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.