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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. Craig

    While this story is sad, it can easily have a happy ending. The real mystery is why doing this is even a question. The answer is obvious, and any member of Congress who doesn't automatically support it is an idiot. Of course, there's no shortage of those...as we all know.

    May 15, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  2. D

    They need to stop kicking and screaming and get that Rabbi's name up immediately...where it should have been from the beginning...how sad.

    May 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  3. Mary Ellen Hood

    When we stoop to name calling all dialog ceases. We become emotional children participating in school yard antics.

    May 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  4. Mary Ellen Hood

    Has anybody ever heard the admonition: "Be ye kind one to another."

    You draw a lot more flies with honey is a mentality that keeps dialog going. Besides it is just a lot better to be civil & kind to people. When we all get upset, then we become like children fighting over candy!

    May 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  5. Thomas Whalen

    Do the right thing !

    May 14, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  6. trawalla

    I think the jews keep pushing the holocaust thing along for the money and donations etc I mean its been a few years now hasn"t I"d say they"d be rich by now you never tend to see any waiting for food vouchers and the likes our unemployed

    May 14, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Kat

      A refresher course in English grammar might be the order of the day. Then, perhaps, you would be about to express yourself more clearly in blogs.

      May 14, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • DalesMelody

      If you are a Christian and have only nasty things to say about Jews, please take another look at the person to whom you pray. Rabbi Jesus ... an orthodox Jew, born, lived, and died a Jew.

      Shame on any Christian who even thinks a nasty thought about Jews. You pray to one!!

      Shall we stop talking about the Holocaust??? When Christians stop talking about Jesus. Enough already!

      Mull this over:
      6,535,000,000 billion in population
      13,000,000 Jews
      Take away the useless zeros because it's easier.

      6,522 non-Jews
      13 Jews

      We ask for nothing more than the same respect we give to other religions and to those Righteous Gentiles who helped Jews.

      We ask for a monument at the National Cemetery at Arlington ... just like Christians have.

      We ask that Christmas wreaths be placed only on graves of known Christians ... Jews do not do Christmas wreaths.

      (although someone finally realized this and took all the wreaths off the obvious Jewish graves. Now it's a tradition, which is very nice.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:11 am |
  7. candyisblue

    I become enraged whenever a semi truck is in front of me on the freeway. Does that make me an anti-semite?

    May 13, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  8. David S.

    He needs to be on there

    May 13, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  9. Sleeping Beauty

    There should be a monument to honor Rabbi Alexander Goode. No reason is good enough not to do this. I am not Jewish but a Baptist Christian and even I know what is the right thing to do AND I dont believe religion should even play a role in doing this.

    May 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  10. ShockedAndAppalled

    So much hate and hostility... it is disgusting.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • trawalla

      me too dont even know a semit is let alone an anti one please explain

      May 14, 2011 at 7:50 am |
  11. roger

    LT Goode is memorialized with the other heroic chaplains at 'The Field of the Four Chaplains' on Ft Benning GA, the home of the Army Infantry School...now known as the Manuever Warfare Center.

    May 12, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  12. Jane

    Why isn't anyone remembering what this Jewish Priest did, he gave his life for others, Yes, he should have a memorial at Arlington too. why is this even a question. Jane

    May 11, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Kat

      Jane, Your comment is simply stated but says it all. Thank you...

      May 14, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  13. Observer

    It seems likely that the original decision not to honor Jewish chaplains who died in the line of duty was one of respect, not discrimination. Traditional Jewish law prohibits the burial of Jews in mixed cemetaries. While there are some Jewish soldiers buried in Arlington, the number is small, and it is likely that most were not observant Jews in their lifetime. http://anc.jgsgw.org/pictures.htm As the monuments to fallen chaplains are designed like headstones, which might imply that the honorees were indeed buried in the cemetary, it was perhaps viewed as inappropriate to include such a memorial and thereby suggest that these Jewish Rabbis had been interred in a manner inconsistent with Jewish law. Knowledgable Jewish legal authorities should be consulted before establishing such a memorial now. It would do no honor to these heroes to memorialize them in a way they would have found inappropriate.

    May 11, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • cweinblatt

      Arlington Cemetery honors ALL American vets. To disrespect Jews because some of them are buried elsewhere makes no sense. This is the same kind of lame excuse that led to the exclusion of Jews (and other minorities), that prevented them from accessing country clubs, jobs, universities and more. It represents the very worst part of American culture; the same context that led to the extermination of Native Americans. If Americans are all equal, regardless of race, creed, religion, gender or orientation, then we must honor ALL who died protecting us, regardless of how many of that population are buried at Arlington. This is hallowed ground for ALL Americans, not just those who represent a majority of the faith of those buried there.

      May 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  14. morris2196

    The Jewish chaplains should be recognized in the same way that the non-Jewish chaplains are recognized. No, I am not Jewish, I am a Christian.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      and Muslim chaplains too!

      May 15, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  15. Thoth-Amon

    Belated birthday wishes to Rabbi Goode and his family. He could have turned 90 yesterday.

