The military might know him as a retired rear admiral. And Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where he was ordained, may call him rabbi.
Around the JCC Association office, we simply call him Harold.
But to see the whole titled shebang— Rabbi Harold Robinson, Rear Admiral CHC USN Ret, director of JWB Jewish Chaplains Council—is impressive. As is the man who holds it. And recently, his colleagues at JCC Association were able to give the retiring JWB director a send off that included both Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and a 12-year-old single malt.
Only the best.
During his tenure at JWB, Harold oversaw Torahs for Our Troops, a program that brought JCCs into direct connection with the work of JWB, by raising funds to commission portable Torahs that chaplains could carry easily into the hardest to reach places. At the time, the United States was deeply engaged in a ground war in Iraq, with troops deployed in Afghanistan as well. In all, five Torahs were commissioned for front-line situations. Other JWB accomplishments under Harold’s watch include: publishing its first siddur, or prayer book, since World War II for the armed forces, with cooperation and endorsement from the three major streams of North American Judaism; successfully advocating for availability of kosher food aboard naval ships; and the placement in Arlington National Cemetery of a permanent memorial to the 14 Jewish chaplains who died while in service to their country.
Harold is the first rabbi and non-Protestant to serve as chair of the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces (NCMAF). The organization represents more than 220 religious denominations.
Ever the philosopher, Harold reminded those of us attending his retirement party that our actions matter—and that we need to remember our own strength and ability to tip the scales of justice.
We wish Harold well, as he sails into retirement. We’ll miss his fondness for pistachios (which he is very generous about sharing), marathon running and colorful storytelling. We will also miss his dedication and thank him for his service.
We look forward to more accomplishments from JWB as it heads into its second century with Rabbi Irving Elson (also retired Navy) at the helm.