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Interview with Jonathan Panitz, December 12, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Jonathan Panitz, December 12, 2002
Date:
December 12, 2002
Description:
Interview with U.S. Navy Chaplain Jonathan Panitz.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Panitz, Jonathan Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  12/12/2002 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  105 minutes

 

Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock, a staff member with the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Randall Library. We’re at Fort Myer, Virginia. Admiral White is with me and this is an interview taking place on the 12th of December in the year 2002.

Zarbock: Tell me chaplain, who are you and how did you enter the rabbinical studies and how did you end up being a chaplain?

Panitz: Good afternoon Paul. My name is Jonathan Avram Panitz. I went through rabbinical school in 1972. I currently serve as deputy Chaplain. I’m a Commander in the US Navy in the Chaplain Corps. My story is kind of interesting. How I got into the Rabbinate, I was brought up in the home of a rabbi, a Conservative rabbi. My dad, David Panitz, was a rabbi ordained around 1942, and gave me I guess a lot of interest in becoming a rabbi.

The truth to tell is that when I graduated from college in 1968, I actually had paper to go to Fordham Law School and I was torn between becoming a rabbi and a lawyer. There was too much paperwork involved in Law School so I chose to become a rabbi (laughter). But I think it was a natural gravitation for me because he was a rabbi, his youngest brother is a rabbi his father was a rabbi. In fact, we can trace rabbinic lineage back to the 16th century and then it gets lost.

What’s even more interesting is that my mother’s lineage goes back to family whose name is Ivasitch in Germany and my father’s lineage goes back to a family in Poland whose last name was Gumbeiner. Ivasitch and Gumbeiner were bitter enemies! Ivasitch was a liberal and Gumbeiner was a very strong orthodox. So they fought with each other all the time. Somehow their families got together and the progeny is sitting here today (laughter). But it’s kind of interesting how all that happened.

So I went to NYU, I got in in 1963, a very turbulent time in our history as you probably recall. I was 180 away from anything military. I was actually a card-carrying SDS Leader of the NYU Campus in the Heights. I was pretty much anti-government in a lot of respects. I credit my turnaround probably to having met Jane, my wife, to whom I’ve been married to for almost 35 years, because she said, “ It’s time for you to grow up and stop doing these foolish things!”

I think everything was just at the right time and the right moment. So I moved from all of that to becoming respectable and truly was torn between being a rabbi and going to law school, but I felt that going to law school would involve more paperwork, a lot of things that had nothing to do with people and I was a people person so I gravitated to the rabbinate.

In 1972, we were married by the way in ’68, in 1972, I went off to London, England, to the Leo Beck College where I was ordained and got what they call a Th.D., a Doctorate in Theology, came back to America in ’75 from having lived in London for nearly three and a half years and became a rabbi in Salisbury, Maryland, which is about as far away from culture as you can possibly go.

I was a rabbi there for three years. Our two oldest children were born, by the way, in London, England. Zimmer, who I spoke about a few moments ago, is the oldest, Obadiah is our middle child and then we moved from Salisbury, Maryland, in 1978, to Fall River, Massachusetts, where our youngest child, Yasmine was born shortly after we arrived there.

In 1979 or perhaps it was 1980, the synagogue where I was serving as a rabbi had a Geriatric Program. We used to take people down to Newport, Rhode Island, to show them the Base. In 1980 I’m sure it was there was a working hospital at the Base in Newport with a full staff and a bed capacity of about 120 people. I recall bringing these elderly people into the hospital. I came through the front hallway of the hospital and a young corpsman, at that time I didn't even know she was a corpsman, came to me and said, “Who are you, what do you do?”.

I said,” I was a rabbi and I work in Fall River, Mass, “ and she said she had never seen a rabbi in that hospital before, which I could believe! Then she went on to say she had never seen a rabbi period and she happened to be Jewish and was a corpsman. So that started to play on my thoughts a little bit. I can’t say very much, but about six months later or thereabouts I actually began to give some thought to leaving Fall River because in the span of about 2-1/2 years, I buried about 170 people.

In a geriatric congregation, I guess that wouldn't be unusual, but it really wasn’t what I was hoping to do and I was looking for adventure. I remember coming back from this hospital, going to talk to Jane. This is probably in March of 1980. I was saying, “Well this is a great place, Fall River”. We lived in a beautiful house. It was really very nice. I had a pretty nice salary, you know, big cars, garage and everything.

We were comfortable. But I wasn’t happy. I said, “We need some adventure in our lives”. Jane, who was this adventurous lady,”said great, what shall we do?” I said, “I think I’m going to join the Navy” (laughter). She didn't say much of anything. She said, “Okay, let’s join the Navy.”

Zarbock: How old were you?

Panitz: I was 26ish. No I was much older. I was 35.

Zarbock: That’s right on the cusp for acceptability, isn’t it?

Panitz: I guess today it might be, but if you follow the policy, it changes every couple of years. I mean we have Catholic priests who are 67, but maybe it changes by faith group. So I remember distinctly going to see a guy whose name is Carroll Starling, a retired Navy chaplain Captain who lives somewhere in the Norfolk area. I met with this guy Carroll Starling and he said, “ you don’t want to talk to me. You want to see this guy Jim Apple, a Retired Navy rabbi who lives,” by the way, “in Wilmington.”

Jim Apple said,” You have to go into Active Duty, there’s no question in my mind what you have to do.” I said, “ Well. I’ll take one step at a time and asked what I should do first.” He told me,” I needed to get a reserve commission.” So I called up at that time my Endorsing Agent who was a guy who has since deceased. His name was Joe Messing.

Zarbock: Excuse me, this tape is going to live beyond you. What is an Endorsing Agent?

Panitz: An Endorsing Agent is an individual who puts together paperwork and sends it off to the military. This paperwork says this person is found to be alive, walking and well and moreover he is fully capable of performing the duties of rabbi, priest, minister whatever.

Zarbock: So he is the gatekeeper?

Panitz: He is one half of the gatekeeper. The other half of the gatekeeper and you probably heard this already, is the military side. That significant gatekeeper guy is also the physician cause you have to get a physical on one side and you have to get the endorsement on the other. Then you have to be the term was “CARE’d”, I forget even what it meant, it was a Board that met every so often that said this person is eligible for entry into our military system and we don’t even know what the acronym we “CARE” for him enough to make him into a Navy chaplain.

So this CARE Board would then take all the data from both sides, the Endorsing Agent’s data, the physician’s data, his personal recommendations and papers and credentials and marry them up. Then he would say okay, come aboard. So that happened to me and I got a call from this recruiter in Boston. I’ll never forget this! His name was Paul McClun, who since passed away, and he said, “Sure come to Boston, raise your right hand and we’ll make you into a chaplain”.

So in the summer of 1980, I went to Boston and raised my right hand. I was commissioned. It was the winter actually, February or so of 1981, I think, I was commissioned. So I called down to the Chaplain School and they said you, “ have to find a place where you can do your WET drills, weekend tours or something like that.” They sent me a guy, his name was Jack Heaver who I believe has since passed away, but he was the head of Red-Com, the Readiness Command and lived somewhere outside of Providence.

So I went to see him and he said, “Oh, come aboard. You’ll love us. We welcome you with open arms. You can go and drill every Saturday and Sunday”. I said, “ Well you know what? That’s a problem because Saturday is my Sabbath service and Sunday I have, you know, like breakfast and teaching and classes.” So he said.” He would fix me up.” So he hooked me up with a reserve unit in Quincy, Mass, where I went every Wednesday night, every other week on Wednesday day, I went down to Newport and drilled all morning long.

The drilling part of it was I think what really caught me. It just sort of really got to me. I began to meet a lot of people in uniform ‘cause the Officer Candidate School was there at the time. I forget the percentages, but one or two percent of the people going through there were the Jewish percentage and they became sort of like my charges. Officer Induct School, which I think is still there, has a higher percentage because they put through a lot of staff people, doctors, lawyers, nurses and a large percentage of them came from Jewish ancestry and were Jewish.

So I began to meet all these people who sort of played on my emotions and they said, “Well we’ve never seen a rabbi in uniform”. At that time I became I think the tenth rabbi when I finally decided to come on active duty. I made a minion, you know, the 10th Man.

Zarbock: The 10th in the Navy?

Panitz: Yes, on active duty. We have since gone up to something like 19th, and now we’re down to 9 again! So I came home I remember from one of my drills and I went to Jane and I said, “Okay, we’ve been in the Reserves now for about a year. It’s time for me to leave ‘cause, I’m getting tired. Maybe we’ll come on Active Duty now?” She said, “Okay, find out?”

So I remember asking for Recall ‘cause when you ask for a Recall, you have to go to your Endorsing Agent who gives you another set of paperwork and that paperwork makes you eligible for recall to active duty. Then I called up a guy whose name was George Doakes, another retired Navy General. I spoke to him who at that time I think was working in the Chief’s Office. I don’t know what his job was. I said, “Here am I, Jonathan Panitz, I’m ready to come on active duty”. Maybe he was the Detailer. I said, “Where will you send me?”

He said he would be happy to send me to a place like…where would you like to go? So I told him to, “ tell me what was available?” He said, “Well we can send you to Great Lakes, we can send you to Yokosuka, Japan or we can send you to Camp Lejeune.” I remember saying at the spot, “I don’t want to go to Great Lakes. It’s too cold! I don’t know what Camp Lejeune is about, but Japan sounds like a great place”. “Okay, we’ll send you to Japan”.

