Chaplain Reflects on Memorial Day in Afghanistan

Tablet Magazine has a story by Chaplain David Frommer (our first cantor chaplain) about his experiences during Memorial Day in Afghanistan. It is an absolutely beautiful article that coveys a great deal of personal emotion about the experience.

Just as the world of harvest pilgrimages to the ancient Temple for Shavuot seemed strange and remote in the 21st century, so did the Memorial Day services I attended seem incongruous with my world of privilege and peace growing up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side or attending college at Yale. I was pretty sure I knew the “right” way to behave at such events: meditating vaguely on the tragedy of young lives lost and the courage of everyday heroes, probably while crying. Without a personal connection to the military, however, the whole thing seemed very theoretical, like offering animal sacrifices to the Levitical priests, and grief doesn’t work as a purely intellectual exercise. Following the example of the rabbis, then, who had shifted Shavuot’s focus from agriculture to revelation, as I became an adult—enrolling in Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s cantorial training program at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music in New York, putting Jewish music forever at the center of my life—I infused Memorial Day with my own new meaning: The day became a sacred time to maintain the garden of my college friendships in a time of our post-undergraduate diaspora.

Go over and give the article a full read at Tablet. It’s a wonderful story and a beautiful piece of writing. It’s great to see that we a served by chaplains like CAPT Fommer.