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Reform Rabbis Back Orthodox Soldier on Refusal to Serve in Army

Rabbi Jacob Weinstein, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, said today that he has started action to support the rights of Pvt. Robert Levy, an Orthodox Jewish soldier confined by the Army in a mental ward because he sought to conscientiously object to military service in Vietnam on a basis of Jewish convictions.

Army authorities said that U.S. Army chaplain Martin Feinsod, an Orthodox rabbi, agreed with the decision to commit Levy. They said the chaplain was the only clergyman granted visiting privileges and was seeking to bring Levy’s religious thinking into conformity with Army requirements. Rabbi Weinstein challenged “the self assumed right of an Orthodox chaplain to arbitrarily rule out conscientious objection by a soldier of Jewish faith.” He indicated that steps were being taken to have a rabbi other then Chaplain Feinsod visit Madigan General Hospital, Tacoma, Wash., to give Levy religious counsel in response to Levy’s request.

Reliable sources in Seattle have revealed that Levy sought to pray and fast in a Seattle synagogue but was ejected on grounds that his presence might embarrass the congregation. He was locked up in the Army psychiatric facility, an Army spokesman said, after Chaplain Feinsod told authorities he did not consider Levy’s conscientious objection and fasting to be acceptable behavior in the Orthodox interpretation.

Pvt. Levy’s attorney, William Hanson, meanwhile revealed that Dr. Arthur Kobler, a Seattle psychologist in private practice, examined Levy immediately prior to the Army’s action against him. After a thorough examination, Dr. Kobler concluded that Levy was “a thoroughly reasonable, serious, thoughtful young man possessed of sincere and deep religious convictions.” There was no evidence of psychosis.

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