National Guardsman Refuses Deployment To Patrol Border

By Joshua Yaffa

Published May 26, 2006, issue of May 26, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

While the Senate expressed its approval Monday of a Bush administration plan to deploy the Natinoal Guard along the American-Mexican border, a Jewish member of the Pennsylvania force is publicly refusing to accept such an order.

Brian Kresge, a seven-year veteran of the armed forces, first articulated his position on his personal blog last week. “I cannot point a gun at folks crossing a border when I am a scion of the same thing,” he wrote. “Life was hard in the Pale of Settlement, and though today’s illegals aren’t necessarily fleeing pogroms, they likely have the same fears.”

In a conversation with the Forward, Kresge elaborated on his initial statement. “The president’s speech [last week on immigration] got me thinking about my own ancestry,” he explained. “My family came to this country in the bottom of a ship — without papers, without records.”

“I can’t conscience being a hypocrite,” he added, reflecting on the difficulties faced by his great-great-grandfather Louis Feldser, who achieved American citizenship for himself and his wife by falsely claiming that the documents they needed had been lost in a fire.

Under the plan first proposed by President Bush during his prime-time May 17 speech, up to 6,000 National Guard troops would be sent to the southern United States to support ongoing Border Patrol operations. By an 83-10 vote this week, senators approved a measure to position the Guard along the border, while setting parameters on the limits of its involvement.

Rabbi David Lapp, director of the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, is not convinced by Kresge’s arguments. “Once he joins any military force, he swears to do what the commander in chief orders,” he told the Forward when informed of Kresge’s stance. “If everyone in his own mind were to judge where to serve and where not to serve, we would not have an Army.”

Both sides in the nascent debate cite lessons from the Jewish theological canon, albeit with far different implications. “What would the Torah do? When you live in that country and they ask you to serve, you have to serve,” Lapp said.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia countered by pointing to the “thirty-some times the Torah says that you shall treat the foreigner with respect and equality.”

“Remember that at one time,” Waskow continued, “the Jewish community in the Lower East Side of New York was looked upon with great contempt and disgust by most of the country.”

Rabbi Philip Bentley, honorary president of the Jewish Peace Fellowship, suggested that his organization would be willing to help Kresge should he encounter future legal trouble. “That is what we exist to do,” Bentley said, adding that “for Jews, the closing of borders has a very powerful resonance.”

“In 1924,” he said, “they shut the borders of the U.S. for European Jews — this current measure should be something that disturbs us greatly.”

Kresge said that he is not keen to make his initial statement into a larger issue, especially considering the recent comments of Pennsylvania’s Jewish governor, Ed Rendell, who expressed opposition to a long deployment of the state’s National Guardsmen to the border. The guardsman insisted that he was very eager to serve his country.

“Refuseniks can get painted as malcontents and people who don’t want to serve, but that’s not the case here,” Kresge said. “I’m a proud soldier — but I have to answer to my faith, as well.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.