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Rabbi in the Armed Forces 1958 - 1997

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“In 1958, when I was just 24 years old, I was enrolled in rabbinic studies at Yeshiva University, whose [head of school] strongly encouraged his students to serve in the armed forces... He instituted a policy that five students in every rabbinic class... were obliged to volunteer as chaplains in the US armed forces. These five were selected through a lottery system, and I happened to be one of them. However, my father objected. He felt, as did many Torah observant people back then, that the armed forces – with their secular environment – were not a place for religious boys. With Rav Soloveitchik telling me to do one thing and my father telling me to do another, I was stuck. But, as we read in the Talmud, ’two verses contradict each other, until a third verse comes to resolve the dispute.’ I decided that the ‘third verse’ should come from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Why did I choose the Rebbe? ...I had heard that he could solve difficult problems and how even non-religious people would go to him for advice... He was a young man then; he had only been the Rebbe for about seven years, but already he had earned a reputation as a very wise man… Speaking half English, half Yiddish, I explained the situation and asked for his advice in how to reconcile this difficult situation...’If you were a pilot of a plane, you would be responsible not only for yourself, but for all the passengers in that plane. If you felt that you could land that plane safely, then you would have an obligation to sit in the pilot seat. But if not, then you would have no right to sit in that seat. In your case, if you feel that you can help the Jewish people in the US Air Force, then that’s what you should do.’ I reported to my father what the Rebbe had said, and he responded, ‘Since the Rebbe agrees that you should go in, I also agree.’ And so, once I received my rabbinic ordination, I enlisted. I was stationed at a large base for B-52 bombers in Limestone, Maine, where 10,000 people worked, of whom only about 75 were Jewish. I served there as a chaplain for two years. When I left, I got a job as a rabbi not too far Bangor, and I remained there for 39 years.” #jewishmaine

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Thank you to DMJ for the video
Links to People:
    :  Rabbi Henry Isaacs ;

Related organizations:
  Limestone Air Base;   Yeshiva University;