July 23, 2024
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July 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

While Jewish contributions to America in science, medicine, politics and particularly arts and entertainment are colossal, there is one area where the Jewish role may be overlooked: the military.

Jews have fought in all of America’s wars, crossing the Delaware with George Washington and at Valley Forge, storming Normandy and Iwo Jima in WWII and fighting terrorists today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stars of David are strewn among crosses in military cemeteries from Korea to Germany. Prominent Jews in the U.S. military include Jeremy Michael Boorda, former Admiral of the Navy; Norton Schwartz, a retired United States Air Force general who served as the 19th Chief of Staff of the Air Force; and of course David Daniel “Mickey” Marcus, who forged Israel’s army and is the only soldier buried at West Point who fought for a foreign flag.

It may come as a surprise that the first graduating class of West Point was half Jewish! Indeed, Simeon Magruder Levy was one of two graduating cadets of the class of 1802.

While military service is not the mandatory rite of passage for American youth as it is for Israelis, significant numbers of American youth forego the pleasures of Ivy League schools and the corporate ladder in order to serve the country. What about these unsung young warriors with camouflage yarmulkes and a siddur tucked in their fatigues?

Meet Rabbi Soussan

Rabbi Major Henry Soussan is the Jewish Community Chaplain at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the nation’s oldest and largest military academy. Born in England, and of Iraqi descent, Rabbi Soussan obtained smichah at the Shehebar Sephardic Center in Jerusalem. Chaplain Soussan served under fire in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq. As chaplain at West Point, he infuses Jewish life into the fortress on the Hudson, known more for cadet marches and ammunition drills than shiurim. Soussan teaches Modern Hebrew at the academy and is proud of the West Point Jewish Choir, which performs nationwide and has given a Chanukah concert at the White House. There is a “Jewish Warrior Weekend,” where Jewish cadets at all four military academies (Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marines) spend a weekend together at West Point. What an experience to make Kiddush with a sailor, ask a Marine to pass the gefilte fish, and then join in a m’zuman with the airmen!

Rabbi Soussan had these words of inspiration on this past July Fourth:

“…I wish to reflect on the past year and all that I have learned from these bright young men and women who sacrifice five years of their lives to serving in the military. These cadets come from all over the country, and their love and patriotism shine through their will to achieve. Having lived on three different continents, I can truly say to you that this is the best and most tolerant for Jews to live in today, and this July Fourth I am grateful for the gift of living freely as a Jew and as a rabbi, and I am thankful for the ability to serve my country—a country that has fought time and time again for my rights—and relish in its opportunities for all Americans.”

By Jeff Klapper

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