So this is a verbal thing. I’ve learned a lot since then! So I get this verbal promise that I’m going to go to Japan. I’m waiting, waiting, waiting and here it is now mid-April. I’ve already resigned my position. I’m working through the closing months. I’ve got my house on the market. You know, all those things that go together with a new pending move what you’re going to do. I call up the Detail’s office and I speak to George again and he said, “Panitz, you don’t have your orders yet. Let me see where you’re going”. He said he would call me back in 10 minutes. He calls me back and said he had a set of orders for me to go to Great Lakes.

(Laughter) I said, “You know George, if you want this rabbi in this Navy, I’ll go to Japan? Otherwise you can forget about it”. He was like a dead silence. He said, “Oh!” And there was silence, “Let me call you back?”. Then he called me back, like 40 minutes later, and he said, “Yeah, you were right. This was a mistake. You’re going to Japan”. So Jane and I went off to Japan, took our three kids with us. Then I got there and that was a pretty fascinating job.

Zarbock: What year was this?

Panitz: I left for Yokosuka on the 4th of August in 1982.

Zarbock: What were your responsibilities?

Panitz: When I got to Yokosuka, I was a Basic Staff Chaplain, but I was also responsible for the Jewish program on the entire mainland of Japan, so it was a tri-service event. So I covered the Air Force bases, the Army bases and then the Coast Guard people, who were down in places like the Marianas and further south in the South Pacific who discovered there was a rabbi who was happy to travel so I actually got to cover those places in the South Pacific.

Now and then I would go down to Okinawa where there was a rabbi, but sometimes he was away and there was no rabbi at the time I was there in the Philippines. So I used to go to the Philippines on a pretty regular basis. Then I got into places like Hong Kong, Anderson Air Base in Guam and Bombay. I went, Korea. There was an Army rabbi in Korea and he and I would get together all the time.

Zarbock: What would be your responsibilities when you got to a Base?

Panitz: Well I would kind of pre-stage my coming to let some Commanding Officer or Senior Chaplain know I was getting there. Then I would gather together the Jewish Community, have a dinner, a worship service on Friday night. Then we would have on Saturday morning some sort of Shabbat study. Then we’d have a luncheon. Then we’d go somewhere Saturday afternoon, some local site or off to a park.

Then Saturday evening, we’d have what they call a Havdallah Service and do some sort of dinner. Then Sunday would just sort of be a float around day, go meet people. Then I’d jump on an airplane and fly home. It was pretty interesting because I got involved with all sorts of things at different Bases. We did interfaith stuff in a place like Misawa, we worked with the hospital people.

I went to Hickam a couple of times and did some work with the hospital people there.

Zarbock: When you said you did “interfaith”, would you give me an illustration?

Panitz: A good example would be Passover Interfaith Service. You know, the Passover event always coincides Jewish and Christian celebrations for Easter and Passover. So we would have some sort of a combined Passover Seder Dinner in which we would talk about the traditional elements you find on the Jewish Passover table and then the Christian side of it would sort of interpret well “ this is the Last Supper, This is the Bread!”

Then there would be this interchange or exchange

,”why are we doing this? What’s the significance?” That was one kind of example. Or, we would do just a general Interfaith Service, just for a good reason. But usually it was event driven, very frequently event driven.

Zarbock: Were you ever home?

Panitz: Yokosuka was an interesting job. I went quarterly to every place that was out there so I was away from home probably about 60% of the time. But there I was, also the Head Master for the Cub Scouts and I was the Far East Rep for an Admiral McKay,. Jim McKay who since retired many years ago. I was also in charge. My wife and I were also in charge of the Bazaar.

The PTO, the Parent-Teacher Organization also held a bazaar every year. We pulled people in from Hong Kong and Singapore and Korea and they all brought their wares to this great big video/audio wonderland called 833, Building 833. It was three floors of toys at what was then, very good prices. I don’t know what it is now. We had this big bazaar and people would all come and spend their money.

All the money that we made at the Bazaar, aside from what it cost the vendors, you know, was given to the School. So the Parents -Teachers Organization gave money to the local Department of Defense School. We were in charge of that as well. So I was pretty busy most of the time.

Then, in addition to that, additional duty, (Ad-Du,) to the Fleet, the 7th Fleet. So once in a while, I got to ride on the USS Blue Ridge, but more often than not my responsibilities were to The DeSeRon., Destroyer Squadron Ship. Destroyer Squadron #15 came in there and I would go down to the piers and get a few days’ ride here and a few days’ ride there. It was a very fascinating event. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of work.

I recall when we came back to Norfolk, because when we came back from there, we went to Norfolk Navy Station, we went into reverse culture shock. You know my kids thought they could walk the streets at any time they wanted! It was a very different kind of existence, very different.

Zarbock: As a general rule, picking a place someplace in the Far East, the PI, Okinawa, doesn’t make any difference, could you illustrate an event or events disguising people who came to you and said they had a problem. What kinds of problems were presented to you?

Panitz: Oh I had a full range of problems. A very interesting problem was the day I was sitting in my office in Yokosuka when a very beautiful woman came into my office and she said, “I’m here to see the XO of USS Neversink.” “Why are you here?”. “Oh, he’s my husband!”. “Well, let me call him, just give me a moment”.

So I called up the XO of USS Neversink and I said, “Your wife is here, sir”. He said, “Uh oh”, because his actual wife was on the base in Yokosuka. This was his other wife from the PI. So it was a very delicate kind of scenario to sort of get them all together. Make peace, find out who belonged on whose page two, how did we diffuse this issue.

Zarbock: Why did she come to the chaplain’s office or was she sent to the chaplain?

Panitz: That’s a very good question. I was the Duty Chaplain for the ship so it just fell on my shoulders to deal with this issue. Why did she come to the Chaplain’s Office? I suspect because she probably grew up in a pretty strong Catholic environment. Where she was living, she was told go and see the Priest because he’ll take care of you. So in her eyes, I was the Priest. In fact, people call me padre or rabbi or father whatever.

Those weren’t daily situations. What you see more often are people who come in because they’re very distraught. Their day has just gone very bad. They’ve just gotten some bad news. They need someone to reassure them or they come in and their world is falling apart. They’re just walking on nails, spikes, and they’re very close to the edge of some oblivion so they want some help or guidance. The scope of what you deal with is just so broad that you could write a book about it I’m sure.

Zarbock: A lengthy one.

Panitz: A lengthy one and massage all the events, not the events, but certainly the names.

Zarbock: I’m sorry. I interrupted.

Panitz: Yeah, and all of what happens, happens so quickly. You can’t really say there’s a routine day. Maybe working in the hospital now, I could say there’s a kind of a routine day because you have to cover the wards. Then you have to take care of other Committees that you sit on, but in all other events, you settle into a job and there may be a routine to the job, but it’s never ever routine. There’s always something else that’s going to come at you.

Zarbock: But it’s always crisis intervention?

Panitz: That’s a good question. No, it isn’t always crisis intervention ‘cause if you do the leadership the right way, you put together all the right documents, what someone else might see as a crisis, you’ve already covered as routine. So if you have all of your cubbyholes filled? Shall we say or they’re waiting to be filled, but if you know where they are, it’s not a crisis. But there are crises and you can’t diffuse the crisis.

During my most recent tour in the Med almost for three years and I was deployed almost 72% of the time, there were lots of crises. They were predictable crises, but nonetheless crises for each individual as it happened.

Zarbock: What do you mean by “predictable crisis?”

Panitz: Well this young man went out to sea, forgot to tell his wife that he was three months in arrears on payment of his car or this guy went to sea and didn't leave a standing order with relief so his wife could go and draw money out so she could get the dryer and washing machine fixed or some more severe. This lady is about to have this man’s child and there are some very severe complications and he needs to go home, how do we find him, where is he? The whole gamut of human events.

Zarbock: Rabbi, I can’t think of anybody ever knocking on your door and saying, “May I come in and tell you what a wonderful day I’ve had today?”.

Panitz: Actually that’s happened too.

Zarbock: Did it really? Wrong again.

Panitz: Actually that has happened. I remember sitting at the chaplain’s joking about wouldn’t it be nice if somebody came in and told us what a great time they were having. It happens! People come in and say, “ I just came to thank you because everything that worked out worked out really well.!” Was it always in response to something adverse? That would be the better question. Did someone come in and say, “ I just want to pray with you because everything is so beautiful and I want you to know how happy I am?” That should happen more often.

Zarbock: How do you protect yourself from this battering of human concern?

Panitz: I race cars. I rebuild motor engines.

Zarbock: On a ship?

Panitz: On a ship, it’s difficult. I go out with a set of binoculars late at night and look at the stars or I do crossword puzzles or I go out on the “lido” deck and smoke a good Cuban cigar or I just get involved in some other conversations that don’t have anything to do with people’s problems.

Zarbock: But I led you astray. Take me back, so you left Japan.

Panitz: I’m in Yokosuka, supposed to rotate out in June of ’85 and my Senior Chaplain, a guy Al Stock, a really nice guy, we were very close friends. Al said , “I’m going home for some sort of Senior Chaplain’s Conference, and I’ll find out where you’re going.?” So he comes back to Japan two weeks later and said he had spoken to the Detailer whose name was Wright, if I’m not wrong, George Wright, I think so. So Al said, “Here’s the story Jon, you can go now to Camp Lejeune ,or you can in December to Norfolk”.

