From Moment Magazine, April 1991/Nisan 5751
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Recipients of Moment's
Community Service Awards
The essential thing is not study, but mitzvah--deeds," said Shimon, the son
of Rabban Gamliel, in the Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers). Mitzvah deeds
are acts of kindness, selflessness and charity; the acts that allow the needy
to help themselves; and the acts that strive to perfect the world.
Those who perform these mitzvah deeds are often unrecognized--our friends
and neighbors, rabbis and teachers, artists and layleaders. But MOMENT is
finding them. In this issue we announce MOMENT's second International
Community Service Awards in Social Service to an activist for Soviet Jewry
and to an administrator who developed a network for the frail and bedridden,
and in Religion to a military chaplain who brings Jewish ethical ideals to officers
and enlistees and to a behind-the-scenes initiator who developed model
programs in interfaith relations, non-sexist liturgy and anti-missionary education.
In subsequent issues MOMENT will introduce awardees in Literature and the
Arts and Charitable Fund-raising. (See MOMENT, Feburary 1991, for
International Community Service Award recipients in the categories of Volunteer
Service, Scholarship and Education.)
ARNOLD E. RESNICOFF
Bringing Ethics to Military Service
"Military people struggle more than civilians with many moral and ethical questions," says Commander Arnold Resnicoff, a rabbi
and U.S. Naval chaplain. "We're involved day after day in such questions as the use and possible abuse of power. We face life or
death issues of war and the threat of war."
As chaplain for the Chief of Naval Education and Training, currently stationed in Pensacola, Florida, Resnicoff teaches officers and
chaplains of all faiths to examine the moral and ethical questions of military service. "I see very bright, capable young people--our
future officers, admirals and generals--struggling with major ethical questions. We're still agonizing over decisions and actions in
past wars, including Vietnam," Resnicoff adds. "We don't have all the answers, but it is amazing that we keep asking the questions."
Resnicoff came to the rabbinate after three and a half years of military service, including a year in Vietnam's Mekong Delta. An
Episcopal priest asked him to serve as a Jewish lay leader because at that time there were only four Navy rabbis. "The entire time I
was in the military," Resnicoff notes, "I never met a rabbi. I was older--an officer, a college graduate--but, I think, for the
18-year-olds it was almost criminal that they never saw a rabbi." He began leading services and later contacted the Jewish
Theological Seminary about their rabbinical program.
Following rabbinical school Resnicoff took one Navy assignment because, he says, "I knew of the shortage of rabbis and I felt
loyalty to the Navy because my decision to become a rabbi came from my military service." Of his chaplains' training he says,
"Sometimes I wish that everyone in the clergy could go to that school whether or not they go into the military: For eight weeks
priests, rabbis and ministers share and learn together. It's a wonderful experience."
He decided to remain in the military as a chaplain after his first year of service, but not without some soul-searching about the
personal sacrifices the military demands on family life.
Resnicoff has concentrated his work in three areas: 1) helping jews in the military understand and practice Judaism; 2) integrating
Jewish values into the military experience, and 3) bridging the gap between military and civilian communities.
He strives tirelessly to ensure that the religious rights of Jews in the military are protected. As the only chaplain in mainland Japan
from 1976 to 1979, Resnicoff designed a Jewish chapel in Yokosuka. From 1982 to 1984, he served the Sixth Fleet as its only
chaplain and helped create the Haifa USO in Israel, which reaches tens of thousands of U.S. service people each year. Resnicoff's
report on his experience in the aftermath of the 1983 Beirut marine barracks bombing was written at President Reagan's request, and
the president read the report before 20,000 members of the "Baptist Fundamentalist 1984" conference.
Resnicoff regards the U.S. military as a unique expression of pluralism in America and believes that integrating Jewish values into
the military will result in a more ethical nation. He instituted an annual ethics conference at the Naval War College. His work to
help create the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was acknowledged when Resnicoff was invited to deliver the closing prayer at the
memorial's dedication. He also instigated a campaign for the military to take part in the annual Holocaust National Days of
Remembrance, for which he edited, "Horror and Hope: Americans Remember the Holocaust," and the Department of Defense
observance guide. His numerous articles on interfaith sensitivity and prayer in public settings are models of religious tolerance and
pluralism used by all U.S. military chaplains.
"I would like to prove that Jews in the military can still be a part of the larger Jewish community," says Resnicoff. Although he
sees some changes, Resnicoff often feels that military chaplains and Jews in the armed forces are ignored by the Jewish community
at large. To combat this neglect, he speaks at community centers and synagogues and served as the first military chaplain on the
United Jewish Appeal Rabbinic Cabinet. "I don't think there's any organized effort, for example, to get Jews in the military to even
contribute to the UJA," notes Resnicoff. "We [in the military] need support, but we can also give it. It's a two-way street."
Awardees listed in this issue:
Social Services: Lynn Singer -- Rescuing Soviet Jews
Isaac Trainin: Founding Caring Networks
Religion: Arnold Resnicoff: Bringing Ethics to Military Service
Annette Daum: Opening Doors for Interfaith Relations
Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff
Bringing Ethics to Military Service