By Jason Barczy
Last Thursday, at the Kew Forest Jewish War Veteran Post, Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) announced legislation calls for the construction of a memorial honoring the 13 Jewish chaplains who gave their lives in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
The memorial would be installed on Chaplains Hill in the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, which honors men and women who gave their lives in combat. Currently, Chaplains Hill has three monuments saluting the Christian religious men in the military, but none that recognize Jewish chaplains.
“These chaplains who served their country so honorably deserve this memorial, just like those of other faiths,” Weiner said. “I believe there will be strong support for this resolution in Con- gress, and I look forward to the day when I can stand with my colleagues and see this memorial unveiled at Arlington National Cemetery.”
Weiner was joined by representatives of various Jewish War Veterans groups from throughout Queens, including Seymour Weber, a member of Kew Forest Post 250 and a World War II veteran.
“I think it’s very, very important that we not be forgotten. It is so important we’re there as much as anybody else,” Weber said. “We served the best we could do for the United States of America.”
Jewish chaplains have served in the Armed Forces since 1862, and there are currently 32 rabbis on active duty. According to the U.S. Army, about 1,800 soldiers identified themselves as Jewish in 2009.
“The service of these chaplains goes beyond just providing religious service in the field,” said Jason Katz, a member of the Jewish Chaplains Queens County Council and a Vietnam War veteran. “They serve as a means for the troops to sit down and talk with people in uniform who understand their way of life and are very, very helpful.”
Weiner sent a letter to his colleagues last year to introduce the resolution and within two months, 23 members of Congress signed on as co-sponsors.
Weiner said that sometimes the recognition of creates controversy, “but in the case of the Jewish chaplains in the military, for literally generations, they have been providing service and in many cases dying in action and there has been no recognition as best as we can tell be- cause no one thought of it until relatively recently.”
The memorial to honor Jewish chaplains would join a 1926 monument honoring 23 World War I chaplains, a 1981 memorial dedicated to 134 Protestant chaplains and a 1989 memorial for 83 Catholic chaplains. All memorials erected in Arlington National Cemetery require a joint concurrent resolution by Congress, and the Jewish Chaplains Council said they have raised all the funds needed to construct the memorial.