This is after I had sent in a preference card requesting a carrier. Okay. So Jane said, “Is there any question in your mind what we should do?” because we loved Japan. So we stayed there until December, PCS’d out just before Thanksgiving.

Zarbock: That Stands Change of Station ….?…

Panitz: Yea. Permanent Change of Duty Station and moved into Norfolk in a circuitous way. Went to Hawaii for two weeks, dropped off in Boston for 10 days. We came down to Norfolk and ended up living in the house in Norfolk of a guy who I befriended who was a P-3 pilot, Steve Doyle, a real nice guy, who is married to a Navy physician. We ended up living in their house for six weeks and then bought a house in downtown Norfolk.

It was the second house that we bought out of any number, each of which we lost money, on by the way. Went to live in Norfolk and in Norfolk our kids had to readjust to a school system. That was kind of difficult. Jane had to readjust to a whole different lifestyle. That was difficult. They seemed to manage. They pulled it off.

I remember one day we enrolled our middle child, Obadiah, in Hebrew school on Gramby Street. We sent him off to Hebrew school. Now all this time, I had been teaching him, giving him lessons in religion and Hebrew in Japan, and he loved it. But I was too busy now to do that. So we sent him off to a Hebrew school on Gramby Street. Where we lived was probably two and a half miles from there, at least.

The second afternoon of Hebrew school, he comes home. He walks home . (laughter). He walked through one of the worst neighborhoods, a really bad neighborhood in Norfolk, came to the house. The school called and said, “We can’t find your son, we don’t know where he is?”

He shows up, probably what does it take to walk probably two and a half miles, an hour and twenty minutes later, “Hi Dad, I’m back. I’m not going to this school. You can teach me. I don’t want to go to this school”. Well I taught him for a while, but it ended up that we found a Hebrew day school in Tidewater where the two older ones went and that worked out pretty well.

Zarbock: Don’t let me dangle. Why didn't he like the school?

Panitz: He was in culture shock. He was truly in culture shock. The times were different. The regimen was different. I guess he was used to me teaching him. Now he had to relate to some other teacher. Hebrew teacher. He was, I think, missing his friends more than he was actually missing Japan. In order to actually make him whole again, we were advised to go and get him a cat.

We went to the SPCA and got him this cute little cat that actually survived until the middle of our tour in the Med not very long ago so he was around for 14 years. But so he straightened out. He became, you know, pretty normal.

But my job in Norfolk was not quite like my job in Japan. I didn't have to travel quite so much. I covered the Tidewater area for Jewish purposes which isn’t as extensive as the Southern Pacific as you probably can imagine. But I also was Ad-Du to the Fleet there. So I got to ride ships like, Nimitz which has since gone over to the West Coast. I was on, God I can’t remember anymore, it was my first submarine ride, actually my second submarine ride on a nuke sub. I was on the Baton Rouge, a very fascinating event.

Zarbock: Performing duties as what?

Panitz: I was the Chaplain on Baton Rouge. This is unusual to put a chaplain on a submarine because we need something like…and the number fluctuates all the time so I could be wrong. It fluctuates around 340-345 people on a vessel to justify putting a chaplain aboard a vessel. A submarine carries what 160-162.

Zarbock: But you said you were chaplain?

Panitz: I was a chaplain. And the Admiral who was in charge of Submarine Atlantic Fleet, SUBLAF, was a guy whose named was Bud Corderer, nice Jewish guy, Bud came to me and said, “Would you like to ride one of my submarines?” “Aye, aye sir!”

Zarbock: You didn't serve…?

Panitz: Oh no, I was just TAD, Temporary Active Duty, to the ship, went out for a couple of weeks and had a very nice time. But I was on a bunch of other ships that rode out of that particular harbor. So I was additional duty to the Fleet and spent a lot of my time working at Frasier Hall and also working down on the piers.

But the community was very different. It was more of a retired community. People’s, I guess, expectations were different. They were looking for more of a ,I guess to use the common nomenclature, they were looking for more of a chapel pastor kind of person than in Yokosuka where they were looking for someone who could just constantly roam around. That’s the role I filled. So it was pretty fascinating.

I remember one year Admiral Tuttle who was my other boss ‘cause I was responsible to two bosses, three maybe, my one boss was a guy named Kelsey Stewart who was Skipper of the Base who became an Admiral and then retired. My other boss was at CINCLAN Fleet, CINCLAN Fleet, CINCLAN Fleet is Commander and Chief Atlantic fleet, and his name is Jerry Tuttle. Jerry Tuttle and Kelsey Stewart were my two bosses. The guy I worked for immediately was Dick Hettish, another Navy chaplain who has since retired.

I’ll never forget there were terrorist drills that we did in 1986. Just think about how far we’ve come. We were doing terrorist drills. The scenario then was always you’ve been held captive by some invading army and inevitably it was some Islamic people who were coming to take over. We had our names on hostage lists. You know, a chaplain would say, “ take me and you can release all these people.”

So there was a drill on a Thursday afternoon. I’ll never forget it. Where I happened to be the Duty Chaplain. I was the hostage transfer. So they sent me over from Norfolk NOB, Frasier Hall, to CINCLAN Fleet Compound as an exchange for these people who were taken hostage. Admiral Tuttle came downstairs and he looked at me and he said, I can’t say what he said exactly, it’s not clean, but anyway he said, “They sent me a rabbi and we’ve got terrorists here and there Arabs. Get out of here”!

So I left and on the way back they sent in a Catholic priest (laughter). I’ll never forget that. The guy’s name was Owen Melody. He went to take care of the job. So there’s some comical things that happened. Again Norfolk around the full range of what you would do in duty as a chaplain, some unique things would happen. I recall once getting a call from another ship that was coming back from a Virginia Cape exercise.

The Skipper called me up on the ship to shore phone. I had the duty. He called me at 11:00 at night and he said, “I need for you to do me a favor. You’re the Duty Chaplain, righ?”. “Yes sir!” He said, “I want you to call my wife who’s out on the beach and tell her not to come to the pier because we’re going to be delayed”. I said ,”that was very difficult to do because it’s already gone across the screen within 72 hours of when you guys are going to hit the pier.”

“Why do you want me to do this”? “Well it could be very dicey because my girlfriend is going to meet us at the pier”. “Well okay, you know, I can’t do that!” He got angry at me and called up Dick Hettish, my boss, and said that his Duty Chaplain wouldn’t comply with his request. Dick Hettish asked what it was he wanted me to do? I’ll never forget that. We had a good laugh over it.

Then there was another time, I’ll never forget this, there was a Skipper of the USS Concord, okay? This is a while back. USS Concord was a surface vessel that was actually supply and worked the submarine fleet. There was this young kid on this vessel who was pretty observant and wanted to haul aboard his own food. He was a Jewish kid and wanted to have the dietary restrictions that he followed.

So I went down to the ship and had a long talk with the ship’s Chaplain. I had a long talk actually with the supply officer. There’s an instruction that authorizes you to have what is called SPECRAT, Special Rations. So if you’re an enlisted guy, you get a meal card. The meal card allows you to go into the galley and have food. They take away your meal card and they give you an amount the meal card is equivalent to and you can go out and buy tuna fish or whatever is Kosher.

So that is what this kid did, but some supply officer on the ship neglected to take away his meal card. So this young kid was going out with $6.00 in change a day. How much could you buy for that? Buying tuna fish and Kosher bread and then he would go into the galley and drink the juice out of the galley. Well it came to the attention of the Skipper of the ship that he appeared to be abusing the system who, hauled me off of the ship and threatened to have me kicked out of the Navy.

I said, “ I was only doing what’s written in the instruction.” He said “No, you weren’t!”. I got really scared and went right to our Fleet Chaplain who at the time was a Catholic priest. His name was Bob Ecker, a really sweet guy. He said, “Let’s go down to the ship”. (Laughter) So he hauled me off down to the ship. We both walked across the line, he went straight to the Skipper’s cabin and he says, “If you ever treat a chaplain like this ever again, you’ll never see another one !” Okay and nothing ever happened. That was the end of it. He was really a gem.

Zarbock: Who outranked whom?

Panitz: They probably were of the same rank. The skipper was an 06 and Bob Ecker was an 06 as well. Now who was more senior, I don’t know, I didn't ask. It was just obvious that the Chaplain Corps was saying, “ you know, our chaplains are out there to do a job and they’re doing the best they can so if you’re going to yank them around and give them a hard time, you don’t need them. We’ll take them away from you.” Now whether they actually would have followed through on that, I don’t know, but they might have.

And then there were all sorts of things that we did that were really fascinating. We were exposed to all kinds of things. I was exposed to the Black Ministers’ Conference in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Now you can imagine for me this was an eye opener because I was not only the only Jewish person there I was also the only rabbi at this Black Ministers’ Conference in Hampton Roads. There must have been 1200 people gathered in this enormous hall at Hampton University.

They had us all sitting up on stage. I went with a few other fellow chaplains at the time. I remember being introduced to the head gospel singer, a guy from Chicago whose name I have actually forgotten. He said, “ who are you and what do you do?” and so on and so forth. The next thing I know I’m leading this enormous congregation in some Jewish “gospel” song (laughter). I sang, I think I sang Shalom Alechem with all these people in four-part harmony. It was really incredible and it was a very interesting experience.

Zarbock: Who tendered the invitation and what were you supposed to do?

