Friday, May 25, 2012

A Tough Week

The Marine Corps celebrates federal holidays with a “96”.  Simply put,
in honor of our freedom, we are given 96-hours of freedom.  Out
here, that translates out to Saturday through Tuesday as free days.

I need it.

It was not an easy week.

On Monday at 4am, my phone started ringing; the duty chaplain was
trying to get ahold of me.  In the hospital, a man had just lost his wife.
The circumstances of the death are heartbreaking.  But when
inundated by command, chaplains, investigators, and doctors – he asked
for a rabbi.  He asked for the rabbi.

I hadn’t met them yet.  An army family, they just moved out to the
island.  While I was in the states, he sent me an e-mail asking for assistance in planning a bris for his unborn son.  But on Monday morning, I met a father of two young children, who had just lost his wife and his unborn son, who wanted to talk to me about cremation and burial. There is no question that I am against cremation, but my role as rabbi for Jews of all backgrounds requires me to stay away from stating halakhah. Instead, I listen.

He doesn’t want to cremate.  She wanted to be cremated, and she made
it very clear that these were her wishes.  In the meantime, there were
meals to organize, appointments with pathology and mortuary affairs,
and there was a memorial service to organize for an Army Vet on an Air Force Base with a Navy/Marine Corps Rabbi (that was probably the hardest part).

And so I was there.

I think I did pretty well with this family over the course of this
horrible week.  At the same time, I provided chaplaincy to the
regiments of the 3D Marine Logistics Group:  Anger Management
Counseling, Pre-Marriage Counseling, Marriage-On-Rocks Counseling,
Check-Ins, Check-Outs, Command Advisement, and general supply of good
cheer and spiritual resilience.

So I’m sure you can understand why I really need this weekend’s 96. After services tonight, I’m going to sleep.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Conference of Chaplains

Per regulations, I informed my chain of command that I would be going to a Chaplain’s Conference in the States.  I made sure that there would be chaplain coverage: in case of emergency, there would be another chaplain around who would be available to my command for any chaplainy needs.

While I meet with the command deck regularly, the timing of this visit matched up perfectly with a few moments of frivolity concluding with several cracks about what they believe rabbis do at such conventions.  The CO imagined that we would be keeping a strict regiment of eat, pray, sleep that was shockingly reminiscent of my USY days.  The XO, who is well aware that most Jews are not teetotalers, recognized that mild alcohol consumption might be part of the event. 

When I told them the conference was in New Orleans, they questioned the placement of “a Chaplain Convention in Sodom and Gomorrah.”  The CO wanted to know exactly how far from the Harrah’s Casino I would be.  Sgt Maj just wanted to know if there would be crocodile wrestling as part of the conference.  From there, a discussion commenced on the brilliance of “Bayou Billionaires” as compared to the truth of “Swamp People”.  Their attention diverted to other more serious matters, I was able to make my escape.

I am back in the states for only a couple weeks.  The conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet really great chaplains, drink with really great chaplains, and eat beignets with really great chaplains.  Sometimes, we did other things with less-than-great chaplains (they do exist, even in the Jewish Chaplain Corps).  But as long as the beignets and beer kept coming, I didn’t mind.

By providing a special shabbaton for first-tour chaplains, the JWB ensured that we would have some of the tools necessary to ensure success in our futures.  We met a Jewish Admiral who has recently been selected for a second star; it turns out that there are quite a few of them.  We learned some good Torah from a great Talmudic mind.  And the best part - we learned that the siddur that I spent the summer compiling is actually going to come out in the coming year!! All in all, not a bad way to spend a week.

Friday, May 4, 2012

cultural differences

It’s hard to go anywhere in Okinawa without encountering nursery-school children. We see them everywhere – at the zoo, or the park, marching in a parade, or walking down the street. They are ALWAYS wearing matching hats, and almost always wearing matching t-shirts as well. They are quiet, orderly, and well-behaved. They eat complicated-looking Japanese food with perfect chopstick technique. Oh, and they’re ADORABLE.

I’m spending this weekend in Orlando, visiting Hillel, Sharon, Dafna and Liav, and this morning I got to visit Dafna’s nursery school for their Shabbat celebration. It was a “controlled chaos” situation of the best kind. All the kids – Dafna and Liav included – spent about 20 minutes jumping and singing and generally getting their sillies out while getting excited about Shabbat.

Doda and Dafna, the Shabbat Ema
Liavi baby!

Without ever having been inside a Japanese preschool, I can safely assume that such a celebration would not happen there. First, they don’t celebrate Shabbat. But it’s also just so hard to imagine Japanese kids ever being silly. I mean, I’m sure they are, but they present such a together outward appearance that it makes it hard to imagine that anything else is acceptable at school. Just one more cultural difference to think about…

Shabbat Shalom!