November 20, 2018
MRFF Assist Soldiers at Ft. Huachuca (Arizona) in Responding to Attempts to Deny Religious Support Services
On November 1, 2018, a lay leader at a Jewish synagogue adjacent to Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona contacted MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein to request assistance in responding to numerous actions by the installation’s Senior Chaplain to remove religious support services for Jewish soldiers engaged in Advance Individual Training (AIT). In an email on November 1, 2018, this Jewish lay leader detailed the actions of the Ft. Huachuca Senior Chaplain:
About two years ago the Fort Huachuca Jewish lay leader resigned. Since that time there have not been Shabbat services on post. Following the lay leader’s resignation, I met with the chaplain chief to see if I could help provide religious services off post for the Jewish personnel. Our Temple is within 5 minutes from the Fort. The chaplain chief refused to allow the Jewish soldiers to be transported to our Temple for religious services. He told me that the services were too late in the evening. He suggested that I move them into the late afternoon. I explained to him that Shabbat did not begin until sundown, but that did not appear to be a concern for him. He suggested that they could come up with another time for the Jewish soldiers to meet, such as on Sunday. He did not appear to think that it was important for Jewish soldiers to be able to attend weekly Jewish religious services on our Sabbath, the most important religious holiday in the Jewish religion. They are also not being given support to participate in the High Holidays. It is important to note that opportunities are being provided for Jewish soldiers to participate in other Jewish holidays.
Mikey, I contacted you yesterday after learning that the only Torah at Fort Huachuca was recently returned to the JCC Jewish Welfare Board and that efforts were also being made to not only remove the Jewish Ark from Fort Huachuca’s main chapel but remove it from Fort Huachuca all together. This angered me since now, without a Torah, Fort Huachuca soldiers are no longer able to celebrate their children’s B’nai Mitzvah on post. The plan to remove the Ark, combined with already removing the Torah, appears to communicate that Jewish soldiers should no longer use the post main chapel.
Mikey immediately contacted the Fort Huachuca Commanding General who responded to the Jewish lay leader promising to investigate the situation. On November 2, 2018, the day after being contacted by MRFF, the Ft. Huachuca Commanding General informed the Jewish lay leader that transportation would be provided to any of the 16 Jewish AIT soldiers (junior Soldiers in their initial training under Drill Instructor supervision and usually without off post privileges) desiring to attend religious services off post:
Additionally, to correct our earlier mistake by not providing transportation to AIT Soldiers to attend Jewish Services off post, the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade Commander has approved an Exception to Policy; interested Jewish AIT Soldiers (four currently) will have transportation.
On November 20, 2018, the Jewish lay leader at Ft. Huachuca contacted Mikey via email:
Thanks for all of your help. Last Friday night, for the first time, we had 6 AIT soldiers finally attend. They loved the services, participated fully and enthusiastically, knew the prayers and the melodies, and had smiles on their faces throughout the service. We couldn’t have accomplished this without your help.
Also on November 20, 2018, the Ft. Huachuca Commanding General contacted the Jewish lay leader in response to concerns about the Torah and Ark that had been removed from Ft. Huachuca’s main chapel:
[A] brief update on where we are at with the Main Post Chapel renovations, the Ark and the Torah. The renovations, like many under government contract, are running a little behind schedule. We anticipated an October 2018 completion, but we are not there yet. A couple of issues are still pending with the contractor to work off the punch list.
The Ark remains in place at the Main Post Chapel and will not be moved. We are going to request the Torah to be returned to our Chapel as soon as renovations are complete.
Bottom Line: The Ark and Torah will be restored to their original state (prior to renovations) as soon as renovations are complete. [emphasis in original email]