Panitz: The invitation was actually tendered, it came through the Office of the Chief of Chaplains who organizes every year a series of conferences, educational conferences. This happened to be something that may still be going on. It was the black, I wish I could remember the exact name of it, it was at the University, Black Spiritual Conference. People would go from all over the place.

Zarbock: And what year was that?

Panitz: 1986. So I had had some exposure previously to interfaith events, but nothing of this emergence, a full black gospel event. I can recall coming back to my people the following Friday night and thinking to myself, “well witnessing isn’t such a bad thing!” I think I’ll try it with my congregation (laughter). So here was this Jewish Congregation in Frasier Hall, _____Levy Chapel on a Friday night doing what, you know, is a Christian event and doesn’t really work in a Jewish worship service.

Witnessing, it wasn’t quite the same. “What are you doing Rabbi. Where did you get this idea anyhow”. “ What did you enjoy today? What was the best thing that happened? Stand up and tell us about it (laughter)!” It worked for a while, but the novelty wore off. Then I went back to the formal liturgy of the day. But it was interesting, but it actually helped me develop a very good understanding for ,I guess, the needs of African Americans. What were their requirements? What were their needs?

I guess I truly never could have gotten there if it hadn’t been for the fact that the home I grew up in was very diverse. I grew up in Washington, DC, at least for nine years and my dad was a rabbi in DC and he was friendly with all kinds of people. I remember like once in 1955, I’m sure it was 1955 because I was 10 years old, he brought home this stranger to dinner. He called my mom up who was always feeding strangers and he said, “I’m bringing home this young Doctoral student”.

My dad was a teacher at George Washington, he taught Bible at George Washington in his spare time. He said, “I’m bringing home this young Doctoral student. We’re going to give him a traditional Jewish dinner”. “Well who is he?” “Well when he gets there, you’ll see, you’ll meet him”. It was Martin Luther King who came to my dad’s home in 1955 and sat around this table and we all had dinner together.

I was a 10 year old. I didn't know very much. So I had all of this exposure as a young kid growing up in a fairly Jewish, but cosmopolitan international kind of home. So that must have had an impact on me also.

So the Norfolk experience was very interesting, sometimes draining because you’re being in one place actually takes more out of you than being in 15 places. I know that doesn’t make sense. The travel is draining, but staying in one place for a very long time, you end up actually making deeper contacts and because of that, then people make more immediate demands on your time and that’s what would actually happen.

So I became very close with the members of the Jewish Congregation. They lived in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach and Hampton and then there was also a fairly large Jewish Rabbinic Counsel in Norfolk , of which I was a part. And then there was an even larger interfaith counsel of which I was a part. We were always sharing and cross-breeding so it was a very busy place, but pretty fascinating.

There were interesting things that went on there. We just ended up doing ministries. We had a prison ministry. We had a waterfront ministry. We actually had a hobby shop ministry. That was something I took part in (laughter). I had a guy who came to me and said, “I want to reenlist”. “Okay, I’ll be happy to reenlist you, where do you want to reenlist”. He said, “In the hobby shop”. I mean I had a guy in Japan who wanted to reenlist in a “hotsee” bath. Honest! We reenlisted him in the baths in Atsuki. So I mean, just the entire scope of what you do is unusual, truly.

Zarbock: Well again that may be another prizewinning understatement.

Panitz: Perhaps. Well when you look back on it, it can cause a chuckle, but as you’re going into it, you say to yourself, “is this really going to work? Can I really do this?” But it does. So we stayed in Norfolk, actually I stayed in Norfolk from December of ’85 until June of ’87. Then in June of ’87, I went off to postgraduate school. I went to Catholic University here in DC and I got a Master’s in Bioethics which the Chaplain Corps, in its infinite wisdom, didn't have me use until about seven or eight months ago. At least not in that particular discipline.

So it was a really sweet deal because I lived in Norfolk. I was in four advanced seminar programs at the Catholic University in DC so that meant I went up to school Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, I was home again. But my wife can tell you that from the time I came home until I resurfaced for the Sabbath on Friday night, I was locked up in this room writing papers and reading books.

It was an interesting kind of deal. It was fascinating because I met lots of professors and, you know, was exposed again to just a different milieu of the whole Catholic side of things. It was a very tumultuous time for Catholic University because that is when Father Drynan, do you remember the name, was put into disfavor by the Board of Trustees. There was a lot of tension.

Zarbock: For the purpose of the record, why was he…

Panitz: Because he was too liberal. He had a lot of liberalized concepts about the issues regarding contraception and abortion and the role of priests and the confessional. At that time he was beginning to advocate women. It was just taboo.

Zarbock: Too much?

Panitz: Yes! So he was one of my professors. Actually I studied Catholic Dogma with him (laughter). It was a very interesting thing, this Jewish kid from the Bronx once upon a time to go to Catholic U and study Catholic Dogma and I would always get into his face because I would say, “Well, Judaism is non-dogmatic, but this sounds like maybe this came from…” “Oh no, no, no!” he would say. So we had some very interesting discussions.

Then I was in a class with a pretty well-known bio-ethicist whose name was Pelligrino. He and I always disagreed.

Zarbock: What’s his first name?

Panitz: Bob Pelligrino. We disagreed on just about everything. Most of the issues we covered were reproductive technologies.

Zarbock: He’s a physician, isn’t he?

Panitz: Yeah. If you think of what was happening in ’88, there was all this new in vitro issues and AI issues. Stem cell research then wasn’t even a blip on the horizon. Nobody talked about that. So Catholic University was pretty fascinating. Actually the place I reported to duty was the Reserve Unit at George Washington. I had to go there once a week. It’s where I had to run my physical fitness training event and just show up and say, “ I’m alive. How are you?” (laughter). I got to do some counseling once in a while, but not very much.

So that year finished and then I had orders to go to Newport, Rhode Island, to the Chaplain School to be an Instructor of Chaplains at the School. The Detailer saw me in March at a Chaplains’ Professional Development Training Workshop in Norfolk the theme of which I have probably since repressed. I can’t remember what it was (laughter).

I think it had to do with biblical archeology, but I can’t remember for sure. No, actually it wasn’t that, it was the pilot in Newport, or wherever it was, he said, “Well things have changed. You are going to Newport, but you’re not going to the Chaplain School. You’re going to go to the Chapel of Hope across the water, a little bridge, and you’ll become the rabbi of that chapel and then you can take care of everything including coming over to the school” which in retrospect maybe was a good idea. I’m really not sure.

But so I ended up covering Officer Indoctrination School, Senior Enlisted Academy. I taught a course in Terrorism at the War College and the advanced course at the Chaplain School which at that time was a nine month course and has now been pared down to about two to four weeks. I taught some elements of interfaith worship and things like that to the Advanced Course.

But other than that, I was kept very busy at Newport. Newport was another challenge of its own because it’s a Training Command with lots of schools. There were interesting things going on at the war college and they had international students. They would frequently have Israeli international students so it would get me involved with what was going on there.

In those years, at least in ’89, we still had people coming in from places like the Jordanian Army. I forget, the Saudi flyers were there so it was a very different atmosphere. I remember meeting the guy in 1990 who sank the British destroyer. His name was Colombo. Fascinating guy, a Chilean or Argentinean Navy Captain who was basically a warrior. His claim to fame, and he used to talk about it all the time, so it was a very fertile ground for lots of cross-breeding.

We chaplains there often interfaced the chaplains working at the School ‘cause it was another Command all together. Sometimes we would get together and have, you know, a party together or a regional event or something like that. Newport was pretty fascinating because it was the start of billet____ for a Jewish chaplain. There hadn’t been one there before. The only one who was there before was me, when I was a Reservist and went there one day a week.

So I had to start things from scratch. I had to put in requests for money for a Torah Scroll and all kinds of Jewish accouterments and religious objects. It was pretty fascinating. I worked for a senior chaplain. I’ll never forget this. His name was John Baldwin. John Baldwin had it in his mind that I and another one of our guys, John Craycraft, a really good guy whom I know very well, should put lobster pots in the bay and go out and harvest lobsters and then we could have a lobster feast here in the chapel every Sunday afternoon.

I had to remind him: one, that we needed a license and : two, that I wouldn’t eat them anyhow (laughter), and: three, that he needed permission from the C.O. of the Base to go and put lobster pots in his bay. “Oh, that’s not a problem”, he said. I said, “ okay.” So he forgot about it. He was a very interesting guy.

Zarbock: I’ve got to ask this! This is the most archly trivial question you’ll probably ever be asked. What does a Torah Scroll sell for?

Panitz: Oh wow, that’s not trivial. A Torah Scroll that’s properly imprinted that has no mistakes in its writing, whose parchment pieces are usually made of velum all sewn together properly, etc., etc., goes from anywhere from $12,000 to $18,000. It’s written by a guy that’s called a scribist so fer who actually cannot write it from memory. He has to do it from some other written text. Every word has to be specifically printed and if a Torah Scroll is 5 pounds wide, then he has to know how wide each letter has to be so on and so forth.

Zarbock: This question falls into the same category, what is the official sport of Maryland, having provided me with that information?

Panitz: If I had to guess, I would say it’s probably lacrosse.

Zarbock: Close, no cigar. It’s jousting!

Panitz: Oh really. Oh yeah, they have a Jousting Festival. Actually they just had the Festival down route 450. It was a Renaissance Festival.

Zarbock: So we’ve exchanged pieces of information that, if captured, may help us out.

Panitz: Yeah, that we can divulge.

Zarbock: So back on task.

