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. JewishSoldier

    This is something that needs to come to the attention and needs to be rectified. Those 13 chaplains who were dedicated to serving our country and providing for the needs of those Jews that serve (we are rare, but I do know plenty) should have a memorial just like the other religion's chaplains have. There is no reason for that not to be.

    May 8, 2011 at 3:50 am |
  2. All Atheists are Slimeballs

    You are just a waste of time.

    May 8, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  3. fred

    I can't help but laugh at the people who can't understand how Jews could have been here for 350 years, since "the US is only 235 years old." They must think Europeans magically appeared–poof!–on the continent in 1776.

    May 8, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • billt


      American history started before the Revolutionay War. Can you understand that? I can help if you cannot.

      There were settlers here 350 years ago. Its not that hard

      May 8, 2011 at 3:45 am |
    • billt

      This was intended to those who don't understand. You DO understand. So this is not directed at Fred.

      May 8, 2011 at 3:46 am |
  4. JonDC

    Uriah Levy was the first Jewish Commodore in the US Navy, rank equivalent to Admiral. He was a veteran of the War of 1812. The chapel at US Naval Academy in Annapolis is named after him. He also purchased and began restoration of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. Levy's grandfather fought in the American Revolution.

    May 8, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  5. JonDC

    Not many Jews immigrated to the United States before about 1820, but the 350th anniversary of Jewish settlement in America was celebrated in 2004 to mark the arrival in New Amsterdam (New York City) in 1654 of a group of two dozen Jewish settlers from the Netherlands, by way of Brazil. Over the next century and more, Jewish immigrants to America came mostly from Spain, Portugal, and the West Indies. They were of Sephardic descent, although a few were Ashkenazim from Germany or England.

    May 8, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  6. amjp

    For those of you posting here who apparently know very little (if anything) about American history, 23 Jews arrived in New Amsterdam (later New York, of course) in 1654 from Brazil. By the time of the Revolution, there were about 2000 Jews, mostly Sephardic, in the colonies, and several of them played significant roles in the War for Independence. The most famous was, perhaps, Haym Solomon. (We studied about him in Sunday School.) If you have any interest in learning more, check out Wikipedia, or, better yet, visit the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.

    May 8, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • hehe101

      Jews first came to the great state of Georgia in the early 1730s. There were 42 Jews, including a doctor. The doctor was VERY welcome because the previous doctor in Savannah had died. Much to the irony their is always a Jewish doctor. Always has been and always will.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  7. Jason Berry

    I am a Jew who does not support Israel. In fact, I believe that America's involvement with Israel has caused our country harm. While I may have been born jewish, my allegiance is with America, not Israel.

    May 8, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Okay..?

      Good for you..?

      May 8, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • hehe101

      Israel was created as a way to safe guard the Jewish race. Now that Israel has achieved nuclear functions they have achieved the goal. Jews shall forever be safe, as long as there is an Israel and an America to back her up. You may not like it, but there are only 2 major Jewish populations. One is Israel (at least 72%) and the other is in the US (less than 10%).

      May 13, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  8. MilitaryWife

    I'm saddened that this would "take an act of Congress" and I hope that it doesn't take long to get this approved.

    Good luck!!

    May 8, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  9. Chris

    Might as well. The Jews have always been a part of American life, and have influenced it in positive ways.

    I wouldn't be against Hindu ones either.

    May 7, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  10. Earthquake


    May 7, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • IkanThink

      Well, after May 21st, we won't have to worry about those folks – they've got a ride on the
      Rapture! YEEEEHAAAAW

      May 9, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  11. MaxFromNY

    Jesus Christ to HawaiiDude: "HawaiiDude, my son. To prove your devotion to Me, I want you to...go on CNN.com, to the post about Jewish chaplains, and make sure everyone who reads the Comments knows the truth about how bad Jews and Muslims are. You can do this. I got your back. Dude."

    May 7, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  12. MS

    I'm always reminded of why our Founding Fathers made America a republic instead of a direct democracy every time I visit the comments section on any story involving Judaism or Islam. Such hatred you all have for your fellow man.

    May 7, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  13. Keith M

    How about this for a point... the article and all of the responses highlight the true issue: religion. It's divisive and doesn't do a thing to bring people together. One of the first things I did as a Marine was to change my religion from Jewish to No Preference. We were all Marines, we were all brothers and even racially we were all "Green." The day that religion can actually be something that brings everyone together, then I'll be more than happy to believe in something. But for all of "you" that are using this article to belittle Muslims, Jews or anyone else... you continue to miss the point.

    May 7, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • Tom

      Pick a side, keith, you wuss. God is coming for you soon.

      May 8, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • Nah

      keith: "How about this for a point... the article and all of the responses highlight the true issue: religion. It's divisive and doesn't do a thing to bring people together."

      The article and all the responses highlight the true issue: politics. It's divisive and doesn't do a thing to bring people together.

