ARLINGTON, Va. – A memorial to 14 Jewish chaplains who died during active military service was dedicated Monday at Arlington National Cemetery, joining memorials to Protestant and Roman Catholic chaplains that had been in place for decades.
Monday's dedication service at the cemetery corrects an oversight that had more or less gone unnoticed until a few years ago, according to those who sponsored the memorial.
"We have long awaited this day where we can recognize the crucial work and bravery of Jewish chaplains who have died in service to our country," said Jerry Silverman, president of The Jewish Federations of North America, one of the agencies that took the lead in organizing and sponsoring the privately funded memorial.
Before Monday's dedication, three plaques stood on the cemetery's "Chaplain Hill." The first was dedicated in 1926 to all chaplains who died in World War I. A second memorial was built in 1981 to honor 134 Protestant chaplains who died in World Wars I and II. And a third was built in 1989 to memorialize 83 Catholic chaplains who died in in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
The Jewish memorial lists the names of 14 Jewish chaplains who died while on active duty between 1943 and 1974.
Among those who attended Monday's dedication was Alex Fried, 41, of Glen Rock., N.J., grandson of Alexander D. Goode, an Army lieutenant. Goode was one of four chaplains who died aboard the transport ship Dorchester, which was sunk by a German torpedo off the coast of Greenland.
Goode was one of the famed "Four Chaplains" aboard the Dorchester, all of whom gave up their own life jackets to other soldiers on the ship. The last anyone saw of the four, they were standing on the ship's deck, arms locked and praying together.
Fried has been promoting the legacy of the Four Chaplains as an example of interfaith cooperation and goodwill. Monday's dedication marked the first time he was able to meet the families of the other Jewish chaplains who died in service of their country.
"You share that sense of pride, but also of loss," Fried said. "There's always that sense of, 'What would our lives have been like if they were in them?'"
The oversight of the Jewish chaplains was discovered by an amateur historian who was doing research on the Four Chaplains. Kenneth Kraetzer of White Plains, N.Y., visited Chaplains Hill in 2007 and found the names of the other three chaplains — two Protestants and a Catholic — but nothing that honored Goode or any other Jewish chaplain. He reached out to various organizations in the Jewish community that launched an effort to build a new memorial.
The memorial moved forward with approval from the U.S. Fine Arts Commission and a joint Congressional resolution, which passed unanimously in May.
William Daroff, vice president for public policy at the Jewish Federations of North America, said the delays in establishing the memorial were not the result of any real opposition to the concept. Instead, Congress and other commissions have generally become more wary in recent years of approving new memorials in general, for fear of over-memorializing.
"Once it was identified that there was this historical omission" it became easier to garner support, though he said that getting unanimous support for anything from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate can be challenging.
According to the cemetery, this year marks the 150th anniversary of service by rabbis in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Arlington National Cemetery: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/
The Jewish Federations of North America: http://www.jewishfederations.org/