Panitz: Okay, so here I am working in Newport. It was actually a very fascinating place because we got to work with the Admiral Staff from the Naval War College and we actually, at least--- I was called into do some work in the War College. A good friend of mine, Dave Atwater, a chaplain working at the school at the time, had me go in and teach Terrorism from my perspective and what was this all about ? And what was going on with the PLO in 1989 and 1990? And what should we look for? And what was the Jewish mindset as opposed to the Arab mindset?

Zarbock: How did you do it?

Panitz: Very carefully. Without offending anybody. I simply took up historical perspectives of what had happened over the last eight decades. What had the World Wars I and II, caused and how did the various kingdoms, the Hashamite

Kingdom, etc., how did those kingdoms come into play? And who was responsible for putting them there?

Then I dealt with the World War II issue and the Holocaust issue and the rebirth of the State of Israel and then how the cultures actually clashed. What were the expectations of the Israelis, what were the expectations of the Arabs? The PLO at that time was still, at that point in time,well funded because it began around 1967, 1968, and it was an organization that we were always very much fearful of.

I recall as a reverse anecdotal, men going TAD in Yokosuka very often in khakis, never feared anything. I remember being called once by the Israeli Embassy in Tokyo and the American Embassy by a guy whose name is Captain Nicks, I’ll never forget him. Joe Nicks, he used to come down to Yokosuka to shop at 833 and that’s where I met him. He called me up and he said, “We need you to come up here for a meeting”.

So I came up to the American Embassy. Guys from the Jewish Consulate came to this meeting and they put us in a room about this size and began to talk to us about, you know, concerns and terrorist concerns and what should we do and how should we be careful. Then they dimmed the lights and showed this great big screen and showed us Yokahama train station.

If you’ve ever been there, I don’t know if you have, it’s enormous. With this long telephoto lens, they zoomed in on me walking across the main plaza in Yokahama train station in my khakis. Maybe Dave remembers, but at that time I had a full beard. I shaved it off in 1984, but I had a full beard at that time. I mean it was trim, but I had a full beard. It was before the _____ made me take it off. They zoomed in on me walking across the station.

First they showed this big shot of the station and then they zoomed in on me and said, “See this”. I said, “Yeah, that’s me”. They said ,”Well if we can point you out like that, the PLO can do that too!” So that was about the time I had to shave my beard off, but that came a little bit later. I was forbidden from traveling in khakis any longer. This was in 1984.

Zarbock: But you could travel in what? If not in khakis, what?

Panitz: In civvies, I could travel in civvies. Presumably they would not know who I was. I mean I went through this recently in the Med , too, but that’s later. I don’t want to jump ahead to the Med so I’ll get there afterwards. So it was this feeling of vulnerability that I actually have to be in civilian attire. It was kind of a fearful thing.

How did I get there? Working in the Newport Naval Station in the Terrorism Course. That was one of the issues that I actually had to bring out. So my time in Newport was fascinating. It was a great kind of picture into how training commands work, what’s expected of the trainees and there was always something to do, always someone to take care of.

The nice thing about all the places I’ve been is that I’ve made lasting friends whom I run into all the time, not just from the chaplain community, but from lots of other communities, ships’ drivers, cryptologists, HM’s, doctors, nurses, it’s a very small Navy.

Zarbock: What’s an HM?

Panitz: An HM is a corpsman who takes care of the wounded. And we see each other, we run into each other every now and then. It’s truly amazing. Like just this morning , actually I was saying a few moments ago, walking across the hospital, I ran into a retired Chief of Chaplains, Russ Trower, who was kind of special to me because he was probably the first Flag I met when I came to Newport.

Zarbock: Gives you the opportunity of doing some prostelization.

Panitz: No, I wasn’t into doing that. In fact, that’s a big problem. We could spend hours talking about the Armed Forces Chaplains’ Board which, I actually got to be a member of, after I finished my tour in Newport. Maybe that’s a good segue. We can actually go there.

So now I have PCS’d from Newport, Rhode Island to Washington, DC, to work in the Office of Chief of Chaplains. In fact I remember getting a call from a chaplain, a real good friend of mine, Norm Auerbach, another rabbi who has since passed away. Norm called me up in the office in Newport and said, “Hi Jon, are you sitting down.” I said “What’s coming now?” He said, “Well if you’re not sitting down, you should be, because I just got the word that you’re coming to DC to work in the Office of the Chief of Chaplains”.

This is after I had requested again a carrier or a DeSeRon. Nothing would surprise me! I went there actually to replace a guy with whom I became very friendly. His name was Pete Oto. I went to work in the Office, of Plans and Policy. I was responsible for trying to ferret out all the policy issues that we had to deal with. And we had all kinds of policy issues – issues that dealt with conscientious objection, issues dealing with people or how could we use funds that were given to us in the religious offering plate. Are we allowed to use them for purchasing supplies or can we use them to augment this or that or the other? That was a really big complicated issue.

We had policy issues that governed just about everything, religious gear. I mean could Muslims wear head coverings? There was just a whole range of policy issues. It got into issues like , could you be DNA coded? I don’t mean do not resuscitate coded, I mean DNA because the Navy began, especially with the SEALs, to take their DNA coding so we could know what would happen. Well there were people who said, “ I’m never going to be DNA coded.” “Why?” “ Because it’s against my religion.!” “ Why? “ Because you could take my code and replicate me and you can’t do that!”

We had all sorts of issues. We had issues that dealt with women at sea at pregnancy. There was a committee called the Pregnancy Policy Committee. I’ll never forget it. We sat in committee for something like nine months at the discretion of a guy whose name was Pang.

Zarbock: Was that another pun?

Panitz: (Laughter) No, but it’s an interesting segue too. He was trying to find out what’s our impression of how women at sea should be treated once they become pregnant? Should they go home right away? They could serve for five months? They could serve for five weeks? They can’t lift this! They can’t lift that! You know industrial issues, health of the fetus and so on and so forth. We couldn't actually ever agree on much of anything.

Then after this 8-9 month event, Secretary Pang took another job and a different secretary came in and they disbanded the committee. By then, I was working somewhere else. The policy finally came down and it was similar to what we requested, but there was no consensus around the table. One physician said , “Women are only good for having babies.” A female ship’s driver said, “ How dare you say that?” I was actually on this committee with another chaplain, a really good friend of mine, Judy Kadenhan , and we would just sit there, look at each other and say, “What did Chaplain White get us into here?”.

Every now and then we would remind them that there was an ethic involved, that they needed to think about the ethics of the situation, that we weren’t just dealing with people who are ships’ drivers or button pushers or pilots. But the event at the Chief’s office was a very interesting kind of place to be because it was an interdisciplinary kind of product because you had people working on plans, people working on policies, people working on placing chaplains in positions of responsibility. People were working on how should we construct the chapel, people trying to put together the interface of the entire Chaplain Corps with the rest of the Navy. People were trying to figure out how to, in the beginning, buy for the dollars that are going for bullets that should be going to butter---was that a butter - bullets program.

Then we had some internal strife with some chaplains believe it or not, who actually thought that we had too much training and that we didn't need to put chaplains through as much training as we did. Sometimes we had internal fires we had to put out, but it was a very, very fascinating, you know, kind of look from a different perspective entirely of what we were doing. The beauty of some of it was we didn't have a pulpit to go to on weekends because we didn't have weekend positions. We weren’t hooked into a Friday night chapel or Saturday morning.

So I got to travel the entire District and go to all kinds of synagogues. Now I could preach one Friday night one place and another at ______ Academy, it was kind of interesting. So I got to travel around a lot. Then in the midst of all that too, there were a couple of crises that we went through. There was always when is the day kind of end issue cause it truly never ended. I think it’s the only place I have ever worked where I can honestly say I brought work home with me. Nowhere else.

It never ended and there was always a new priority. I would say to my good friend who is the head of the Branch, Richard Duncan, I would say, “Alright Rich, which is more important right now ?” And he would say, “Okay, here’s your new assignment, make sure it happens.” “Well what about this one?” “Well you can finish that one tomorrow!” But it was constantly stacked up like that. You never knew where the next issue was going to come from.

It could be a Senator requesting information. It could be a General from another service requesting data. It could be somebody from the Canadian Navy wants to come down and find out how we run our chaplains. It was just all over the waterfront.

And the other part of that which was so fascinating was the connection that we had as chaplains to the Armed Forces Chaplain Board. The Armed Forces Chaplain Board is an agency that meets in the Pentagon on which there sits the Chief of every Service, Navy, Army, Air Force and they send their representatives to it and the representative who is in charge of that usually reports to, I think, it’s a three star and the representation which was the Head of that Committee rotates between Army, Navy and Air Force on a regular basis.

So in the years that I sat on it, there was this lovely guy. I mean he was just the greatest guy, his name was Herm Kaiser, an Army chaplain. He was just full of all kinds of ideas and open to all sorts of thought and cross-breeding process and how chaplains can help each other. I sat on a particular part of it that was called the Jewish Religious Educational Advisory Group, JRAG for short. The JRAG dovetailed into what was called the LAG which is Logistics Advisory Group which then had an overlap into the PAG which was the Personnel Advisory Group. So we were kind of tied into all these issues.

I found it fascinating because they were actually asking us as rabbis, priests and ministers, you know, where can the Chaplain Corps set their priorities and how do we avail ministry to people on the fringes or even the mainstream. It was a very fascinating event. One of the things that gave me a great deal of satisfaction was running down to Fort Lee, Virginia, to sit on an advisory group that actually drafted and put out a new field kit for Jewish needs. It was very interesting.

