Rabbi Bonnie Koppell

Colonel, U.S. Army Reserves

Rabbi Bonnie Koppell, a U.S. Army Reserve chaplain since 1978, was promoted to colonel on May 3 of this year making her the first female rabbi in the U.S. Army to hold that rank.  Rabbi Koppel is used to firsts, as she was the first female rabbi commissioned in the Army and is currently one of only two military-wide.

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Koppel joined the Army Reserves while a Rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist College in Philadelphia. She was ordained in 1981, and served Beth Sholom in Chandler, Arizona for 18 years before resigning this April when she deployed to Iraq.  She currently serves as a guest rabbi at Beth Hagivot in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Earlier this year, in response to a phone request, Koppel volunteered to go to Iraq to conduct Passover services for the troops and to visit different units to encourage Jewish soldiers.  Koppel is currently assigned to the Chief of Chaplains Contingency Force Pool at the Pentagon, and is tasked to the Fifth US Army Headquarters at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.  As a Reservist, she lives in Mesa, AZ, and does her drills in many different places.

In her 26 years in the Army, Koppel has received many awards including two Meritorious Service Medals, an Army Commendation Medal, and two Army Achievement Medals. In 2003, she was named “Woman of the Year” by the City of Mesa.

Describing her role as a military chaplain, Rabbi Koppel stated:

Chaplains are noncombatants – we do not carry weapons, we are not trained to fight. We are there to minister to the religious needs of the troops and, as such, we are an essential part of the military force. No one likes war, no one wants war. No one prays for peace with more fervor than the soldier who stands ready to lay down his or her life for our country.

Yet, I am not a pacifist; I believe that there are times when war is justified. War is always a horrible tragedy, but it is not necessarily immoral. I am proud to consider among my many identities as wife, as mother, as rabbi, as teacher, as friend, yet another – as an American soldier. G-d forbid the need should arise, our Jewish soldiers deserve to have rabbis who are trained and ready to deploy alongside them, to be there to offer all the support they will need. I am proud to be among those who stand ready to go with them.

Excerpt from: The Jewish Virtual Library

Rabbi Koppell wants our readers to know that she gives talks about her experiences and is interested and available to travel to any of your communities.  She can be contacted at rabbibjk@aol.com.


  • Craig S.Handfinger

    Just surfing the net as i am currently in Iraq. Bored to death at times but pesach is coming. Wonder, as a civilian, if I will celebrate the holidays here at Speicher. This is truly goyimland. Best wishes from Tikrit.

  • I’ve worked with the Rabbi’s former synagogue Beth Sholom in Chandler for the past couple years helping them run Jewish educational events through my organization the National Jewish Outreach Program. I was told last spring that Rabbi Koppell was leaving the synagogue. I didn’t know why at the time, but after reading this blurb it just reiterates how extremely proud I am of her and all the other soldiers, chaplains, and lay people serving their country. Thanks to you all!

  • Hi Rabbi Bonnie Koppell

    I believe so, that you are very busy

    person.I would appreciate if you ‘ll find time for me.

    My name Elena, and I am doing research about Jewish religion .

    I’d like to have 3-4 questions about Jewish religion.

    Could you help me with it ? Or recomend me

    some other Rabbi?

    Thank you very much.

    Elena A.

  • hey i dont know if u remember me i was at camp taji iraq for pesach …..what a year ago? any way we spoke a little bit and i just wanted to say hello and chanukha samayach

  • hi!!!! Rabbi Bonnie

    I don’t know if you know who I am, I’m Abigail Garcia from Temple Beth Sholom, We all miss you a lot, hope I can talk to you, my family and I love you very much, take care

    Best wishes from my family to yours


    Family Garcia

  • Eunice Feinberg

    Hello Rabbi Bonnie K:  I do miss you very much.  I love our fitness times together and just learning as much as possible in the short visits from your interesting cache of knowledge and humor.  Our Beth Hagivot is so lucky to have you lead us.  Best to the family.  Eunice

  • Robert Brumer


    Do you remember me from Carl T. Hayden VAMC and Nursing Home/Rehabilitation Center.  I miss seeing you when you visited me at the Nursing Home and would like to stay in touch with you.  Would you mind sending me your e-mail adress?

  • Michelle Pachman

    I had the opportunity to attend a talk the Colonel gave at Kenyon College in Ohio. This was several years ago. I am a communinity member, and heard from the then Hillel director at the college, Mike Cooper that the rabbi would be there. I was excited as my daughter is was serving in the USN, which she still is. The Colonel’s talk was inspiring and interesting. She holds a page in history worth noting being both a woman and a religious leader. She afterwards kindly spoke to me, understanding my concerns as a parent and having a jewish child in the military. I’ve never forgotten her kindness.

  • My good wishes for Rabbi Bonnie Koppell who is deputed as Colonel, U.S. Army Reserves.Such people really inspire others to give out their best, specially if such being a women.She’s doing a great job by sharing her experiences with others & helping people of her community.

  • G. Bitting/H. Nelson

    Hi Rabbi Koppell:

    Hope your tour is going well.  Happy Chanukah to you!  Wishing for your safe return.  Sincerely, Gloria and Harriet 12-25-08

  • Jo Robin Davis

    rabbi, i don’t know if you remember me, but we met in the breakfast line at a hotel in Salt Lake last year. my son is now in army ranger school and its making me crazy. i cannot imagine how i will manage when he is deployed. Thank you for the service you are providing our Jewish soldiers and all of the men and women serving our country and protecting our liberties.

  • Hannah D. Bartley II

    Hello Rabbi Bonnie!!!  Congrats on the promo – no one deserves it more than you!!