Jewish Chaplains in the U.S. Military

December 10, 1861: An article entitled “Jewish Chaplains” reported that Rabbi Arnold Fischel, of New York, “had an interview today with the President, to urge the appointment of Jewish Chaplains for every military Department, they being excluded by an act of Congress from the volunteer regiments, among whom there are thousands of Israelites. In the meantime the Doctor will take charge of the spiritual welfare of the Jewish soldiers on the Potomac. The President assured him that the subject will receive his earnest attention, and expressed the opinion that this exclusion was altogether unintentional on the part of Congress.”

On July 17, 1862 Congress passed a bill allowing Jewish chaplains to serve in all branches of the military, the net effect of which 6,500 Jews who had enlisted in the Union Army to fight in the Civil War now had spiritual guidance and support.

In 1948, the United States issued a stamp with the caption, “These Immortal Chaplains … Interfaith in Action,” Scott No. 956, to memorialize four U.S. military chaplains who died in the German submarine attack on the S.S. Dorchester on February 3, 1943.

The chaplains pictured on the stamp are Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), Charles V. Poling (Reformed Church in America), George L. Fox (Methodist) and John P. Washington (Roman Catholic).  These men gave up their lifejackets to save the lives of other soldiers as the ship was sinking.  They are also known as the Dorchester Chaplains.

immortal chaplains - us 1948

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