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December 07, 1990 - Image 137

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-12-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Photo By Ira Rifkin

Slomovitz noted. "We don't
know how many mid-
shipmen are products of
mixed marriages or are so
highly assimilated that they
do not come forward as Jews
when asked to do so."
The average number of
Jews who enter the Acade-
my in any given year is
about 10. Rabbi Slomovitz
can only guess as to why
this year's crop is almost
twice that number. (Nine-
teen actually showed up for
the July 3 start of Plebe
Summer, the demanding six-
week orientation period that
precedes the August 23
start of the academic year,
but one has since dropped
He would like to believe
that the "extraordinarily
high" increase in Jewish

Midshipman 4th Class Jason Berger:
The Naval Academy has been his
goal since age 5.

plebes is attributable "to
word getting out" that the
Academy now has a full-
time Jewish chaplain and,
therefore, is more welcoming
of Jews.
"We'll have to track it to
see if this year is a quirk or
not. Many people still look
at the Navy in World War II
terms and think there's a lot
of anti-Semitism here,"
Rabbi Slomovitz said during
an interview in his office in
the Academy's Mitscher
Hall. "The real case is quite
the opposite, and maybe
having a full-time Jewish
chaplain helps the communi-
ty understand that."
Col. Lindauer, however,
believes the rise is at-
tributable to a more favor-
able attitude toward the mil-
itary today than at any time
in this country since the
1960s. "A military career is
not unfashionable
anymore," he said. "In the
'70s you never saw a Jewish
kid in the military unless he
absolutely had to do it."
For Rabbi Slomovitz, an
11-year Navy veteran and
graduate of Hebrew Union
College in New York, this is

his second year as the Acad-
emy's full-time Jewish chap-
lain. He replaced Lt. Com-
mander Norman Auerbach,
who spent more than two
years in the post.
Before then, Rabbi Morris
D. Rosenblatt of Kneseth
Israel Congregation in An-
napolis served as civilian
chaplain through the Jewish
Welfare Board from 1945
until his death in 1985. Col.
Lindauer served as the Jew-
ish lay leader from 1968 un-
til Rabbi Auerbach's arrival.
"Knowing there was a full-
time Jewish chaplain here
made me feel more comfort-
able," said Midshipman 4th
Class Cassorla, one of the
three female Jewish plebes
and the daughter of a rabbi
who now leads a congrega-
tion in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
"That told me there had to
be some established concern
for Jews at the Academy."
Midshipman 4th Class
Zeitman, who celebrated his
bar mitzvah at Jerusalem's
Western Wall, also said that
knowing the Academy had a
rabbi on hand made him feel
more comfortable. He added
that having a Jewish spon-
sor family also helps. (Spon-
sors are local families who
open their homes to mid-
shipmen on Saturdays, the
only day plebes are allowed
to leave the Academy on
their own.)
In addition to increased
numbers, other signs of a
growing Jewish presence at
the Academy are also pres-
ent, Rabbi Slomovitz said.
Last year, a graduating
senior who had missed doing
so when he was 13 became
the first midshipman to cel-
ebrate a bar mitzvah in the
Academy's Jewish chapel, a
160-seat facility that is also
used by other faith groups.
Last year, 30 midshipmen
kept kosher throughout
Passover by dining on food
donated by Baltimore's Jew-
ish Armed Forces Service
Committee. This summer,
Rabbi Slomovitz led a three-
week tour of Israel for 15
midshipmen, the majority of
whom were non-Jews.
Despite these gains, how-
ever, the Academy is still a
place where Jews —not to
mention the rudiments of
Jewish life - remain hard to
Miss Cassorla, who was
born in Israel, talked about
how she attempts to keep
kosher at a "comfortable
and practical" level by
loading up on peanut butter.
Clearly, however, her rela-
tively high level of religious
observance and Jewish iden-
tity makes her a minority
within the minority. 0

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