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July 3, 2011 7:39 pm

Jewish Soldiers Celebrate First Jackson “Aleph House” Graduation

avatar by Rachel Soussan

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Private 2nd class Robbins, Chaplain Major Soussan, Private 2nd class Lemke Rabbi Hesh Epstein

Last week, two Jewish soldiers celebrated their graduation from basic combat training at the new Aleph House just days  after the orthodox Jewish community of Columbia, South Carolina moved into their new premises on Decker Boulevard. Families of Private Moshe Robbins from Milwaukee, WI and Private Brad Michael Lemke from Virginia Beach, VA, joined in the first official military graduation ceremony at the new Aleph House.

The Aleph Institute which has been supporting Jewish soldiers for over a quarter of a century, recently established an official building near Fort Jackson, which will function both as the first orthodox synagogue in Columbia, SC, as well as a place where Jewish soldiers training at Fort Jackson, can rekindle their Jewish identity and reconnect with the community.

Visibly moved, Private Lemke thanked his supportive family who motivated him by sending letters and cards as well as his Chaplain who encouraged him throughout his twelve week basic training. “I couldn’t have done it without all of the support,” he said.

Chaplain Major Soussan, the Jewish Chaplain assigned to Fort Jackson commended both soldiers on attending his weekly service and in playing such an active role. “There are only eight of us [Jewish Chaplains] in the army at the moment, so if your next duty station does not have a Jewish Chaplain, I encourage you to take the lead and to find the Jewish soldiers, organize a service, help people reconnect, and Aleph will support you with that,” he told the two soldiers.

With over fifty percent of all US soldiers passing through Fort Jackson for basic training and with a relatively large proportion of Jews in the US Military, this graduation ceremony hopes to be the first of many similar events.

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