On Sept. 12, William Daroff of the Jewish Federations of North America and retired Navy chaplain Rear Adm. Rabbi Harold Robinson sank ceremonial chrome-plated spades into rain-soaked earth atop Arlington National Cemetery's Chaplains Hill to mark the site of the Jewish chaplains stone and bronze monument. The long-overdue memorial will be set in place within the next few weeks.
Robinson, director of the Jewish Welfare Board's Jewish Chaplains Council, began the groundbreaking ceremony with expressions of gratitude to the many persons involved in the effort to construct the monument. Among them was Ken Kraetzer, a Sons of the American Legion member from New York who first brought the absence of a Jewish chaplains memorial in Arlington to light more than three years ago. Kraetzer and Robinson were the principal figures in launching the campaign to compose a Jewish memorial alongside existing ones dedicated to fallen Roman Catholic, Protestant and World War I chaplains. And a resolution endorsing the Jewish Chaplains Memorial was adopted last month during the Legion's 93rd national convention in Minneapolis.
Also in attendance was Chaplain Rabbi Heather Borshof, the U.S. Army's first woman Jewish chaplain on full-time active duty who was sworn in last December by Robinson, a friend and a mentor. Borshof offered a prayer during the ceremony, saying, "Today we prepare this hallowed ground and consecrate this earth to the 14 Jewish chaplains who made the ultimate sacrifice. God, as we are ever mindful of the cost paid for the liberty we possess, we thank You for their lives and for their service to our country and to our soldiers. And we are grateful that we have the privilege and opportunity to carry on that service."
The formal dedication for the Jewish Chaplains Memorial will be Oct. 24 at Arlington's Memorial Ampitheater. In the meantime, the monument's bronze plaque is on a multi-city tour. Among its destinations is the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., where arrangements for its display were announced to Kraetzer in a personal phone call by the museum's hometown congressman, Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs' Committee. Miller and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington were instrumental in shepherding the necessary authorizations to construct the monument through Congress.