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Special Interview Jewish Army Chaplain Leads Chanukah Services in Grenada for U.S. Jewish and Non-je

Nearly 20 U.S. Jewish soldiers stationed in Grenada participated, along with other non-Jewish military personnel, including the commander of the U.S. troops in Grenada, Maj. Gen. Jack Ferris Jr., in a Chanukah celebration, led by Army Chaplain Capt. Jacob Goldstein.

Goldstein, who recently returned from his nine-day visit to the island, which was invaded by the United States on October 25 for what President Reagan said was to protect American citizens and to help restore democratic institutions on the Caribbean island, described his Chanukah services with the Jewish soldiers as a “rewarding experience.”

In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Goldstein, wearing a medal and ribbon-bedecked uniform, said he brought to the island packages supplied by the Lubavitch Youth Organization which contained kosher wine, menorahs and candles and other items, including candy bars for the local children of the island.

Goldstein, 36, a Lubavitch Hasid, entered the army seven years ago. He is now with the New York National Guard and was called up on assignment for the Chanukah holiday to assist soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division. In his civilian life, Goldstein is chairman of Community Planning Board No. 9 in Brooklyn and also works for the Bureau of Emergency Housing Services, a relocation operation.

Goldstein was also involved in the legal action against the army to permit a Lubavitcher Hasid, who went to medical school at the army’s expense, to wear a beard and skullcap during his three-year commitment to military service as a doctor. The legal action, initiated by the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA), was dropped after the army yielded on the issue last summer.

NO INDIGENOUS JEWS ON THE ISLAND

Unlike the other Caribbean islands where Jewish communities exist, Grenada has no Jews at all, an oddity which Goldstein said was relayed to him when he met with the Anglican Archbishop of Grenada. The Archbishop said there was never any Jewish presence on Grenada, an island about 133 square miles with a population of about 100,000.

The only Jews who were in Grenada at the time of the U.S. invasion were students in the medical school. When handing out candles to the local children, Goldstein said he was not recognized as a Jew despite his beard and camouflaged yamulka.

SERVICES HELD IN FORMER CUBAN INSTALLATION

The chaplain said the major service held during the holidays for the Jewish soldiers was conducted in what was formerly the Cuban Embassy compound. He said the participants sang songs and exchanged Chanukah “gelt”. One Jewish soldier exchanged quarters with him, the only money she had with her at the time.

Goldstein said he saw some significance in the fact that the services were held in the Cuban compound, in that it formerly symbolized anti-religious forces and had now been turned into a place of worship.

On the eighth day of Chanukah, Goldstein said he was walking near a building where a 19-year-old Jewish soldier was manning his post. The youth called out to him and Goldstein wished him a happy Chanukah. The young soldier didn’t realize it was Chanukah. Goldstein provided him with a menorah and candles and tifilin. The youth put on the tifilin, something he told Goldstein he had not done since his Bar Mitzvah.

Goldstein told the JTA that he hopes to organize with residents of Brooklyn from Grenada an action to ship clothes to the Caribbean island. He said that while he was in Grenada he observed kosher dietary laws by bringing some food with him from the U.S. and also eating local fresh food picked from the trees, such as bananas and papayas.

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