Volume 40 Number 50
                 Produced: Fri Aug 29  5:26:51 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Avi Feldblum]
Jewish Needs in the U.S. Military
         [Yisrael and Batya Medad]
Kashrus in U.S. Military
         [Sammy Finkelman]


From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2003 05:25:37 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Administrivia

Hello All,

These last several weeks have been somewhat interesting ( :-) )on the
internet email front. There have been a number of major worms and similar
items clogging up the mail system. Most (all?) of them only attack
Microsoft based systems, and tend to propogate by getting a copy of your
addressbook and forging From: addresses based on your saved addresses and
propogating to other people in your addressbook. Thus, I would not be
surprised that many of you might have gotten copies of the worm that said
they came from me.

I am managing this list on a Unix based system, and use a text-only email
client with no addressbook. So I am fairly confident that I am not sending
out any infected messages. [I had been recieving MANY of them at the
height of the attacks, since I tend to be in many of YOUR addressbooks].
In general, if you get a which is listed on your email client as being
from me, but is not plain text or is greater than about 18K in size, it is
likely a forged message.

The system admin group here is also excellent, so they have put in place
system level checks for the worms and examine messages at the server
level, so I no longer see any that come in, and all outgoing mail from
Shamash is also being checked to ensure that it is bug-free.

Avi Feldblum
mail-jewish Moderator


From: Yisrael and Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Thu, 28 Aug 2003 22:05:06 +0200
Subject: Jewish Needs in the U.S. Military

I had forwarded the item of "Anonymous" on the issue of Army kosher food
to a serving Chaplain, Rabbi (Lt. Col., I think) Avi Weiss.
His wife has replied, with Avi's approval, and I send it on to

Yisrael Medad

      It's definitely an important issue, and very relevant to what
      Avi's doing. [I'm answering in the meantime, cause he's away at a
      conference this week.] But I have a hunch he might make/support
      the following comments: (I just read it to him on the phone, and
      he supported everything I say below)

      Kashrut in the military is definitely a legitimate issue, and a
      legitimate problem to raise.

      It is also a problem that Avi has had to deal with directly, on a
      lot of different planes. Right now (August, 2003 - he has been
      here just over a year), he is serving as a senior chaplain on one
      of the largest training bases in the U.S.  Army, and he has seen
      trainees with a wide range of requests regarding kashrut and other
      Jewish issues. In addition, other Jewish personnel have been
      assigned here or passed through ("here" is Ft. Jackson, SC) with a
      variety of needs/requests/interests and received responses of
      various sorts. Responses are related not only to the nature of the
      request but also to the training status of the requester, to
      logistics and time issues, and to how the "system" perceives the
      problem/sincerity of the requester/range of options in coming up
      with a solution.

      The writer raises a number of issues that require completely
      separate treatments, and a few important caveats, including

              a) From the perspective of the military (and maybe,
      from any perspective) complaining about this issue 5-10 years
      after the fact smacks of a poor-me attitude rather than a
      sincere interest in trying to solve a problem.
              Ditto for doing it anonymously.
              Solving a problem is a different activity.

              b) Although in your comment the presenting problem is "I'm
      hungry, but there's no kosher food for me", the background problem
      is really a rather large and looming one, for many, many of the
      soldiers in today's U.S. Army of incentives and recruiter
      quotas. It's better-know formulation is "My recruiter lied to me"
      and it comes in all shapes, colors and sizes.  There is an
      inherent contradiction and tension between any special needs, and
      the interest of the recruiter to fit any kind of peg he comes
      across into the square hole he has to fill to make his quota and
      retain his job/get his promotion.  Although we see this problem in
      Jewish terms, the recruiter will bulldoze over just about any
      special need and assure the potential recruit that it won't be a
      problem, especially something he knows nothing about (surely,
      being a recruiter and a senior non-commissioned officer, he is
      convinced he knows enough about everything to know that
      much.....). Even clear medical problems.  The looming need to make
      his quota rides roughshod over every other consideration for the
      recruiter. Just as an example - very fresh, this happened in the
      past few weeks: A trainee approached Avi about problems with food,
      Shabbat, and especially about making sure she got the appropriate
      financial support for her dependents - husband and son - but was
      stymied by the fact that she could only produce a ketuba, but no
      American/English language document attesting to her married status
      (apparently because in the country where she was married - not the
      US - the ketuba was sufficient) ------ and, after working hard to
      keep up and make the grade despite being a few years older than
      most of the other trainees she was told the Army was discharging
      her......... on the basis of a medical problem! Don't you think,
      logically, that if the recruiter had been straight with her that
      would have been picked up at the outset?  So you see, it's hard to
      call recruiter misrepresentation "a Jewish problem."

              c) In the past year, we have yet to come across a trainee
      who is fully observant to the extent that they refuse to eat
      anything in the Dining Facility except uncooked fruits and
      vegetables, or clearly marked packaged foods. There have been some
      who choose to stay away from this or that (one young lady survived
      on double starches, in order not to eat any of the meats, etc.).
      On that basis, it's hard to turn the system upside down (to the
      standards you might expect for yourself in an established Jewish
      community) for someone who sees their own personal standards

              d) Anyone entering military service [and this applies to
      the IDF, and probably any army in the world] needs to recognize
      that they are entering a SYSTEM which is geared and built and
      well-oiled to work exactly like a machine. There can be no loose
      parts, no colored streamers, no individual expression like hair an
      unusual color or bright-colored nail polish. Standards and
      standardization is taken very seriously, and nowhere more
      seriously than in basic training.  So what may be available later
      - switching to cover Sunday for Saturday duty, covering your
      buddy's holiday to be free for yours, and being able to live
      off-post so you're getting a stipend for food rather than relying
      on the Dining Facility (once you've reached the rank where that's
      allowed) - the program and training schedule during the Basic
      Training and Advanced Individual Training is very tight and
      doesn't always allow for these.  The recruiter IS CORRECT that no
      one will be denied the right to practice their faith. But a) the
      needs of the Army will always be counted as coming first, and b)
      the results of that equation may lead to the conclusion that "you
      are incompatible with army service" and they'll kindly (or not so
      kindly) show you the door marked OUT.

