US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence
Fort Benning, GA
When it was discovered, back in 2001, that there wasn’t an active duty Jewish Chaplain at Fort Benning (now the army’s combined infantry and armor basic training command) several members of Temple Israel who were veterans stepped forward and organized a Jewish community effort which continues to thrive today. Volunteers were recruited to conduct worship services and to ensure that major holidays are observed and that Jewish troops had a nucleus of Jewish spirituality to rely on during their demanding transformation as trainees from civilians to active duty warriors.
From initially congregating in a back room adjacent to a concurrent Protestant worship service, which made conducting a separate and distinct Jewish service a challenge, to separately designated chapel time, the program has grown from accommodating a mere handful of soldiers to services of 350 and more each and every week.
During the first few years of community leadership, efforts were undertaken to secure one of the very scarce active duty Jewish Chaplains for duty at Fort Benning. Eventually, the army recognized the importance of a dedicated, officially assigned Chaplain and the position was filled and has since continued to be filled. The local Jewish Community, spearheaded by Temple Israel leadership, continues to participate in this thriving program by assisting the on-board Chaplain in assuring post-worship service kaddishes & onegs as well as Passover Seders and any and all other means of establishing and building a thriving on-post Jewish community. Financial needs for program support are met by the local Columbus Jewish Federation and Temple Israel’s Fort Benning Oneg Fund which assures the program a yearly stipend to fund its needs. The impact of the program has resonated throughout the national Jewish community and has been applauded and rewarded with recognition and accolades. More importantly, it has been a nucleus for many, many Jewish organizations and individuals throughout our great country in which to participate. Day school children have dedicated onegs. Communities have sponsored supplies. Visitors to our area have come by to assist. Troops and parents of troops have thanked us and continue to be in touch.
Temple Israel and the Jewish Community of Columbus, Georgia are proud to keep this Jewish Troop Program vibrant and vital. And, we thank all who have and will participate in its continued forward movement.
Although, not listed in the original information provided for this piece, as the proud Editor of this web-site I feel it is important to list the men and women who continue their tireless efforts to ensure our troops stationed at Fort Benning know that the Jewish Community will always be there for them. Those individuals are: The Lay Leaders of this program for Temple Israel are Neil Block, Retired SeaBee and Naval Acadamy Graduate – Class of 1961 (GO GOATS) and Richard Grifenhagen, West Point Graduate – Class of 1954. Yes, these two Co-Managers are living proof that the Navy and the Army can get along at least 364 days out of the year. Can anyone guess which is the 365th? Aiding these individuals are Stuart Brines, Joel Fine, Doug Smith, Kay Broda, Elinore Parker, Elsa and Milton Hirsch, Capt. David Neveau, Archie and Nancy Taitsch with sons Matt and Kevin, Barry Warshaw, Brandon Gilbert, Vicki and Marv Lieberman and Vera Grifenhagen.
If you would like to get involved with this fantastic program and join in the Mitzvot, please email me at email@example.com and I will be honored to pass your contact information to the group for prompt recruitment.