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Rabbi Laurence Bazer Named Vice President of JCC Association and Director of JWB Jewish Chaplains Council (JWB)

June 11, 2024
Lauren Magy, PR Specialist, JCC Association, [email protected] 

Rabbi Laurence Bazer Named Vice President of JCC Association and Director of JWB Jewish Chaplains Council (JWB)

NEW YORK JWB Jewish Chaplains Council® (JWB), a signature program of JCC Association of North America, has announced the appointment of (Ret. Colonel) Rabbi Laurence Bazer as vice president of JCC Association and director of JWB. Bazer most recently served as the deputy director of the National Guard Bureau Office of the Joint Chaplain and chief of religious affairs for the Army National Guard following a three-decade long career in the U.S. Army and National Guard. He begins his tenure with JWB in June 2024. 

For over 100 years, JWB has proudly fulfilled a mission to support Jewish life in the U.S. armed forces and the Department of Veterans Affairs by engaging Jewish military personnel and their families in meaningful experiences focused on holidays, rituals, traditions, lifecycle events, and educational opportunities. JWB honors the service of Jewish soldiers in the United States armed forces, safeguards their rights, fulfills their spiritual needs, and combats loneliness and isolation. The country’s oldest endorser of U.S. Jewish military chaplains and lay leaders to the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, JWB augments their resources and advocates on policy matters. It is the only endorsing body whose plenum includes representatives from all the major Jewish denominations. In total, JWB serves approximately 42,000 individuals who are Jews or people of other faiths on active duty in the U.S. military or related as partners, children, or dependents.  

“I am incredibly honored and deeply proud to become the next director of JWB, following a long line of leaders I have learned from and admire, who have shaped this critical program into what it is today,” says Bazer. “I look forward to being the best advocate and spokesperson for Jews in the armed forces, dedicating time and resources to recruiting and supporting chaplains to serve alongside our 10,000 Jewish military personnel, all while connecting Jewish military families to the many activities and sense of community provided by our JCCs. As I retire from the miliary this spring, for me, this is the most exciting and most important next step in what it means to be a rabbi.”  

As a senior ranking Jewish chaplain in the U.S. military, Bazer had a three-decades-long career that included both reserve officer and active-duty stints in both the Army and the National Guard. Most recently, he was the deputy director of the National Guard Bureau Office of the Joint Chaplain and simultaneously served, from 2020 to 2022, as chief of religious affairs for the Army National Guard. Prior to these posts, he was the Joint Force State chaplain for the United States Army National Guard and a longtime spiritual leader of Temple Beth Sholom, a Conservative congregation in Framingham, Massachusetts, from 2003 to 2018. 

For more than 15 years, Bazer was the Joint Force Headquarters State Chaplain for the Massachusetts National Guard. He oversaw the chaplaincy response for the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and deployed to Afghanistan with the 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2011. Prior to this, he served as a chaplain for the 9/11 World Trade Center attack response. Bazer is the recipient of numerous military awards and honors, including the Legion of Merit, the Armed Forces Service Medal, the Army Chief of Chaplains Martin of Tours Award, and a Combat Action Badge. He led the Hanukkah menorah lighting at the White House in 2012 with the president and first lady of the United States, and regularly leads the menorah lighting at the annual Congressional Hanukkah celebration. Bazer was ordained by The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), where he also earned a master’s degree in Jewish studies and was awarded an honorary doctorate marking 25 years in the rabbinate. He also holds a Doctor of Ministry in pastoral counseling from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. 

“It is Rabbi Bazer’s honorable and distinguished career, serving our country and Jewish military personnel, coupled with his desire and experience serving Jewish families as a pulpit rabbi, that makes him the ideal candidate to lead JWB into this next chapter,” shares Jennifer Mamlet, acting president and CEO of JCC Association of North America. “We are immensely proud to welcome Rabbi Bazer to the JCC Movement and to his leadership of JWB.” 

“As Rabbi Bazer joins our team, he is well positioned both to advocate on behalf of our JWB chaplains and to elevate and oversee the many programs and partnerships JWB offers our military service members and their families, including the Joint Religious Education Program, Operation Summer Camp, JWB Passport, and scholarships for chaplain candidates. Rabbi Bazer’s experiences during the pandemic response, natural disasters, the aftermath of 9/11, and other pivotal moments in our country’s recent history provide him with a strong foundation with which to lead JWB as our new director,” says Ruth Fletcher, a vice chair of JCC Association and chair of JWB. 

Bazer is the organization’s ninth professional director since 1942; the first two were volunteer chairs who served from 1917 through 1942. His most recent predecessors are Rabbi Irving Elson, Rabbi Harold Robinson, and Rabbi David Lapp, z”l. 

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About JCC Association of North America

JCC Association of North America leads the JCC Movement, the most expansive and inclusive platform for Jewish life in the U.S. and Canada, which comprises more than 170 Jewish Community Centers and Jewish Community Camps (JCCs). By virtue of its size and scope—serving more than 1.5 million people weekly, in person, and online—and with guidance and support from JCC Association, the JCC Movement dynamically influences efforts to create Jewish community, vibrant Jewish life, and intentional and measurable Jewish outcomes in local communities and across the continent. Learn more at or on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly known as Twitter).

Please note that JCC Association of North America should not be referred to as JCCA or the JCC Association but initially as JCC Association of North America and as JCC Association in subsequent references. 

About JWB Jewish Chaplains Council

JWB Jewish Chaplains Council® is a nonprofit, U.S. government-accredited agency that serves the religious needs of Jewish military personnel and their families, wherever they serve, as well as patients in Veterans Affairs hospitals. Founded in 1917, on the cusp of America’s entry into World War I, the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB), as it was known at the time, sought to serve young Jewish men entering the military. Today, JWB Jewish Chaplains Council®, a signature program of JCC Association of North America, continues this work by honoring the service of Jewish men and women in the United States armed forces, safeguarding their rights, fulfilling their spiritual needs, and combating loneliness and isolation. 

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