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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Military discussion

Rabbi Fellman sent out an article written by a Marine about being a Jew in the military (in Commentary magazine).  I was not the only person who wondered why he chose it, but he made the point that we have Ft Drum right up the road and he gets calls regularly from Jews serving there.

It ended up being quite an intersting discussion, mostly in terms of being a token Jew in any situation, something we have all experienced.  And it turns out that Rabbi Ain was a Navy chaplain for a couple of years, though she ultimately left to pursue civilian opportunites.

Several people in the room (from Beth Sholom, of course) felt that the author wasn't very Jewish (i.e., observant), so somehow his opinion wasn't relevant (articulated first by Mike).  I found that interpretation a little shocking - you're still a Jew, a curiosity, an "Other," even if you don't participate in specific rituals like keeping kosher.  Even more so in a milieu where the average person is less familiar with Judaism than Jews are used to encountering in their own communities (where there is at least one Jew - you!)  I thought that they missed the author's (and Rabbi Fellman's) point.

Rabbi Fellman forbid me from answering the question he posed about knowing someone in the military (quite unnecessarily, I thought), because he knew that Larry had served.  He seemed quite surprised (though surprisingly incurious) about my own service. 

At the very end of the conversation, I admitted that I always wonder why a Jew (or anyone) would choose a career in the military when they have so many other better choices (thinking specifically of Cliff and Danny).  Lois said that military service can be a character-building experience.  But I don't really think so, not for most people (certainly not for a Jew, who was already raised to have character!), and certainly no more so than law school or med school or other opportunities for personal development.  My personal experience is that the Army is a training ground for sexism, racism, and xenophobia, and teaches people to value human life less than they did when they arrived - hardly an enhancement to anyone's character, and not an environment that I would encourage someone I cared about to spend time in.



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