You got to see from the inside, the inner workings where our monies came from. What was our budget this year? What’s it going to be next year? By the way, we’re going to lose, you know, 14K or more than that. The issues were just very, very complex. I can add, it was a place where there was a great deal of sensitivity.

I mean you had to be very, very discrete. Extremely discrete! Because there were things happening around you that you sort of heard and were part of the injuries to the Corps or the individuals that were actually injured in soul or body. What was the resolution and how was it going to be treated? So it was a very, very sobering kind of place to work, but a lot of fun.

Some of the highlights actually were the golf games at Haines Point. I can remember the parties we attended, a Chanukah Christmas party where one year I was actually Chanukah Hank (laughter). I’ll never forget that. But it was a very, very interesting place to work. It was probably the busiest, truly the busiest place I have ever worked, maybe seconded only by the work at ________.

Zarbock: Give me the dates of your tenure there.

Panitz: Okay, I arrived at the Chief’s Office in June of 1991. I went to work on a day when it was 102 degrees! I’ll never forget it! I left there around just before or after Thanksgiving of 1994. About the third or fourth day that I came to work at the Chief’s office, I’ll never forget this, I was coming to the office on Metro. I was actually living in Silver Spring before I met another chaplain. He and I began to carpool.

I was coming on the Metro and the fourth day I got out of the Pentagon stop. I went to wait for the bus shuttle that went up the hill. There was a guy sitting next to me. I was in civvies. He was a Lieutenant Commander in uniform. Someone drove up in a car, pulled out a gun and shot him dead. I will never forget it! I don’t even know why? It was just, “Oh my God!” Some guy was deranged.

Zarbock: Was the murderer apprehended?

Panitz: I believe so. They did catch him.

Zarbock: Well yes, that’s probably a date to remember.

Panitz: Yes, but I mean the Chief’s Office was just, just so constant.

Zarbock: Was there life after the Chief’s Office?

Panitz: Oh, for sure, yeah. Well it became a little bit torturous for me after the Chief’s Office because I was originally supposed to go from the Chief’s Office to the COM-6, Commander Six Fleet billet in the Mediterranean. As it ended up, I would have gone there unaccompanied. I would have left Jane probably living in Silver Spring or perhaps up in New York. We decided that wasn’t a good idea. The Detailer at the time actually was Charlie Burke who interestingly enough, I was with him as a Reservist in Quincy, Mass, in 1981. So I had known him for a long time.

Charlie Burke said, “ No, we should send you instead to the Nimitz,” ‘cause I was going to relief a chaplain of the Nimitz with whom I had worked in the Chief’s Office, Doug Lawson. So I went out with Jane to Bangor, Washington, and we went to live in Port Orchard. I don’t know how or why, we don’t know, it was like a month after we got there, she had a complete and total nervous collapse.

It could have been chemical, it could have been emotional, it could have been the mood, there were a lot of things. The result of this collapse actually had me request a Humanitarian Change of Station so they took me off the Nimitz. Then she healed, but the Exec Officer of the Nimitz wouldn’t take me back because he said, “ What guarantee can you give me that she won’t get sick again and we’ll have to yank you off?”

So they actually went to work and found me…it was complex …..they tried to send me first to the Puget Sound Station in Bremerton. It was just too complex an issue. The senior guy wanted his senior to be a Catholic. So instead they sent me to Bangor, Washington. I went to work in subs where I got my patrol pin and I went to work with a guy named Arden Waltz, a really nice guy. I became the chaplain for Subron-17 and got to ride all kinds of subs, all boomers. They were all ballistic missile submarines called boomers.

I did a patrol in the Alabama. I went all the way out to Hawaii and tooled around in the South Pacific and came back. In the process of that ride, there were two other boats that were out there. Diesel became air bound and the other one had numerous cracks in the missile silo hatch covers. So both of these boats had to go straight back to Bremerton, Washington, leaving the Alabama all by herself to cover this entire expanse of the Southern Pacific.

So here I was, a chaplain, who was originally going to go out for a 10 day cruise which ended up being somewhat longer. It worked out really well because aboard Alabama there were two Jewish personnel. You need to know actually that we as rabbis don’t ever deal with numbers cause I never know how many Jewish personnel I would find. Two would make my day. Ten would be seventh heaven. More than that could happen.

So there were two Jewish personnel on the Alabama, one of whom happened to be a sonar tech. He actually put me into sonar for five days straight and taught me all there is to know about sonar, even things I didn't want to know. Everything!! You know, I can distinguish between the sounds of whales, crustaceans, single screw vessels, twin screw vessels? It was very fascinating.

Zarbock: Did you perform any chaplain duty?

Panitz: I did. Actually I did a lot of counseling aboard the boat.

Zarbock: What sort of issues would be raised?

Panitz: Family factors, you know, my wife is having an affair with a guy factor. What shall we do tonight to make people happy issues. And some things you just overlook. The guys would get together in the ward room, actually the library which is squeezed between four missile silos, and they would go in there and watch triple X rated movies which weren’t supposed to be there. I would just come wandering down and walk in and there would be all this tittering and laughter. “ Here comes the Chaplain!” “Hi guys, what are you watching?” “Oh well, you know.” I would say, “Just carry on,” and leave.

But then they got to know pretty soon that I was a pretty regular guy. In fact, when I came aboard the Alabama, the Exec Officer of the Alabama ,who became a friend of mine, actually a member of my community, said, “I’ll let you berth with me in my Ex-O’s cabin. There’s an extra rack in here”. I said, “You know what Brad? That’s probably not a good idea cause the crew will see me as an officer, not as a member of the crew and they might not accept me. They’ll want to know how come they’ve got this chaplain guy riding a boomer all of a sudden. Did we do something wrong”.

And in fact that was part of the reason they sent me there. It wasn’t supposed to be known by anybody. I think only the Commanding Officer and Exec Officer knew they were having troubles between the Blue crew and the Gold crew. I don’t know if you know how, submarines, at least ballistic submarines, have three month patrols. They go out for three months and they come back for three months. When they go out for the first three months, the Blue team takes the boat out.

Then they come back into the Yard. Then they go out again and the Gold team takes the boat out. So there are two separate teams. So these particular teams were having minimal contact, which isn’t unusual, but one of the teams had a racial problem and they wanted a chaplain to go out and find out what was wrong. We’re not supposed to be investigators. In fact, it says specifically in our instructions that we cannot be investigating officers. So I wasn’t there as an investigator.

I was there basically to make peace. I discovered kind of what the problem was. So in the course of my ride, I spent days and days in sonar. So the Exec Officer of the ship said he was going to put me in his berthing space and I said,” it wasn’t a good idea.” He wanted to know where I would berth and I said how about a Chief’s berthing. So there was a Chief aboard the ship whose wife was very sick. They pulled him off for this patrol so I got to berth with the Chiefs. You know, if you’ve been into a berthing space on a submarine, especially a boomer, in the Chief’s racks there are six racks. So they gave me the bottom rack (laughter) as a sign of deference so I wouldn’t have to yank myself out of the middle or climb out of the top.

Actually the bottom rack had more room. At the very beginning, the Chiefs were leery. You know, “why is this 05 here? What is he doing in our space?” Then after awhile, they began to accept me. I became very friendly with the Chiefs of the boat. It was good to do that because that’s how I found out what the problems were.

Zarbock: Were they manageable, the problems?

Panitz: Yeah, they were manageable. There were some personnel shift issues and some kind of mediation stuff that had to be done, but in the end it worked out really well. So it was a unique for me because I was only there for a year. Then after this year finished, then a Humanitarian Change of Station is an event that has to be fixed within six months to a year. If it can’t be fixed for the individual who is requesting it, then the next option is to exit the Navy.

I didn't want to get out of the Navy so now Jane is healthy. Our youngest child, Yasmine is now a junior in high school. I get orders to go to the Navy Academy. I’m not going to move Yasmine. Jane is going to stay with Yasmine. We couldn't rent our house! We couldn't sell our house.! The market was bad. So I went alone, PCS’d alone, on the 16th of October, I’ll never forget this, in 1995 to Naval Academy.

So I was alone in Naval Academy for 23 months. I mean that’s another very, very fascinating story. I got to Annapolis on the 17th of October and I went to stay in a Radisson Hotel because you have 10 days on the Government’s dime to be alone. So I was in the Radisson Hotel for 10 days. I was introduced to the entire community. Somebody stepped up to the plate and said, “ well you can come and live in my house.” It turned out to be a single woman who lived all by herself.

I remember saying to a retired Catholic chaplain who is now a Dean of a school in the West, I’ll think of his name in a few minutes, I said to him, “I can’t stay in this home. It’s not a good deal. It just doesn’t look right.” So he said, “ we’ll find you somebody else.” Of course, he didn't succeed, but I went one Friday night of those 10 that I was out of service, I went to a Friday night service and there’s a guy who lives in Annapolis whose name is Harvey Stein.

Harvey Stein is a self-made multimillionaire, nice Jewish guy from Philadelphia who came over to me one day and said, “You need a place to stay? I have this enormous house and it’s truly enormous, on the water. There’s a bedroom that’s empty. You can come and stay for a couple weeks”. “ Okay, I said I’d be happy to do that”. Well I went to stay for two weeks. It became four days, four weeks, 14 months, 23 months later when Jane and our kids came to the Naval Academy that I actually moved out of his house. But he and his wife Jan and my family became very, very dear friends.

