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Four streams of Judaism gather for chaplaincy program

JWB to host Shabbaton and annual training course in Annapolis

As the longest-serving endorser of Jewish chaplains for the U.S. military, JWB Jewish Chaplains Council will hold its annual training course and Shabbaton on May 1-6 at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

“Maintaining the Jewish in Our Identity: Authentically Jewish Ministry in a Diverse and Pluralistic Setting,” is the focus of the training course. It will emphasize deepening connections with fellow chaplains through text and sharing personal views on why one chooses to serve as a chaplain.

The annual training course will bring together 31 chaplains and 14 lay leaders who serve the spiritual needs of Jewish men and women in uniform. These men and women represent all branches of the U.S. military and four major streams of Judaism in North America.

“This is a chance for chaplains from all streams of Judaism and branches of the military to meet, connect and learn from one another and from Jewish and military leaders,” said Rabbi Harold Robinson, a retired rear admiral who directs JWB Jewish Chaplains Council (JWB).

Featured speakers include Dr. Judith Hauptman, E. Bill Ivry professor of Talmud and Rabbinic Culture at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS); and Dr. Stephen Hazan Arnoff, JCC Association’s recently appointed president and CEO. JWB Jewish Chaplains Council is a signature program of JCC Association. A very senior member of the Department of Defense will also address the participants. The program, which begins with a Shabbaton, also includes the Chiefs of Chaplains, who represent each branch of the armed services, and will be present as invited guests.

The training course is the largest gathering of Jews representing all branches of the military and the Veterans Administration, to take place in this country. Five of the lay leaders—Jewish military personnel trained take on some of the roles of a chaplain when one is not present—are on active duty. They and the chaplains will be attending from across the United States, and from Canada, Germany, Afghanistan and Japan. They, too, represent all major streams of American Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist. In all, there are 56 Jewish chaplains, both on active duty and reservists, serving the U.S. military from all endorsers. JWB is the only endorser that includes Reform and Conservative rabbis, as well as Orthodox.

During the training course, JWB will roll out new training sessions for the lay leaders, as well as an updated manual for them, “The Guide for Jewish Lay Leaders in the Armed Forces of the United States.”

“Training our chaplains and lay leaders is one of the most important things we do at JWB,” says Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky, JWB’s deputy director of programming, and organizer of the training program. “While having chaplains is vital to the support of our Jewish men and women who serve, it isn’t always one stationed nearby. Trained lay leaders can make the difference for Jewish personnel, providing a connection to home and tradition in far away places.”

Arnoff will address a global perspective on Jewish military service with a keynote entitled, “The Light Unto the Nations: Jewish Visions for the Armed Forces, America and the World.” Hauptman, a past supporter of JWB will lead two learning sessions entitled “The Talmud Addresses Moral Challenges,” which will cover moral obligations in light of wrongdoing, and was previously something she taught at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. The second session will be an exploration of how rabbis in the Talmud handled long periods away from home and family, as a way of bringing Jewish thought into the ways military personnel handle long deployments.

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