A surprising highlight of a touching Torah dedication ceremony aboard the USS Iwo Jima last Wednesday at Pier 88 was the fact that the admiral of the ship, who received the scroll on behalf of the Navy from the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, happened to be Jewish.
(An estimated 1 percent of the U.S. military is Jewish.)
Adm. Herm Shelanski appeared moved by the ceremony, telling the 30 or so assembled JCRC representatives and guests that having a Torah on board is deeply meaningful not only to Jewish members of the crew but to all on board.
“The Torah is a symbol for non-Jewish sailors, too,” he said, of the link between Jewish tradition and America’s freedoms.
The Torah was one of several stolen scrolls recovered in an operation conducted by the NYPD and the District Attorney of New York. By order of the Supreme Court, the JCRC is returning the Torah scrolls to appropriate uses, with this one to serve aboard Navy aircraft carriers. One of a handful of Torah scrolls to serve in this way, it will be used on the USS George Washington in the Far East.
Rabbi Harold Robinson, a rear admiral and director of the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, noted that the George Washington was chosen because it is “the furthest away from our shores.”