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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. The Dissident

    The jews will never stop at lamenting all there great accomlishments to the us military. Even though they only accounted for .005% of all members served inthe military. Give it a few yers and next they will be claiming it was all jewish unit that liberated the camps. How come the sigh at Auswichz first read 4 mil were killed and has now been revised downward to 2.5 mil but the total jews supposedly killed in ww2 still remains at 6 mil. Shouldnt it have been revised down to 4.5 mil now?

    May 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  2. Iqbal Khan

    A wrong treatment is wrong weather it is done by any religeon, group , organization or a country!

    May 29, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  3. Iqbal Khan

    Check this....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_JzbcMsgxU&feature=player_embedded

    May 29, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  4. James Miller

    Jews constantly whine about everything. Nobody wants these people. The fake nation of "Israel" is the cancer in the Middle East and their treatment of the Palestinians is disgusting.
    The USA should be at war with Jews and "Israel", not Muslims/Arab world.
    Read and educate yourselves:
    http://immigration-globalization.blogspot.com/

    May 29, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  5. Bill

    Why not? We're already an Israeli-occupied territory. Kind of like this comment page.

    May 28, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  6. walt235

    Jooz have never been, nor will they ever be faithful the USA. Nor is Israel in any sense our ally. Our "ally" spies on us, attacks our military and sinks ships when they feel like it, they sell our technology to our enemies and disrupt our political system. Not to mention the damage they do thru monopolizing the media and criminal activities on Wall St. If anything, jooz should be rounded up and sent packing! All relations with the criminal state of Israel should be severed immediately!

    May 28, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  7. William Ashton

    Yes, let's commemorate all the jewish people who served our great country...all .005% of them *eye roll*

    Get over yourselves.

    May 28, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  8. Mike

    I will be writing a letter to the House Veterans Affairs Committee asking that they get this done and before Veterans Day 2011!!

    Git er done!!!

    May 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  9. LouMiami

    This should be "a given." I am a Bible believing, independent, conservative, born-again, American, Christian, and strongly believe that this is a wrong that needs to be made right – right now. Where are our senators and reps. (especially our Jewish members) on this. Delay no more. The funds have been raised. Lets get Congress and Arlington Nat. Cemetery on the same page and get this done. We always say that America was founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs (and that's true), so let's recognize the service of our American Jewish Chaplains.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  10. Irene

    Sham on us. These men of God died giving their lives so others others would live; and sadly, men injured too gravely to meet their God gave peace to their souls in the last hours. Please give the Jewish Chaplains their monuement to heroism because they are beyond weapons and destruction. They go into war without a gun, only with words of peace, kindness, and good will to all, not matter their faith,.In this case, a monumnet of the chaplines of the Jewish faith is far too long in waiting.

    May 25, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  11. sonei

    Betcha, iRabbi Robinson's counsel will get their tabernacle...the USmilitary should grant that,although, it would be great if the U S Army founded nthat rite.

    May 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  12. krow101

    I'm reserving judgment until I hear what Mel Gibson has to say on the matter.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  13. gloria taber

    I agree wholeheartedly that Jewish chaplains who died in the line of duty should have a memorial just as do the chaplains of other faiths. Their service is no less meaningful than anyone else's. We all pray to the same God, whatever faith we embrace. I am not Jewish but I think it is more than time for this to become a reality. And I don't think it should require an act of Congress to make it happen. This is simply abt doing what's right. Please make it so.

    May 24, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  14. johnny orlando

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha I bet there arent any black chaplains either, its only a matter of time before they start this up as well

    May 24, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Joy

      Were you born this stupid or did you take lessons? If an African American chaplain was Protestant, he would be on that monument, if Catholic, on that one. Please try to understand the difference between race and religion, or are you really just another want-to-be-ignorant bigot?

      May 24, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  15. Dena Morrison

    I am also a Jewish veteran, proud daughter of Jewish vets in every generation going back to my grandmother in WWII when she came to this country. I believe it's way past time to honor those chaplains who served us, regardless of how much time has past or how overdue it is, or how difficult it is to accomplish.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  16. Jay

    I am Jewish, a veteran (albeit for only a brief period of time ) the son and grandson of several Jewish veterans of WWI, WWII, Korea. My mother who is now 88 was married in her Navy Uniform to my Dad who served in the Army, Pacific Theater. My Grandfather Jacob was wounded in battle in the Meuse Argonne sector of France in WW!. My Grandfather William (Bill) was a Marine Veteran of WW! and a Navy Corpsman at Normandy in WW2. My unclie, Harold, served in Korea. All these wonderful are Jewish veterans. I strongly believe that to fail to recognize veteran Jewish chaplains or veteran chaplains of any faith is not only to dishonor them but dishonors those who served while keeping their faith, regardless of what that faith maybe. Much comfort was offered by the Chaplains. They endured the same hardship and sacrifice of other veterans. Honoring them is our responsiblity and our duty. Thank you to the Jewish chaplains and all the other chaplains who served our country and our service men and women. We are grateful. Let's recongnize them in Arlington.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  17. jooj

    it should be in arlington especially since the Israeli PM is here

    May 24, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Grigory Dashevsky

      If you did,t see an idiot,take a look in the mirror

      May 24, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  18. Dave Marcus

    As a Jewish veteran, who served on a fast attack submarine (during a time when you were considered a fool to be in the service), I hope this is taken care of without much controversy. The Jewish chaplain deserve to be recognized.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Dave

      and forgive my misspellings I wrote this in a hurry.

      May 24, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  19. Rob

    "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.

    yet all the complaining began by the JCC

    May 24, 2011 at 1:41 am |
    • Steve

      Did you read the article?
      "Kraetzer, who is Catholic, was researching a book on veterans from his hometown when he found the gap
      He quickly alerted Jewish military groups to the missing monument".

      May 24, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • karnak

      Bravo Steve. Rob – please do not misrepresent what is happening here. It sounds like you either do not comprehend reading very well or you may simply be disposed to narrow and preconceived thinking.

      May 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  20. Mary

    Don't think it was "intentional" or a "purposeful slight?" Give me a break. Seriously.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:09 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.