Shabbat Service Memorial Day Speech

Shabbat Service Memorial Day Speech

By Colonel Donald Gilner

A tiny island in the pacific dominated by a volcanic mountain and pockmarked with caves, Iwo Jima was the setting for a five-week. Nonstop battle between 70,000 American marines and an unknown number of deeply entrenched Japanese defenders. The courage and gallantry of the American forces was climaxed by the dramatic raising of the American flag over Mount Suribachi. Less remembered, however, is that the battle occasioned an eloquent eulogy by a marine corps rabbi that has become an American classic.

Rabbi Roland b. Gittelsohn (1910-1995), assigned to the fifth marine division, was the first Jewish chaplain the marine corps ever appointed. The American invading force at Iwo Jima included approximately 1,500 Jewish marines. Rabbi Gittelsohn was in the thick of the battle, ministering to marines of all faiths in the combat zone. He shared the fear, horror, and despair of the fighting men, each of whom knew that each day might be his last. Rabbi Gittelsohn’s tireless efforts to comfort the wounded and encourage the fearful won him three service ribbons.

When the fighting was over, division chaplain warren Cuthriell, a protestant minister, asked rabbi Gittelsohn to deliver the memorial sermon at the combined religious service dedicating the marine cemetery. As the division chaplain, he was superior in rank above all the chaplains. Cuthriell wanted all the fallen marines – black and white, protestant, catholic, and Jewish – honored in a single, nondenominational ceremony. Unfortunately, racial and religious prejudice was strong in the marine corps, as it as throughout America. According to Rabbi Gittelsohn, most Christian chaplains objected to having a rabbi preach over predominantly Christian graves.

The rabbi and minister were close friends. To his credit, Cuthriell, the division ranking chaplain, refused to alter his plans. Gittelsohn, on the other hand, wanted to save his friend Cuthriell further embarrassment and so he decided it was best not to deliver his sermon. Instead, three separate religious services were held. At the Jewish service, rabbi Gittelsohn delivered the powerful eulogy he originally wrote for the combined service.

Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors’ generations ago helped in her founding, and other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores. Here lie officers and men, negroes and whites, rich men and poor…together. Here are protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men, there is no discrimination. No prejudices. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy. Whosoever of us lifts his hand in hate against a brother, or who thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and the bloody sacrifice it commemorates, an empty, hollow mockery. To this, then, as our solemn duty, sacred duty to we the living now dedicate ourselves: to the right of protestants, Catholics, and Jews, of white men and negroes alike, to enjoy the democracy for which all of them have here paid the price…. We here solemnly swear that this shall not be in vain. Out of this and from the suffering and sorrow of those who mourn this will come, we promise, the birth of a new freedom for the sons of men everywhere.

Among Gittelsohn’s listeners were three protestant chaplains so incensed by the prejudice voiced by their colleagues that they boycotted their own service to attend Gittelsohn’s. One of them borrowed the manuscript and, unknown to Gittelsohn, circulated several thousand copies to his regiment. Some marines enclosed the copies in letters to their families. An avalanche of coverage resulted. Time magazine published excerpts, which wire services spread even further. The entire sermon was inserted into the congressional record. Radio commentator Robert St. John read it on his program and on many succeeding Memorial Days.

Arnovitz Leadership Institute – Call for Nominations!

Arnovitz Leadership Institute - Call for Nominations!

We are currently accepting nominations for the Arnovitz Leadership Institute and invite you to please submit the names of individuals you think might be interested in this exciting educational opportunity. This program was developed to shape and train the future leaders of our Synagogue. The theme for the 2019-2020 Arnovitz program will be “Finding the Leader Within Ourselves.” Our curriculum will provide unique training in the areas of leadership skills, ritual, marketing, branding, and relational Judaism. Our training will also offer insight into the inner workings of every aspect of our Synagogue. Classes will take place once a month over a 10 month period, and will begin in August 2019.

Please submit your nominations to Lindsay Borenstein at, and feel free to nominate yourself. Nominations are due by June 1.

Best of Jewish Atlanta: 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards – Vote for AA!

Ahavath Achim has been nominated for Best Simcha/Celebration Venue as part of Best of Jewish Atlanta: 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards (brought to you by the Atlanta Jewish Times)! Vote for your Jewish Atlanta favorites for the next 3 weeks, and you’ll be entered to win one of several prizes through a random drawing on March 30! We hope you’ll keep AA in mind when casting your vote, but hurry! Voting closes on March 15.

In Case You Missed It

Nearly 200 people helped AAACTS at SOAP UP Super Bowl Atlanta at Ahavath Achim Synagogue on Sunday, January 27. Volunteers participated in DMST (Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking) awareness training by survivor, author and advocate Theresa Flores, founder of SOAP. After labeling soap and makeup remover wipes teams of four delivered them to local hotels and motels. Over 91% of the hotels took the soap and agreed to post materials including a missing children’s poster and materials on how to recognize and report child sex trafficking victims. Almost immediately we saw favorable results, three children were recognized by hotel staff and law enforcement is following up. In addition a missing 16 year old local girl was identified and rescued.

AAACTS has additional exciting plans for the future. Again this year we will provide backpacks and school supplies for Georgia DMST survivors. In the fall we will host a program, Keeping Kids Safe in the Digital Age. This event is for middle school and high school students and their parents.

AA Synagogue is happy to announce the establishment of the Linda Bressler AAACTS Fund through a generous donation from her family. This fund is now available for donations which will enable us to continue and grow our awareness, advocacy and action to abolish child sex trafficking in our community.

If you would like to join AAACTS in this important work please contact the Co-Chairs: Linda Bressler (; Margie Eden (

Welcome Jackie Nix!

Jackie Nix

Jackie grew up in Atlanta, GA at The Temple attending religious school from 1st grade through 10th and then helping as a Madricha from 11th and 12th grade. She was an active member of the NFTY chapter (MAFTY).

She fostered her love of all things Jewish during college through her study for a Jewish Studies and Education degree from the University of Maryland. She participated in Hillel and other Jewish groups on campus, including being on the board of the Jewish Greeks organization.

After graduating, Jackie returned to Atlanta and began working at Congregation Or Hadash as the Assistant to the Executive Director. Here she interacted with members, assisted with everything from set up for Kiddush to planning the Purim Carnival, and so much more. While at Or Hadash, she got to learn more about Conservative Judaism, laws of kashrut and continue to grow her love of all things Jewish. Next, Jackie worked at Jewish Family & Career Services as the Young Adult Program Coordinator. Here she worked to get young adults (20s and 30s) involved in giving back to the Jewish and greater Atlanta communities. She loved being able to volunteer throughout the city and help with Tikkun Olam (Repair the World). Most recently, Jackie spent 10 months as the Volunteer Coordinator at the Atlanta Humane Society where she helped volunteers get involved and find the area of the shelter they wanted to help in. While doing this, she realized how much she missed working in the Jewish community. She missed the common threads that bind all Jews together, the sense of community and camaraderie and, most importantly, she missed being able to share her love of all things Jewish with those around her.

Jackie has also worked as a 4th grade Judaics teacher at The Temple’s religious school and a BBYO advisor for Shorashim BBG in Atlanta.

Being a Jewish Educator offers Jackie the opportunity to help inspire the next generation of Jews. She gets to help children and adults find their way of connecting with Judaism all while continuing to learn and grow herself. Throughout her life, Jackie has grown up in a home where her love of Judaism was fostered and supported at all times. She has a love of all things Jewish and grew up attending services, holiday festivities, school and always wanting to learn more. As a teenager, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Jackie’s answer was “a Jewish Education Director”.