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A Rabbi’s Call For Equality In The Ranks

Crossposted From RepealNOW.

A friend of mine Tanya Domi showed me this USA Today article, and I wish I had seen it when it was first published. The article was written by Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff, a former Chaplain and an interfaith leader. In it he states:

Despite some outlandish claims (including one charge that the Bible will be banned), chaplains should not be affected by a new policy. “Don't tell” never did apply to conversations with a chaplain, which are “privileged communication.” And good chaplains can preach and teach, true to their beliefs — respecting rights while challenging what they believe is wrong. They also teach commandments — loving neighbors, judging not, not casting stones, the golden rule — that help the troops serve together.

…Contrary to the old canard, there are atheists in our foxholes, too — alongside chaplains whom they trust. Until now, gay military personnel had faith that chaplains would help them, too. I pray their faith was not misguided, and chaplains do not desert their posts, or give up the ship.

This is the essence of the issue of Chaplains being affected good or bad by the inevitable repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” I have written on the issue plenty in the past and I will continue to do so, because it so offensive to claim that Chaplains will somehow be “shut-up.” I would also like to point out that in my time in the Army I have never heard a Chaplain even bring the issue up. Never, not once have I heard a Chaplain speak on the issue whether good or bad in a professional position.

I continued to read into Rabbi Resnicoff and he is a very interesting man and has a very strong, inspiring story. He is definitely worth a read into. In his article he referenced his action is the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that killed 299 American and French service members. This excerpt is from an article published in the Norfolk Ledger-Star.

On that terrible day in Lebanon last October, when a terrorist took the lives of 241 U.S. Marines, Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff was among the first to reach the dead and dying in the devastated barracks.

The memories of that day burn within the Navy chaplain like a violent fire. “We pushed to pull men from the smoke and fire,” he remembers.  “We comforted those who were pinned down or partially buried until help could reach them.  Later we would comfort those who continued to dig for their dead and wounded comrades.”

Somewhere in all that destruction, in all that smoke, sweat and tears, Resnicoff lost his yarmulke, or kippa, a skullcap worn by Jewish men.  When his companion, the Roman Catholic chaplain, Father George Pucciarelli, noticed that the yarmulke was gone, he made another for his colleague.

Pucciarelli created one out of the camouflage cloth worn by the Marines in Lebanon.  The cloth became their badge of honor.  There and then a legend was born.

As a soldier I am humbled by Rabbi Resnicoff and I thank him for his outspoken words on the issue of “don't ask, don't tell.” I wish that more equality minded faith leaders, and even those that don't believe it is right, but believe in the message of love and compassion, would speak out at eloquently as the Rabbi.

Eric Williams

Eric Williams