Torah in the trenches : the rabbi chaplains of World War II, 1940-1946 / Daniel Mosheh Bronstein.
During World War Two hundreds of American rabbis served as chaplains in the United States military. The National Jewish Welfare Board's Committee on Army and Navy Religious Activities or CANRA, became the central organization for the recruitment, training and monitoring of the largest contingent of American rabbis ever to serve in the US military as chaplains. Led by leading American rabbis of virtually every segment of religious American Jewry, the CANRA and the rabbi chaplains were charged with providing for the religious needs of over a half a million American Jews serving in the US armed forces during the WW II era. The CANRA leadership interfaced with the, chaplains, the US government and military, as well as civilian, American Jewish leadership, while the chaplains themselves ministered to the hundreds of thousands of American Jewish military personnel serving at bases in the United States and in every theater of the war across the globe. Most significantly, the rabbinical chaplaincy was a pan-denominational effort including Reform, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis. This multi-denominational group addressed issues ranging from the creation of a wartime system of halachah, providing kosher food and arranging worship opportunities for the Sabbath and the holidays for American Jewish military personnel. The examination of the World War II rabbinical chaplaincy provides insights into the structure of American Judaism in the middle of the twentieth century which was organized both on denominational and sectarian lines. Although Conservative and Reform Judaism clearly fell into the first category, American Orthodoxy was itself split into denominational and sectarian groupings. However, each segment of American Judaism participating in the chaplaincy effort was compelled to compromise on matters of Jewish ritual and theology in order to create a viable system of Judaism for Jews then serving in the military. Likewise, the CANRA and the chaplains carried out their work within a particularly complex context, largely composed of Christian Americans and subject to military realities. Negotiating, intra-Jewish conflicts, halachic challenges and logistical realities, the global, World War II rabbinical chaplaincy project nonetheless represents the height of pan-denominational collaboration in American Jewish history.
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