Jwb Official Says Jewish Chaplaincy Commission Will Continue Despite Withdrawal of Orthodox Member
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Jwb Official Says Jewish Chaplaincy Commission Will Continue Despite Withdrawal of Orthodox Member

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Officials of the Jewish Chaplaincy of the JWB, responding to the announcement Tuesday by the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of American that it was withdrawing from the Chaplaincy Commission, said Wednesday that the Commission was continuing to function. At issue was endorsement of a woman rabbi.

The RCA announcement was made Tuesday at the RCA’s 50th anniversary convention in Baltimore by Rabbi Louis Bernstein, president of the Orthodox rabbinical agency.

The Chaplaincy Commission, representing the Orthodox, Reform and Conservative rabbinate, is responsible for endorsement of rabbis to serve as military chaplains.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the association of Reform rabbis, endorsed Rabbi Julie Schwartz, 26, of Cincinnati, who will be the first woman to act as an active duty Jewish chaplain to Jews in the armed forces.


Solomon Greenfield, JWB associate director, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he had been informed Wednesday that Rabbi David Lapp, director of the Chaplaincy Commission and of services to rabbinic chaplains, and Jews in the military forces and Veterans Hospitals, had been in close contact with the leadership of three rabbinic groups and had received assurances that Chaplaincy Commission’s services would continue as heretofore.

Rabbi Harry Greene, of Short Hills, N.J., Chaplaincy Commission chairman, in a report on Monday to the JWB executive committee in New York, asserted that the three rabbinic groups–the third is the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Conservative rabbis–would find a way of working together under JWB auspices as they had in the past to provide much needed services to its beneficiaries.


Bernstein declared that “by bypassing the commission and endorsing a female for the chaplaincy in a letter to the Chief of Chaplains in the United States Defense Department, the CCAR for the first time acted without notifying the entire commission which, in the past, has endorsed chaplaincy applicants for the entire Jewish community.”

Bernstein said that the RCA made it “very clear” 18 months ago that “a unilateral breach of procedures would mean the breakup of the commission.” He said that negotiations were underway,” to retain connections with the JWB. He said Orthodox Jews “will not recognize a woman rabbi.” Rabbi Joseph Glaser, CCAR executive vice president, told the JTA that he hoped some way “would be found to return the situation to the status” at which it had been operating for 39 years.

A rabbinical source told the JTA that the Armed Forces Chaplains Board, a subsidiary of the Defense Department, recognizes each of the three rabbinical groups as endorsing agents. Any one of the three may endorse a rabbinical candidate for the military chaplaincy.


The source added that the custom has been that one rabbinical group will present a candidate for the military chaplaincy to representatives of the three rabbinical groups and that, absent dissent by any rabbinical representatives, the nomination is approved by consensus.

Solomon said that in recent years, the Chaplaincy Commission member of the group to which the chaplaincy applicant belonged was usually a member of the same group.

Glaser said also that it was his understanding that the CCAR member of the Chaplaincy Commission could endorse a Reform rabbi for the chaplaincy which had been the procedure followed with Rabbi Julie Schwartz.

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