For the first time, Jewish military chaplains from the U.S. Armed Forces will be teaching JCC lay leaders at the JCCs of North America Biennial as part of an effort to raise the profile of Jews in the military within the larger Jewish community. Seven JWB Jewish Chaplains Council-affiliated chaplains will use Jewish texts to explore how the idea of building community through performing Tikkun Olam has evolved in Jewish thought. Although JWB Jewish Chaplains Council has held meetings in conjunction with the Biennial before, this is the first time that chaplains have had an active role as presenters in small-group settings.
JWB is a division within JCC Association that provides services and support to Jewish members of the military and veterans, along with their families. “We’re excited to be taking this public and prominent role at the Biennial,” said Rabbi Harold Robinson, director of JWB Jewish Chaplains Council. “It’s important for the larger Jewish community to remember that Jews have served-and are still serving-in the armed forces since the country started. Seeing people in uniform is nice, but this will give Biennial delegates the chance to study with our wonderful chaplains in a more intimate setting.”
The JCCs of North America Biennial, which takes place in New Orleans on May 6-9, is the premier convention of JCC lay volunteers, which brings together JCC presidents, board, and committee members, as well as executive directors, for several days of presentations and seminars. Among the keynote speakers are Scott Cowen, president of Tulane University, and Dr. Erica Brown, author and scholar-in-residence at the Jewish Federation of Washington.
As the leadership network of the JCC Movement, JCC Association is encouraging JCCs across the U.S. to reach out to Jews in the military and especially to the families of those deployed, according to Allan Finkelstein, the organization’s president. “We hope all JCCs-and especially those near military installations-can make the families of deployed military personnel feel welcome and connected,” Finkelstein said. “Having a child or sibling or spouse far away can be so stressful, and JCCs have many programs and services that can make a real difference. We see the outreach to military personnel and their families as part of the JCC’s role as a caring community.”
In another public acknowledgment of the long tradition of supporting Jews who serve, the Biennial will honor two people specifically for their work with the military. Noreen Gordon Sablotsky of Miami, Florida will receive the Frank L. Weil Award for distinguished contribution to the armed services field, and Rear Admiral Herman A. Shelanski will be presented with the Jewish Military Leadership Award, which is given to someone who achieves high rank while remaining active within the Jewish community.
The chaplains who are leading the seminars are:
Chaplain (Captain) Heather Borshof, U.S. Army; Captain Irving A. Elson, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy; Chaplain, Colonel Brett Oxman, U.S. Air Force; Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Emily Rosenzweig, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy; Chaplain, Captain Sarah Schechter, U.S. Air Force; Lieutenant Joshua Sherwin, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy; Lieutenant Melinda Zalma, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy.