torah stories are 100% true. Were Jews slaves in Egypt? Possibly. Was a huge flood sent by god? No, it may have been a tsunami. Did man give names to all the animals? Duh! You must realize that when we got a round to "dog" "wolf" and "tarantula" we were speaking english. The chances of them giving the animals the same names we have today is very very very very unlikely.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  10. Joshua

    As soon as a memorial goes up for Jewish chaplains, CAIR will insist on a memorial for Musim chaplains. It will have to be 13 stories high with a mosque, recreation center, and cultural center to bring "interfaith understanding and dialog" to the US.

    May 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Scramas

      you weren't supposed to know about that...

      May 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  11. LiberateUs

    They should put up a Jewish Plaque. Just for the sake of respecting the dead.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  12. Walker Franz

    It is understandable that people have become cynical about the seemingly unending unearthing of new events, acts, etc. from the WW II era. It is especially so when the basis of many of these new claims involve politics and/or monetary compensation.
    That being said, the issue at hand appears to be genuine and warrants our attention and concern. Jewish chaplains who have died in the line of duty deserve the same recognition as chaplains of any other faith. Since the exsisting monument honors only Christian chaplains, building a memorial for Jewish chaplains in Arlington National Cemetery is the right thing to do.
    it mentioned in the article satisfy all the criteria (save one) that were required of the Christian chaplains who are already memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery, then erecting a monument honoring the Jewish chaplains

    May 7, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  13. Jamm

    What if we separated matters of religion from matters of state, and didn't do specialized markers based upon what stories they enjoyed? I noticed there are no Winnie The Pooh markers for those who really like those stories.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • gpiscopo

      DId whinnie the pooh die in service? if he did, he deserves his memorial

      May 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Jesus

      Anyone notice who is right NEXT TO THE POPE in the photo heading? Another of the same ilk but a guy with a different delivery. Both are culpable!

      May 7, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  14. Elaine Hanna

    To Mike and all the other anti-semites.....If you were ever in need of life saving medical skills and a Jewish doctor (of which there are many) used his knowledge and skills to save your sorry asses you'd take it. I personally think it would be a waste of medical training, but all doctors take an oath, and when you come in on death's door they don't stop trying to help keep you breathing because you're an anti-semite ignoramus!

    May 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • demforlife

      You said it!!!

      May 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Chaim

      It probably doesn't keep them from being racist on their own behalf either.

      May 7, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  15. Erin F.

    Give the Jewish Chaplins their monument. They served their country just like the Catholic and Protestant Chaplins. Their story deserves to be told and honnored.- From a white Roman Catholic.

    May 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Scramas

      you're white? better stay indoors.

      May 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  16. Dood

    Man, that's unfair. Give those Jewish Chaplin Vets their rightful place in Arlington! From a white, Roman Catholic.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Jesus

      According to the YOUR Christian Bible, if they didn't acknowledge Jeebus, they deserve nothing and will not go to Heaven. Nobody has picked up on the photos at the top of the page. To the left of the Pope is ???? Buddies!!!

      May 7, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  17. patsown

    There was a Marine Chaplin in Korea, He was a Rabbi, I don't remember his name. He talke and prayed with fallen Marines, one said, "Rabbi, I am Catholic." The Rabbi responded, "Son today, I too am Catholic." That is a true story. Give the Rabbi's thier monument,.....

    May 7, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • 8100

      the marines dont have chaplains the navy supplies them but good story and im a baptist and beleive we should build a monument to the jews who fought and died for this country alongside the christrians

      May 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • jona

      that was from a movie.

      May 7, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Jesus

      No such thing as a "Marine Chaplain". They're all Navy personnel. Secondly, it was from a movie. Lastly, in reality, in a combat scenario, the only time the chaplains appear or crawl out from under a rock where they're hiding is when the action abates. They are the lowest of the low.

      May 7, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  18. Mitsvah

    You know, come to think of it I don't believe there is a single freeway in the entire country that is designated 'Jewish'. I think that is an outright display of antisemitism! What's a Moyle gotta do to get a freeway around here?!

    May 7, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  19. ROKWUD

    I have no problem with there being a Jewish monument. Am surprised there isn't one already.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  20. Murray Braun

    Antisemitism like racism is still strong in the U.S. I see the "omission" of a Jewish chaplain in a military cemetery as clearly antisemitic. I notice as usual that too many posters are antisemitic as well. Nothing has been learned from the Holocaust.
    It is frankly depressing.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Jesus

      Unfortunately, ignorance and ridiculous myths still are present amongst too many in our culture.

      May 7, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • demforlife

      I agree. What are the chances that none of the Protestant or Catholic ministers/priests were omitted, but consistently and without exception, the only ones "omitted" were the Jews. And now that they jumped through the hoops and raised the money and developed a design for the memorial now they are being told they need to jump through yet another hoop! Yeah right! This is not about antisemitism!

      May 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Scramas

      both anti-semitism and semitism are racist positions to take.

      May 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
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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.