Skip links

Main navigation

Become a Chaplain

Jewish Military Chaplains Wanted

Who will bring God to the troops and the troops to God? That is the role of a military chaplain, especially during wartime.

The military Jewish chaplaincy offers a unique challenge to the rabbi who aspires to serve “K’lal Yisrael” in a special environment: the Armed Forces of the United States. Jews who volunteer for the military represent the entire spectrum of Jewish identity, from the most assimilated to the most traditionally observant. Since they often find themselves isolated from contact with Jewish communities because of the global mission of the service of which they are a part, the presence of a rabbi in uniform can make all the difference between their developing patterns of personal Jewish commitment or the abandonment of their heritage.

Military chaplaincy provides the opportunity to meet Jewish spiritual needs in an exciting and demanding environment, while representing Judaism and the Jewish community to the military.

Noncombatants, chaplains enter the service as officers, usually first lieutenants. They are trained to respond to a variety of situations and serve all over the world, ministering to a diverse group of people. Being a rabbi in the U.S. Armed Forces is one of the most interesting and stimulating ministries imaginable. “My years as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps at the start of the Vietnam War were foundational to the fulfillment I derived throughout my rabbinate,” said Rabbi William Lebeau of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

The JWB Jewish Chaplains Council energetically recruits rabbis through visits to various seminaries, attendance at rabbinical conferences, and notices in professional newsletters. Follow-up support is provided through a continuing pastoral relationship with rabbis in the field.

The overall record of co-operation between all Jewish Chaplains in strengthening the identity of all Jews they serve, regardless of orientation, is one of the Council’s proudest achievements.
Full-time opportunities for service in the Army, Navy, and Air Force chaplaincies are available, as are part-time positions in the Army, Navy, and Air Force Reserve and the Army and Air National Guard. Rabbinical students are eligible to serve as Chaplain Candidates, receiving an introduction to military chaplaincy while still in school, along with competitive summer and/or part-time earnings.

The basic requirements to become a chaplain are established by the Department of Defense. These include:

  • Ecclesiastical endorsement (certifies experience and degree requirements meet the standards of the respective ecclesiastical group)
  • Two years religious leadership consistent with clergy in applicant’s tradition (strongly recommended)
  • United States citizenship (No dual citizenship)
  • Bachelor’s degree (120 semester hours or 180 quarter hours)
  • A graduate degree to include a minimum of 72 semester hours (or equivalent) from a qualifying (accredited) institution. Not less than 36 hours must be in theological/ministry and related studies, consistent with the respective religious tradition of the applicant. Endorsers are free to exceed the DoD standard per ecclesiastical requirements, but cannot go below the minimal DoD requirements.
  • Active Duty Chaplains:
  • Army: Commissioned prior to age 40 (Age waiver availability may vary from year to year)
  • Air Force and Navy: Commissioned and on active duty by age 42 (Some consideration may be made for prior service)
  • Pass a military commissioning physical
  • Pass a security background investigation
  • Ability to work in the DoD directed religious accommodation environment.

For more information, contact Rabbi Irving Elson, director, JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, 212-786-5138 or send an e-mail. You may also consult these websites for specific information on each service’s chaplaincy program:

Army –
Navy –
Air Force –
Veterans Affairs –