Shabbat Services At Army Base Still On Hold As Chaplain Probe Drags On
Updated 3:50 p.m.
After the controversial firing of the longtime volunteer leader of Jewish religious services at a major U.S. Army base in February, top brass promised to name a new leader in time for Shavuot.
But the holiday came and went without any progress, likely forcing the local Jewish community to continue going without the opportunity to celebrate on the base.
Now, a spokesman for Ft. Campbell conceded there will be no new leader installed — and apparently no further Shabbat services held — until a probe into the firing of the lay leader is completed.
“Once the investigation is over, we will make an announcement,” Robert N. Jenkins, the spokesman, told the Forward. “We don’t want to say anything that might be taken out of context.”
He refused to say whether Shabbat services will be held in the meantime or put a timeframe on the probe.
Mikey Weinstein, a lawyer who is representing fired lay leader Jeanette Mize, told the Forward that he found Jenkins’ answer “disgusting.”
Weinstein, the president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said that not clarifying the situation was harmful to Jews on the sprawling base, which is the Army’s second-largest.
“The fact that they won’t even announce whether there will be services on Friday shows the damage done to the Jewish community,” he said.
The base’s website lists service options for Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and even pagans. Jewish worship is listed as “temporarily suspended.”
The base held Shabbat services for the first time in weeks last weekend using a visiting rabbi from Los Angeles.
The base’s top chaplains, Col. John Murphy and Lt. Col. Sean Wead, are being examined by an outside Army investigator to determine whether firing Mize, and then not holding weekly Jewish services for want of an immediate replacement, violated Army regulations. Mize has said that the chaplains and their subordinates, whom she characterized as “fundamentalist Christian chaplains,” created a “toxic environment” towards her in an effort to remove Jewish worship from the base. According to her complaint, supervising chaplains tried to force her to hold a Passover Seder on a date that wasn’t Passover, and refused to attend her services because doing so would violate their own religion.
“This is classic old-school anti-Semitism,” Weinstein said. “If people can’t understand that, you don’t understand anti-Semitism.”