      The article and all the responses highlight the true issue: race. It's divisive and doesn't do a thing to bring people together.

      The article and all the responses highlight the true issue: money. It's divisive and doesn't do a thing to bring people together.

      The article and all the responses highlight the true issue: land. It's divisive and doesn't do a thing to bring people together.

      The article and all the responses highlight the true issue: power. It's divisive and doesn't do a thing to bring people together.

      Yeah, I'd say it's a human failing. Not a religious one.


      May 8, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  14. hawaiiduude

    don't forget the muslim memorial too....

    May 7, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • MaxFromNY

      Jesus Christ to HawaiiDude: "HawaiiDude, my son. To prove your devotion to Me, I want you to...go on CNN.com, to the post about Jewish chaplains, and make sure everyone who reads the Comments knows the truth about how bad Jews and Muslims are. You can do this. I got your back. Dude."

      May 7, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Tom

      There WERE no muslim chaplains at that time, hawaiimuslimdude. You been smokin' too much weed up in hills, loco.

      May 8, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  15. Shane

    Not to be picky but it was not the USS Dorchester. USS is a designation for Navy ships and there was a USS Dorchester was the name of two ships. USS Dorchester (SP-1509) commissioned from 1917 to 1918 and USS Dorchester (APB-46) commissioned from 1944 to 1945. The ship in this story was the USAT Dorchester (United States Army Transport). it was a luxury christened the SS Dorchester and launched in 1926. it was requisitioned and converted into a troop transport in 1942.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  16. Matthew Ross

    There absolutely should be a memorial at Arlington. By the way, Philadelphia has memorialized the four chaplains. There is a Four Chaplains Chapel on the campus of Temple University. Dedicated by President Harry Truman in 1951, the Chapel is named for the four military chaplains who gave their lifejackets to save others on the U.S.S. Dorchester, torpedoed off the coast of Greenland during World War II. Headquartered at the old Philadelphia navy base, The Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation exists to further the cause of “unity without uniformity” by encouraging goodwill and cooperation among all people. The organization achieves its mission by advocating for and honoring people whose deeds symbolize the legacy of the Four Chaplains aboard the U.S.A.T. Dorchester in 1943.

    May 7, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • USS Mendota

      Wintley Phipps sings a poignant song about the four Chaplains on You Tube.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  17. Bill McAllister

    Try to imagine these same people sitting in a coffee shop as strangers dealing with this topic. Isn't is amazing how much hatred brews below the surface? I'm sure face to face they would discuss this entirely differently.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  18. Jehovah

    I AM would not object to having his people killed memoralized. Just remember, I am the premortal Jesus Christ who gave my people the law of Moses. Perhaps a name such as Jehovah-nissi – "The Lord is my banner", which was erected after the victory at Rephidim. We are all God's children, Jew or Gentile. There should be no lost sheep here.

    May 7, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • Pilgrim1

      Speaking for God is the unforgivable sin.... Blasphemy!

      May 7, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • jsaiditfirst


      If your not on drugs, your stupid.
      You do the good name of Jehovah a dis-service by your over hyped, televengelist fanatic style mumbo jumbo.

      And why not include the book, chapter and verse of the supposed scripture you quoted
      "Just remember, I am the premortal Jesus Christ who gave my people the law of Moses"

      May 7, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • Concerned citizen

      shut up you heretic, Judaism is the first religion, not your blasphemy of three gods and some god-man

      May 8, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  19. Tom

    What a dumb discussion. The story is a good one, well written, about a situation that needs to be corrected. Why all the trashtalk?

    May 7, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Tom

      most of these people don't even know where arlington is... meh...

      May 8, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  20. Jerry L

    I am a Pagan veteran and I think that this memorial for the Jewish Chaplain should be put up as fast as it possibly can be and is, in fact, way over due! It is not a question of faith so much as honor. These Chaplains exemplifed the true spirit of their faiths when they sacrified themselves so that others may live. I can think of no beter reason that this man should be honored with a memorial equal to those of the other faiths. It should be considered a shame that it has not been done sooner! I would not be against a major memorial for all chaplains and would like people to know that we Pagans have been fighting to have a Pagan Chaplain in the military for quite some time.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • USS Mendota

      I agree with you completely. I am an Episcopalian and remember my parents showing me the memorial to the Four Chaplains at Washington National Cathedral. They always told me the Chaplains' actions showed real faith. Rabbi Goode's sacrifice should be memorialized with the same type of memorial as those of the Protestant and Roman Catholic chaplains.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • Kelly

      I wholeheartedly agree. There should be Pagan chaplains in the military. Of course.

      May 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      and lest we forget, the muslim buddist, krishna, hindi, mormons and athiests...

      May 7, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Andy W.

      I wish you luck in getting a Chaplain to represent your faith. I agree that the Jewish faith should be represented as well.

      May 8, 2011 at 4:02 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.