Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jewish Services at Fort Benning

In the Army, Sunday is religion day. Regardless of your religion, you can pray on Sunday. That is when all the services are held. On Fort Benning there were various Christian services in various chapels and one Jewish Service. There was probably some Muslim service and I should assume a Bhuddist one somewhere in the neighborhood.

The Jewish service is held on Sand Hill. Sand Hill is the place on Fort Benning where all the basic training takes place. So if you are going to be in BCT in Benning, you will be spending a lot of time on Sand Hill.

I remember Jewish Services at Fort Knox when I did basic training there four years ago. There, there were usually 8-15 people. About half of them were Jewish. In basic training, most people go to some service just to get away from their barracks. Spiritual comfort is often beside the point. Basic trainees often went to their battle buddy's service, generally because it was something different to do. On Fort Knox, I remember seeing mostly privates in basic training, and one E-4 who took it upon himself to lead services while he was there and a major who spent time with the Chabad Rabbi who came by most Sundays to do part of the service.

On Fort Benning, which is a slightly larger base than Fort Knox, there were at least 75 people at each of the two services I attended. I did not have many free Sundays. I think about 70 of the 75 people were in basic training. There were about five of us who were eihter in OCS, BOLC II or some other school there. I did not meet anyone permanently stationed there.

I would guess (based on nothing more than looking at last names, general intuition, and guessing) that no more than 15 or 20 of the basic trainees there were Jewish.

Though there is a Jewish Chaplain on post, I did not see him. He was out for the two weeks I was there. People say good things about him. I sat next to some kid from Chaim Berlin on a flight who claimed to know him from Atlanta. Instead of the chaplain there were two lay leaders. One led services one week, and another led services the next week. They both did a good job, and they seemed to be very enthusiastic about it.

Though the praying was nice, I suspect that the real reason so many people choose the Jewish service was for the food. There was a nice selection of donoughts, bagles, cream cheese and OJ. If you are in Basic Training in a place like Fort Benning, these things will sound like real treats. They were to me at Fort Knox. One of the lay leaders made some joke about bagles without cream cheese being article 15 actionable.

The actual service lasted about 45 minutes. This was followed by some food, and some people who went outside and gave Hebrew lessons. They got to the first few letters. when I was there. Hebrew lessons are scheduled to follow the service.

Incidentally, I think that at least two of the cadre in my BOLC II company were Jewish. That strikes me as odd for some reason.

That was my experience with Judaism in Fort Benning.


Anonymous said...

The kiddush afterwards seems like a bris without the baby :)

Phoebe said...

Keep up the good work.