Zarbock: What was your role at the academy?

Panitz: I became the rabbi for the Naval Academy and it has about 4,000 students. The academy is broken down into Battalions and Companies. So when I got there, there were 36 Companies divided across six Battalions. There were too many Companies and they actually downsized the School from whatever it was 4,400 to 4,000 people. In the downsizing, they took away some of the Companies.

There weren’t enough chaplains to go around for all Battalions so I was the Contact Chaplain for Battalion 1 and Battalion 5. Now what that meant was, and the Naval Academy ministry is a very unique kind of ministry cause you’ve got all this exuberance and all this youth and it’s constant running around. So it meant that you’d get up at 5:30 in the morning and run around the track with these 19 year olds (laughter).

Or it meant that in order to catch them, see them, because they were either in class all day or afterwards they had extracurricular activities, you had to go wander the dorms. So the job entailed some office work, but a lot of field work where you have to go out, say start at 7:00 in the evening and walk through your dormitories. I used to go through Bancroft Hall. First I’d cover all the Companies in Wing One, Battalion One, and then all the Companies in Wing Seven of Battalion Five.

Then I’d be done maybe like midnight or so and then I would come home. We did this about three or four nights a week. Then we had connections or other responsibilities. We were like parts of honor teams. We taught in the ethics mode. We had honors classes. We would sometimes get called on to go to the midshipmen process if somebody was found ,or alleged to be guilty ,of an infraction. They would call a chaplain to sit in on the trial event to provide guidance and ethical leadership.

We were contacts for different sports events, basketball, baseball, football and sailing. We were totally suffused into the Academy structure. It was pretty fascinating. It was a very, very busy time. It was an 80-hour week, easily 80 hours a week. The downtime was when you weren’t around the Mids. When you weren’t around the Mids was unusual. I lived on the Yard and they all knew where I lived. They had the run of the Navy Yard, the Academy grounds, so they could come to my house.

Zarbock: And again, would they present problems of a …

Panitz: Well no, actually it was nice, sometimes they would come just to say, “ can I hang out on your porch, Rabbi.?” “ Oh sure,” or they would come to talk to me about their problems. I just didn't take care of Jewish Mids because if that was my only responsibility, I’d be busy about 2% of the time (laughter). So I had a full flavor of midshipmen and we had some really neat events.

We would take interfaith groups to Israel once a year at spring break. We did it for several years until the Intafada re-erupted and couldn't do it again, but we would take like across the spectrum, all faiths would come with us. We would get to meet with the Prime Minister and Secretary of State. We’d get to go to Israeli Navy bases. We’d travel around to all these religious sites. We would take the Protestants up so they could get some feeling of where their roots are, and the Catholics would go to their place. We’d take the Jewish personnel and kids to their places.

Then we’d all get together and we went to like the site of the Baptism, the waters of the Jordan. We’d go to the Old City of Jerusalem. It was just a very, very interesting interfaith event. Everybody who went developed a much deeper understanding for each group’s faith and how they lived it. It was truly amazing. And then it went away, not under my tenure, well actually one year we didn't get to go. But it subsequently went away because of the Intafada.

Zarbock: Was this subsidized?

Panitz: That’s another interesting question. This fellow, Harvey Stein in whose house I lived ,used to call me his personal, private rabbi (laughter). And I was, in a sense. There was this very loosely bound kind of amorphous group of men who would get together, businessmen who were well-established, and pull their resources and put together 10-15K and actually fund, help to fund, this event, this trip to Israel. They were just very disparate.

They would all meet together at somebody’s home, but they never had an agenda. I was part of this organization cause they always wanted the rabbi’s input. So I used to go to this meeting and one time I went to this meeting and there was my friend Harvey and another guy and another guy, they’d all get together. They had no agenda. All they wanted to do was talk about the money they could raise to send the kids off to Israel.

I said,”and there was a woman there too. You all have a piece of the puzzle, but there’s no commonality. You’re not like sharing your ideas. Why don’t you appoint someone to rule over you? Put together a committee and have a chairman, a co-chairman, a secretary, someone to collect and take the minutes !” When I said that, actually it was well received except for one guy who walked away. He was in charge or he thought he was in charge.

When they didn't put him in charge, he became very angry and he walked away. But because he then walked away, this group coalesced and became known as the Friends of the Jewish Chapel. The Friends of the Jewish Chapel went on this enormous fundraising campaign. The figure that came out just last week, they now have raised 12 million dollars. They’re going to break ground after Passover, the Easter Passover timeframe, and their goal is to redesign, enlarge, refurbish Mitcher Hall which is where the old chaplains’ offices used to be.

So they’re going to give to the Naval Academy a sum of $8,000 or $9,000, the balance of the money they’re going to give for program material. This brand new chapel is going to spring out of what is this old group.

So all these people from the Friends of the Jewish Chapel have now gotten together and they are people who sit on the board of…Chief of Information, Admiral Shapiro is on the Board, Bud Carterer used to be on the Board and a bunch of other people have sat together now. They have all the rabbis who are ex-officio rabbis of the Academy as kind of mini advisors so they call us every now and then and say, “Can we do this?”

The biggest thing recently was over what shall we name this new chapel? I remember they asked me that and I said, “Well there’s this big long instruction that tells you how you can name a chapel”. “ Well we don’t want to see the instruction!” “No, you have to see the instruction!”

Zarbock: The name Zarbock is available, of course (laughter), about the only German Lutheran. Give it a thought.

Panitz: I’ll give it a thought. Well what they finally came on was the Commodore Levy Chapel. You probably know the history of Commodore Levy. So they hit on that and that was a big problem because there already is a Commodore Levy Chapel, as you know, in Norfolk. But they actually had to get it approved, believe it or not, by Congress. It actually went through the Office of the Chief of our Chaplains because the Facilities Manager had to put his chop on it. CNP had a chop on it.

It’s a magnificent enterprise. In fact some of the people who sit on the FOAJC are those who you could probably interview because they’ve been through this entire process. They’re interesting people. So anyhow the Naval Academy had me running PFT with the Mids, taking care of them at mealtime, wandering the halls, teaching. I taught ethics. I got involved with some burials. We were all responsible for memorial services regardless of faith group.

I was actually once the honcho for the memorial service for the Little Beavers which was Admiral Arley Brooks original group in the South Pacific. They met the year after he died and they had this memorial service and they needed a chaplain to lead the service and it was my turn. It was kind of interesting. There’s a lot of stuff that went on. I sat on several different committees. There were some struggles I think in the process.

Going through who was in control of which committee, how did things filter out and every time there’s an administration change, it all filters down so Admiral Larson was there. He left and then Admiral Ryan came in. Expectations were different. There’s always that kind of change. What’s pretty constant, I think remains constant, is the chaplain’s tutelage of these minds.

If you think about it in the span of 3-1/2 years, I actually had impacted more than 1000 new Mids every year. So 4,000 people every year. So in 3-4 years you’d have an enormous effect on some mid, you know the saying is one day will be a CNO perhaps and they have lots of their own problems. They’re late adolescent teenagers. They come from totally disparate backgrounds. Some come with silver spoons in their mouths and some come out of the Delta. They all have to get together and form this great teamwork event. If they don’t see us as chaplains presenting a team front, they won’t do it. We’re the standards of which everybody needs to operate.

Zarbock: What happened after the Academy?

Panitz: From Naval Academy, that’s unfortunately when I received the news that I wasn’t going to be picked up as an 06. It was devastating for a while, but I’m a pretty resilient guy so I bounced back. From the Academy, I went to Commander-6 Fleet. I mean if anything could be as fascinating as the other two, this was even more so because the Admiral of 6 Fleet, who at that time was Admiral Murphy, he has a staff.

His staff is comprised of all kinds of people. There are cryptologists, you know. Guys who are flyers, ships’ drivers, public affairs officers, a JAG, a lawyer, doctor and a chaplain’s department. In this chaplain’s department, there were three chaplains. There was a Protestant, a Catholic and myself. I was responsible for the entire Jewish program of every ship that in-chopped the Mediterranean and all the ______ around the Mediterranean.

So I was almost never home. In three years, I rode 49 ships, visited 110 ports and got to meet all kinds of fascinating people from different faith groups and different places. Usually it was very good. Sometimes it wasn’t very good. The one experience I can remember that wasn’t very good and that’s what usually stands out in your mind, was our experience in Romania.

We went on a Black Sea cruise. We pulled into Romania and if you know the history of the King of Romania, it’s kind of checkered. He was pro-Nazi in the early stages of the war and then he shifted over and became pro-Russian. Then he abdicated completely and went to live in Zurich or someplace, took his money along. Also much to his discredit, he also ex-checkered almost all the Jews who were Romanians and handed them over to the Nazis.

Well he came back in a year ago June or July to reassume the throne, King Michael. I don’t think he was successful because the public wasn’t really behind him. Here we were, we pulled into this port on the Flagship USS LaSalle. We have to give him equal due because we had people who flew down from Kiev and Moscow. We had the local prelate and a local priest who came to visit.

But this King came aboard the ship. We had this great big fancy event on the ship. We’re pouring all kinds of white wine and red wine and canapés and caviar, mounds of caviar. We all got to walk by and introduce ourselves. So I walked over to this King Michael and put out my hand and said, “Hi sir, my name is Rabbi Panitz. I’m the Jewish chaplain”. He turned away. He actually turned away!! He turned his head away.

