Rca Assailed by Reform Leader on Withdrawal from Jwb Chaplaincy Panel
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Rca Assailed by Reform Leader on Withdrawal from Jwb Chaplaincy Panel

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Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform institution, charged here that the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America had opposed endorsement by the JWB Chaplaincy Commission of a rabbi to be a Jewish chaplain in the armed forces because the rabbi is a woman.

The Rabbinical Council, at its 50th anniversary convention in Baltimore said it was withdrawing from the Chaplaincy Commission, charging that the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the association of Reform rabbis, had committed “a unilateral breach of procedures.” However, Chaplaincy Commission officials said that the Commission was continuing to function.

The Chaplaincy Commission, representing the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbinates, is responsible for endorsement of rabbis to serve as military chaplains. The CCAR endorsed Rabbi Julie Schwartz, 26, of Cincinnati, who will be the first woman to serve as an active duty Jewish chaplain to Jews in the armed forces.


Gottschalk declared in his statement that the fact that a woman rabbi “chose to be commissioned as a chaplain in the military is to her and to the Reform movement’s credit.” He said that the Chaplaincy Commission “has in the past approved the Jewish Chaplaincy lists of all Jewish denominations.”

Gottschalk added that the Chaplaincy Commission “provided the anomalous situation where the Reform members of the Commission approved of Orthodox chaplains and the Orthodox approved of the Reform chaplains. In principle, mutual respect and equality existed in the past. The new twist is that a Reform chaplain happens to be a woman.”

“I find it deeply regrettable that the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America has taken a stand which further polarizes the Jewish community, in this instance not on the basis of new ideology but solely on the basis that Rabbi Julie Schwartz is a female,” the Reform leader said.

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