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Jewish reservists prepare for possible war

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 7 (JTA) — Lt. Col. Alan M. Kalinsky of the U.S. Air Force Reserve is to report for a stint of active duty on Oct. 11 at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo.

Matthew Levy, a 30-year old attorney and Marine Corps reservist, has volunteered for infantry or artillery duty, if needed.

The Air Force Reserve contacted Brian Sands last week to check whether his address and phone information was up to date.

At the Jewish Chaplains Council in New York, Rabbi David Lapp went over the listings of the 30 Jewish chaplains on active duty in all branches of the armed forces, and 68 chaplains on reserve status.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the callup of a number of specialized army reserve units and National Guard battalions, some Jewish men and women, like other Americans of all faiths, await a possible call to the colors.

Rabbi Kalinsky, executive director of the Orthodox Union’s West Coast region, was due to retire from reserve duty in early November, after 28 years of service. Last week, however, he said in an interview that he planned to ask for a two-year extension in his present status.

While on active assignment at the local Air Force base, Kalinsky expects to be involved mainly in counseling newly activated reservists, suddenly yanked out of civilian life, and their families.

It is one of the basic tenets of the Chaplains Corps that any member, whether priest, rabbi or minister, will succor anyone, regardless of religion.

“When I look back, I think that 90 to 95 percent of the uniformed men and women I have counseled have been non-Jewish,” Kalinsky said.

After growing up in New York in a predominantly Jewish environment, Kalinsky said it has been “rewarding and broadening” to meet and make friends with military colleagues of other religions.

He enjoyed a special relationship for many years with the only Greek Orthodox priest in the Chaplains Corps, and later with an African-American minister whose church was in south-central Los Angeles.

In return, Kalinsky has been able to counter negative stereotypes of Jews among many gentile servicemen, a work he considers as Kiddush Hashem, for the sanctification of God’s name.

Often the only rabbi on bases near towns with small Jewish populations, Kalinsky frequently has interacted with civilian communities. He recalls that in the early 1980s he was stationed at Griffith Air Force Base when the only synagogue in nearby Rome, New York burned down, The congregation then attended Kalinsky’s services at the military base.

Another fond recollection was celebrating Sukkot in a handsome Sukkah, put up, according to religious specifications, by the U.S. government.

The coordinating body for Jewish military and Veterans Administration chaplains is the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council. When the organization was founded in 1917, if fell under the jurisdiction of the Jewish Welfare Board, and its initials have been retained despite various reorganizations.

The director of the JCC, Rabbi Lapp, served 25 years on active duty, including a stint in Vietnam. He remembers fondly “bringing Jewish kids to Judaism in time of crisis, and serving kosher food in the middle of the jungle.”

How would Jewish chaplains and servicemen feel about being stationed in a Muslim country, he was asked, and how would they be treated?

Lapp pointed to the precedent set in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf war. Away from military bases, for instance, chaplains would take off their insignias — crosses for Christians, the two tablets of the law for Jews — and pin them out of sight inside their collars.

“We encountered no special problems, but all of us, Christians and Jews, had to be sensitive to local customs and sentiments,” Lapp said.

When Matthew Levy enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve seven years ago, he went through three months of boot camp, then continued to train on weekends and two weeks each summer for infantry and artillery duty.

Now on inactive ready reserve status and not attached to any unit, the young attorney has signified his readiness to serve by putting his name on a list of volunteers.

Brian Sands, 49, served with the Air Force in Guam during the 1970s and has been in the reserves for the past nine years.

A member of Congregation Tifereth Jacob in Manhattan Beach, Calif., Sands is attached to a reserve Air Force group ministering to the morale, welfare and recreation of servicemen and women.

Although he was recently contacted by his unit to update his address and phone number, he has no indication at this point that he will be called up for active duty.

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