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Rabbi visits post to speak with fellow Jews, form bonds, discuss beliefs, address issues.


An ancient Jewish wise man wrote in the Tanakh, the Jewish bible and basis of the Christian Old Testament, in the book of Mishlei (known as Proverbs in the Old Testament) that, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Mishlei / Proverbs 27:17)."
Modern-day Jews gathered to sharpen each other, make connections and help build the Jewish community in the Fort McPherson area July 30.

"The military is a challenging environment, especially for smaller faith groups," said Rabbi Menachem Katz, Aleph Institute director of outreach programs, Miami, Fla., adding there are between three and four thousand Jews are spread throughout the military.

Katz said it is hard for Jewish servicemembers to have meaningful services because of smaller numbers, geographic location and a shortage of rabbi chaplains in the military.
Mendy-KatzChap. (Capt.) Brad Godding, chaplain resource manager for the Fort McPherson chapel, said there are seven active duty rabbis in the Army.

Such an observation by a Jewish servicemember at Fort Bragg, N.C., helped pave the way for the gathering, said retired U.S. Navy Master Chief Jim Bradford, Jewish lay leader for metro Atlanta.

"A servicemember volunteered to lead services at Passover at Bragg, was so overwhelmed by the experience that he asked for an opportunity to meet with military personnel at other bases," Bradford said.

As part of his job, Bradford works to coordinate and facilitate relationships among various chaplains and organizations to allow members of the Jewish faith the opportunity to conduct worship. Through his network of contacts, he contacted Katz at the Aleph Institute, an organization that serves the needs of Jews who are in prison, the military or otherwise isolated from their heritage.

"It's important to meet people of our own faith, to pray together and celebrate," said Katz, an Orthodox rabbi who works with those in prison and the military.

In gathering, those attending interacted with Katz by asking him questions and sharing their Jewish experiences in the military. They also let him know of issues they've faced in the service, and of the ways and resources available to overcome them.
"I wanted to meet Jewish people on base and to try to connect with everyone and let them know there are books, resources and people available," Katz said.

The group also celebrated "Tisha B'av" (the ninth day of the month of Av of the Hebrew Calendar), a fasting day that marks the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the second temple by the Romans.

"On this special day, we want to remember and honor all our brave men and women in the military who gave their lives, those who have served and those serving in defense of our great nation," Bradford said.

Besides fellowship, the meeting also allowed the group to think of ideas to better facilitate worship on Fort McPherson.

"We're trying to find a way to get a Jewish program going on Fort McPherson," Katz said. "Hopefully, we can get a monthly Jewish class going."

Bradford said he will work to help achieve this end.

"It was important to just be able to talk, get comfortable and know we can get together," he said.
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The Aleph Institute  / 9540 Collins Avenue / Surfside, Florida 33154-7127 / Tel. (305) 864-5553 / Fax (305) 864-5675