CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 11

The Community Rabbi


e began this column in the November-December CCAR Newsletter defining a community rabbi as a rabbi not serving a congregation, a definition fitting one-fourth of us receiving this newsletter, and promising to fill this space with stories from the life of rabbis serving the Jewish People, Reform Judaism, outside and beyond the congregational setting. The words of a Chaplain, Captain Sarah D. Schechter, USAF, HUC-JIR LA 2003, made me pause. She writes “My congregation consists of a crack team who cares for every aspect of that exacting mission for the President…” Captain Schechter means The President, not a URJ congregation president. How does a military rabbi have a congregation? Peretz Wolf-Prusan ( We are all on the move here at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland—home to my family and home to Air Force One and Two. My congregation consists of a crack team who cares for every aspect of that exacting mission for the President, Vice President, cabinet members, combatant commanders and other senior military and elected leaders. My people’s motto: “Perfection is Our Standard.” We are all on the move: My folks, getting the President mobile for election year 2012 and I, providing spiritual and pastoral care for the team and their families.

My day starts off with several physical training (PT) sessions with them starting at 6 am, running with some, spin class with others.

green suede combat boots after that. After the invocation, I change into my Airman Battle Uniform (ABUs) and meet up with the medical team. It’s 6 pm and we are about to board a C-17 that landed at Andrews carrying forty wounded warriors from the Middle East. The medical team checks each person. An Army chaplain and I look each conscious person in the eyes. “Welcome home” we softly say. The patients have traveled for several days and Andrews is not their final stop; just their first in the United States. They, too, are on the move. A few months ago, I received orders to deploy in four days to cover the Yamim Noraim. Normally I receive more notice, but not this time. I rush to complete the checklist of fifty items including an anthrax shot, my gas mask fit test, obtain my helmet, and update my power of attorney. I had just moved here the month before, but was now on my way to a new adventure. It is here that Ruth’s famous words to Naomi come to mind, “Wherever you go, I will go...” (1:16). This is my life as a military rabbi: Always on the move, but hopefully leaving a Jewish footprint along the way, for a community, on the move. Captain Sarah D. Schechter, USAF

My people’s motto: “Perfection is our Standard.”
A commander, chief master sergeant and I discuss upcoming holiday events and one of them presses into my hand the name of a member who was just notified that he is being laid-off from the Air Force. They ask if I would check-up on him. Someone else gets my attention, makes an appointment with me to talk about pre-deployment fears—this is her first—and another wants to discuss her conversion to Judaism. Between PT sessions, I run to my office to whittle down my email in-box, wash up, and prepare thoughts for a Torah study as well an invocation later that day for a retiring JAG officer (military lawyer). I’m literally in sneakers one moment, black patent leather shoes the next, and back into

What Are You Reading?
Generation Freedom (The Middle East Uprisings and the Remaking of the Modern World) by Bruce Feiler. HarperCollins Publishers. 2011. Pp. 146. $11.99. Bruce Feiler, the celebrated author of such best-sellers as Walking The Bible, and Abraham, has done perhaps more than any other writer to bring closer the adherents of the three Monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in wake of the unfathomable attacks of 9/11. He continues in this critical vein with his latest literary gem of Generation Freedom, following the unpredicted eruption of Biblical proportions of the “Arab Spring” with its potential to transform the long-overdue Middle-East. The author draws a directly connecting line between the monumental events of 2001 and 2011. In September 11, 2001, al-Qaida’s now dead leader, Osama bin Laden, and his co-conspirators lashed out against the West in general and United States in particular for promoting Western values and highlighting the weaknesses of the Muslim world given the West’s superiority. The recent uprisings of 2011 and especially the 18-day Egyptian “Facebook revolution,” courageously toppling the 30 year old autocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak with a cost of 850 lives (it could have been much higher!), were aimed at changing the Arab world from within to reflect the free democratic societies of the West. What a revolutionary reversal in Arab attitude that Feiler points at as a promising sign of progressive change yet to come, with already indicated improvement in the treatment by the Egyptian authorities of common folks who were regularly abused. After all, the “Arab Spring” was sparked in Tunisia, when a young fruit vendor finally in desperation set himself afire. However, since the book was published, there have been recorded violations of human rights by the new Egyptian regime that is run by the old generals who were Mubarak’s associates. In addition, the minority Coptic Christian community, making

up 10% of Egypt’s 85 million people, has faced deadly attacks. The highly significant Egyptian relations with both Israel and the United States have been adversely affected, with governmentsponsored violence still raging in Syria. The response of the United States and NATO has been a selective one. The author contends that the Muslim extremists failed to attract to their radical cause the Arab youth who served as the backbone of the unprecedented and heroic attempt to overcome centuries of colonial and post-colonial neglect and exploitation, with societies offering no opportunities to millions of rising, educated young men and women who constitute demographic majorities. As Feiler himself alludes to in his interviews with both important and ordinary figures, there is no guarantee that fundamentalist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, that tend to be well-organized, would be blocked from dominating the political landscape.
(Continued on page 12)


CCAR January 2012 Newsletter

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR January 2012 Newsletter

CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 1
CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 2
CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 3
CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 4
CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 5
CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 6
CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 7
CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 8
CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 9
CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 10
CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 11
CCAR January 2012 Newsletter - 12