The U.S. Army’s Very Goat-y High Holiday Affair


The ram that appeared just in time to interrupt the binding of Isaac was certainly cause for celebration—if millennia of hand-wringing. But some other historical Jewish encounters with animals have been notably less biblical in proportion. Just ask U.S. Military Chaplain Rabbi Martin Perley.

Perley was among the handful of rabbis who led prayers for an estimated 213,000 American Jewish servicemen during the Days of Awe in 1944. In an official report to the National Jewish Welfare Board, the organization administering the rabbinical chaplaincy, Perley related how a “displaced goat” “determined to remain for the service” disrupted his Rosh Hashanah worship. Writing from an undisclosed location, probably Fort Custer, Michigan, Perley recounted how the goat “would be pushed out of one side of the tent but would immediately reenter from the other side. Finally he strolled up to the platform and took up a stand between the chazzan and myself.  He was finally led away by one of the men who took him firmly by the horns.

However troublesome its behavior, it is unlikely that the “displaced goat” met the same fate as its biblical forbears on the following Yom Kippur.

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