      All that said, we have seen and heard and experienced some
      very positive episodes during the past year.

              a) The opportunity to attend Jewish chapel services has
      strengthened lots of trainees in the idea that yes, it is possible
      to be proudly (if not necessarily loudly) Jewish in this
      overwhelmingly Christian environment. Having a Jewish prayer book
      to take on with you to your next duty station, being able to hear
      kiddush and have a taste of challah on Friday night, remembering
      that you once learned Hebrew and wouldn't it be nice to remember
      it........ all these are Jewish sparks that can be rekindled under
      crisis and - hopefully - fanned to a larger flame in the more
      comfortable environment of a permanent duty station where there
      will be broader opportunities, maybe a Jewish chaplain or at least
      an active Jewish lay leader, and maybe even a civilian community
      nearby that makes overtures to Jews in uniform [hint, hint].

              b) Patience, perseverance and especially a SMILE and
      willingness to work inside the system can do wonders. We are still
      in awe of the young lady (with many more years of experience as a
      soldier and reservist than as a frum Jew, but suddenly catapulted
      from Brooklyn back into uniform and eventually overseas) who was
      able to pass through three military bases before shipping out and
      not compromise a single time on Shabbat or Kashrut issues [to the
      extent that, when she was our guest, she was still waiting for a
      teshuva on the Cholov Yisrael issue]. She diligently pushed all
      the right buttons to arrange for Kosher MRE's ("meals
      ready-to-eat", better known as field rations) to be acquired by
      the dining halls. She realized that making friends (really,
      sincerely, honestly making friends) with the right people would
      let her go behind the counter to get the first scoop out of an
      industrial-sized can of kosher tuna fish. We get regular reports
      of her excitement over preparing Oneg Shabbat treats of a candy
      bar and dried fruit for the soldiers she shares Shabbat Zemirot
      with, or the non-Jewish friends who worry about her meager diet
      and have learned to recognize the kosher symbols on treats that
      occasionally reach their remote location.

              c) And, being a soldier isn't for everyone. Just last
      week, Avi spoke to someone who was contemplating enlisting, but
      thought he might eventually want to be a chaplain. Well - then go
      study first, figure out if you want to become a rabbi, if you want
      to enter the chaplaincy - and you'll land in a whole different
      environment. Officers (this includes not only chaplains but
      doctors, nurses, veterinarians, psychologists and social workers,
      lawyers) have a whole different set of circumstances and will also
      be subjected to only a very shortened taste of the Basic Training

      To sum up:

      1. Recruiters lie to EVERYONE. It's not a "Jewish problem."

      2. A Jewish solution, though, is "who do you know?" If you
      really want answers, then before you sign on anyone's dotted
              - Talk to a Jewish soldier who is IN THE MILITARY
              - Talk to a Jewish chaplain on active duty or in
      reserves NOW - or any chaplain, any denomination, who is in
      active or reserve status.
              - Better yet, contact the Jewish Welfare Board at
      http://www.jcca.org/jwb for all sorts of information as well
      as a contact link to send email for further inquiries. They
      can answer your questions, as well as pass them along to
      someone in the field.

      3. The military will NOT tell anyone that they CANNOT observe
      their faith. BUT, a) the needs of the Army will always come first,
      b) they may conclude that you are "incompatible with military
      service", and c) the style and attitude in which you present your
      needs may make a big difference in how those needs are perceived
      and handled.

      4. In this, as in every situation in life, there's a world of
      difference between a cry-baby attitude and a sincere effort to
      solve a sincere problem.

      I hope this helps.

      Feel free to respond to me directly.

      Elcya Weiss


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Sun, 28 Aug 03 16:38:00 -0400
Subject: Kashrus in U.S. Military

This happened to the son of someone I know from my shul. He enlisted in
the Marines this past July. He was promised he would be allowed to be
religious in the military, but indeed he is being forced to eat
non-Kosher food. They watch him to make sure he is eating, so he can't
just not eat. Nobody can send him any food, nor any money, although they
can write letters. For Shabbos they make Kiddush on orange juice on
Sunday morning. Evidentally, they have Sunday morninbg as a time for all
religions. The chaplain is a Conservative Rabbi and he told him since he
is in the military he doesn't have to do things and so on like that and
as long as the chaplain is satisfied, whoeever is in charge of Parris
Island is happy. He is thinking about flunking out in something in order
to get discharged. I found Senator Schumer's New York City office (as a
possible place to contact) and also printed out that Privacy Act notice
and asked him to mail it to his son so he could sign it because
Schumer's website said they won't do anything about anything unless the
Privacy Act waiver is signed, and I also mentioned Agudath Israel. I do
not know whjat happened since.

I am glad to hear that the problem is bigger than just this one case.
Military recruiters are evidentally still lying or telling half-truths.
I suppose things may depend a little bit on exactly where someone is
assigned. I would appreciate finding out how I can put his father in
contact with other people.

[I think the previous submission should give you some good information
and an excellent contact. Mod]


End of Volume 40 Issue 50