    May 11, 2011 at 6:05 am |
  16. cbr

    A simple proposal to honor Jewish chaplains is not a reason to make comments that are detrimental to those who are Jewish. Many Jewish men and women served this country well. Attempts to bring in outside information about the professions of many other Jews is way off target.

    All Jews in the military do not go to Israel when they retire. Certainly no one makes such a fuss when others join paramilitary organizations. Those who joined branches of service are every bit as loyal and brave as any others. I think it is fair to say that all men and women who join the military deserve to be remembered as patriots regardless of race, creed or religion.

    The citizens of the United States of America come from many backgrounds, nationalities and religions. There is no litmus test that will be used to decided who is patriotic and who is not. No one has to like every U.S> citizen and that is your privilege. It is not necessary to write remarks which clearly show a bias.

    May 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  17. Golem

    Just for the record, I'm a Jew. My father was an officer in the Navy in WWII. My father-in-law was a sargeant in Patton's 3rd Army in WWII. I was a Navy lawyer for 8 years, mostly during the Vietnam War. My daughter, a decorated Navy commander, is in Aghanistan as I write this serving her third tour in a war zone since 1991. That's just my immediate family. Many of my cousins have also served including as paratroopers and submariners. For the anti-semites out there this won't mean a thing but I just thought I's mention it.

    May 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Sleeper

      @Golem
      I would like to point out one thing in your statement and that being the word or words Anti-Semite. The word Semite refers to a larger group of people including Hebrews but not only them. If you refer to this page here on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semitic you will see this "The term Semite means a member of any of various ancient and modern Semitic-speaking peoples originating in southwestern Asia, including Akkadians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Arabs, and Ethiopian Semites"

      So as you can see the term you are using is for all that are listed and not a singularly Hebrew identifying term.
      Thank you for your service to our country as I to am a veteran of this most current conflict.

      Have a great day and good luck with this memorial.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • DC Chicagoan

      @ Sleeper

      While it is true that semite refers to a larger group of people, anti-semite has historically been used to define prejudice against Jews. It was a term not coined by the Jewish community, but rather by an anti-semite. Please do not try and redefine terms.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • cweinblatt

      While you are technically correct about "Semitic" people, the term "anti-Semite" has come to be recognized as anti-Jewish.

      May 12, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Sleeper

      @DC Chicagoan
      I enjoy your critique but my facts still stand you here are the one trying to redefine terms to suit your own needs. If someone says they hate the french, english, germans, Americans, arabs so on and so forth, they are just left alone. We dont need an additional term to identify them as a hater of said group. In the case of one who may hate hebrews though a special new term is made up concealing its true root reason and meaning. Why can't they just be allowed to hate this group like the haters of the french, english, germans, Americans, etc.? This also segregates hate instead of placing it where it belongs in the garbage.

      May 12, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • hehe101

      @sleeper:

      So therefore "islamaphobia" is another form of antisemitism!

      May 13, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      don't forget Palestinians are semites as well...

      May 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  18. Nonimus

    It's probably already been suggested but, if there are "too many memorials to begin with" why not propose removing the existing chaplain memorials and erecting one memorial to all chaplains that died while on active duty or just all chaplains. What about the Muslim, Buddhists, and even Atheist chaplains. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/27/us/27atheists.html?_r=1)

    May 9, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • usmc josh

      Atheist chaplains? Really come on?

      May 10, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  19. Adelina

    Germany could have been the most powerful nation on earth by now if it didn't attempt to annihilate the Jews or to subdue others by power. Screwed theology really screws a nation or an empire entirely and thoroughly.

    May 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • PhysicsGuy

      I'd have to disagree; the majority of Nazi wealth from which came the military might of the country, came from those Jews whose property they stole.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Xugos

      PhysicsGuy is 100% correct. All of their wealth was temporary and came from hyper military spending.

      May 9, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Adelina

      Can't secular Americans think of the world other than in the terms of money? Wealth can be born or lost anytime by anyone. I'm talking about the greatness and potentials of the nature of the German people with the Jews in them. It's too late now. The loss, casuality and the shame crippled Germany and Europe permanently. Europe needs to return to God just as America does. Self-reliance and self-smartness have been proven to be toxic woes.

      May 10, 2011 at 3:32 am |
    • Jew merica

      Really..
      if Germany was only great because of Jew how do you explain germany today? I guess they are still living off the plunder of the Jew from ww2 era... Who the he'll is teaching Americans history?

      May 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Kent

      Germany stole all that wealth.

      And, yes, there should be a Jewish monument, too.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      the only thing jews owned was money gotten through usury and shady money lending schemes.

      May 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  20. huxley

    No brainer.

    May 8, 2011 at 6:26 am |
    • hawaiiduude

      we need a Muslim monument as well then as there have been muslim chaplains in the military for years. Muslim US soldiers have also given their lives for our country.

      May 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      the term Jew is not in the original bibles. Instead Judah and Judaean are used. This is representative of tribe of judah only. There were 12 tribes altogether and they are not jews. They are Hebrew. Jew is an english word not found in any original manuscripts.

      May 15, 2011 at 1:07 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.