I remember turning to Colonel Holden who was our N5, N5 is the inter-operations guy, a really nice Marine, and he looked at me and asked, “ what’s this all about?”. I said. “ I didn't really know.” After this whole thing happened, his daughter who was on the ship also came over and apologized to me. She said, “My father just doesn’t give up his old thoughts”. So it was a very strange event.

But I can recall pulling into Sevastpol this was very fast, we pulled into Sevastpol and the Russian fleet sits and rots in the harbor. They knew we were coming so here you have this enormous harbor, all the Russian vessels are lined up to starboard of our ship so you can only see… and they are all ______ which means the backs of their ships are all up against the pier, all you can see is the portside of every ship.

Beautiful paint job, I mean glistening paint job. My friends and I walked along the pier to look up at the starboard side of the ships. All rusting (laughter). I’ll never forget it. That was the Russian fleet. They couldn't get underway because their motors were all broken and they had no fuel to go anywhere. So here we are in this port of Sevastpol and the local Russian Orthodox priest comes to the ship to meet us, a very interesting guy.

He took us to the equivalent of our Arlington National Cemetery which is the Russian National Military Cemetery in Sevastpol. He took us around to graves that go back to the Russian Revolution. He took me specifically along with the other two chaplains, but he said, “Rabbi, you have to see this”. He took us to the grave of the first ship, the first Russian boat that was sunk in the Bering Sea. It was the Consomul.

If you recall, there was a Russian submarine that sank, recently it was the Kurtz, but before that it was the Consomul. The Consomul sank in the Bering Sea. Two of the junior officers were Jewish. I never knew that. So he took us over a gravesite and he said, “Here are your brethren”. I said that was very interesting. I said, “I didn't think in this timeframe, Jews could even become part of the Russian Navy”. He said well they are. And here they were listed on this gravestone in a Russian cemetery with Jewish stars. So I took some pictures of it.

Then this Father took us back to his chapel which was this beautifully hand constructed chapel that had a hollow spire that went up like 140 feet inside, wooden beams. Took us into his consistory, sat us down around this great big long table and fed us vodka (laughter). Toasted everybody, the President, the Vice-President, Yeltsin, you know. Your wife, your children, my children, my housekeeper! Finally he plied us with so much vodka that we had to say, “ no more, we can’t drink anymore.” Then we went back to the ship for another party (laughter). Kind of rolled aboard the ship.

Zarbock: This is your US Navy in action, is that right?

Panitz: US Navy in action. This is the Flagship, USS LaSalle. Not many ships would do this. The tour is memorable because I got to ride so many different vessels and to meet so many different kinds of people. I spent time with Marines, aviators. I got to know SEALs. SEALs are very hard to get to know because they are a very insular kind of group. The sea, air and land people. They basic mission is to go out and kill people, basically. So they’re very insular. They don’t let a whole lot of people into their inner circle, but I got to know the SEAL Teams that rode the different amphibious ships, the gators. We became pretty good friends.

It ended up that I would see them every now and then in different ports and they would take me out to dinner. They called me their rabbi which, you know, to me was a great, great sense of not necessarily accomplishment, but just camaraderie. It was really cool. I was on a carrier. I was on GW. The GW Admiral was a guy who had been the Commandant of the Naval Academy, Gary Roughhead who now was a two star.

So I was floating around in the Adriatic and I get this call. I didn't come to our admin, it came to me from Admiral Roughhead. “I want you to come and ride my ship. When can you be here, Rabbi?” It was just , “Oh my God,” I had to hand carry it to my Chief Staff Officer at the time who said, “How do you know this guy and why is he calling you personally?”. He was saying he didn't go through protocol. “Yes sir, I know.” It was kind of interesting.

So I got to ride the George Washington twice. I guess some of the highlights of riding all these ships is that I had 18 cats and 17 traps, which is you know, when you get shot off the aircraft carrier, so I’ve been shot off a carrier 18 times, trapped only 17 because once I was shot off and landed on the ____. That’s a pretty fascinating experience. Actually I could join Tail-Hook, I’m not sure I want to.

So you get aboard these carriers and it’s a big city I mean to tell you, upwards of 4000 people. Each one has their own story and there’s no way in five to seven days that you can actually walk through an entire ship that big. But somehow people find out that you’re there and they seek you out. Every place I went, I found somebody I knew.

When I rode on Enterprise, the guy who was the waist shooter, you know, when they send the airplanes off, there’s a guy who sits in this little tiny bubble under the flight deck and he has these controls. What he does is, he waits for this moving shuttle to come all the way back, hook it up to the airplane. Then he looks at his steam output numbers. When the steam output numbers are right for the airplane and the wind, he punches this button.

Well I knew this guy, he was a really good friend of mine so I spent four hours in the waist bubble on the Enterprise shooting planes off (laughter). It was a really great feeling. Afterwards I come and see the guys when they came back and I would say…there was one guy I knew pretty well who was a member of my congregation whose nickname was Smoky. I’d say, “Hey Smoky, I shot you off”. He said, “Let’s pray Rabbi”. (laughter) I’ll never forget it.

Yeah it was very, very busy because I would go to shore installations and try to track down the Jewish personnel from shore installations and also would have to become involved with the locals. Every shore installation chapel has a program with the local people. They could be donating clothes or they might have a meal program. So I became involved with a Greek priest on the Island of Suda Bay, I got involved with people in Dubrovnik because we did some community relations work in Dubrovnik and lots of other places. In Trieste we did this.

Every place that we went, we kind of left the imprint of the sailors who want to create good public relations and their “mentors” who are we chaplains. Then there were some times that were really very sad. I was on the vessel that shot the first T-LAM cruise missile into Yugoslavia. When they let it go, they wanted me to bless the weapon and I couldn't do that. I blessed the crew, but it couldn't bless the weapon.

I was in Pristina for a little while, that was very, very, very disheartening. I went with Admiral Murphy to look at Camp America. That was where we were going to erect what became Camp B______ and he just wanted some moral support and I was free so I flew along to look at what was going to become this place where we would garrison an enormous number of troops and they would take care of other people and it was a big mud ______.

Then Admiral Murphy and Admiral Johnson who followed him and Admiral Frye were all very gracious and always made their helo available to us. So I’d frequently fly from LaSalle to another ship. Forty-nine ships, I was on all the Amphibious Readiness Group Ships that went out there and all their sister ships, probably two dozen DD’s, DDG’s. Again I would always meet somebody I knew.

There were some things that were really very sad. One thing that stands out in my mind very clearly was a ride on USS Sullivans which is a ship, as you probably know, named after the five brothers. I was on Sullivans. I jumped aboard in Cyprus. I had actually ridden into Marmarus, Turkey, on the USS Saipan. Saipan left Turkey and took me out somewhere in the middle of the Med, not too far from Cyprus. They helo’d me from Saipan into Cyprus. I went to Cyprus to await Sullivans’ arrival.

I was in Cyprus for two or three nights in a really nice hotel waiting for the ship to come in. That was a fringe benefit. Ships didn't always get there when they said they would. My instructions were to go and find the most reputable hotel and hang out, so that’s what I did. So here I am in Cyprus waiting for Sullivans. It comes in, stays in port for five days so I transferred from the hotel to the ship.

I get a call from the Military Defense Attaché, the MDAO, who said that the Ambassador wanted to see me. “ Why?” “ I don’t know, he wants to see you!” Turns out the ambassador is Jewish and his kid is about to become bar mitzvah and he wants me to give him a bar mitzvah lesson before the ship leaves. So I had three days of very quick impromptu bar mitzvah lessons for this young kid.

Then the ship left. By the way, it’s the only ship in the entire Navy that you can call by a definite article. Do you know that?

Zarbock: No.

Panitz: Every ship in the US Navy is only always USS Nimitz, USS LaSalle, you can never call it “The”. This is the only ship that can be called a “The” because it is “The USS Sullivans”. No, it’s the USS The Sullivans. So anyhow, that’s trivia.

To get past the trivia, so here I am riding on Sullivans and we go like through the Southeastern Mediterranean on our way to Haifa. The day before we pull into Haifa, this is a beautiful story really, the day before we pull into Haifa, there’s a BMC, a master chief who’s a boswain’s mate who came into see me. I was sitting in this little office and he said, “I have a horrible headache, Rabbi”. I said, “ go see the independent duty corpsman and he’ll give you some medication. Okay?”

So he goes to see the IDC, who gives him Tylenol, whatever. Twenty-four hours later he comes back to me and he said, “I’m no better”. You could see he was visibly in terrible pain. I sent him back to the corpsman and the corpsman said that there was something else going on here. We’re pulling into the port of Haifa. We get to the Port, I go to see the Skipper of the ship. The crewman and I go together and I say, “There’s something really wrong with this guy. Neither of us are doctors, but I can tell you he’s in severe pain”.

We call up Rambam Hospital. They actually send an ambulance down to the pier to take him to the hospital. I go along with the attendant. Now here I am in Rambam Hospital talking to nurses who speak Russian and Hebrew, a doctor who speaks German, not very good English, with this poor BMC who only knows English. He comes from somewhere in Tallahassee, Florida English. I’m doing the translating from him to them and from them through me back to him to get them to understand what’s going on.

They put him in a hospital bed and he goes into the Neurology ward. I go back to the ship. The ship is delayed. The Skipper says, “Stay with him, Rabbi”. So they find me a bed in the hospital. So here I am now serving as an interpreter in this hospital. It turns out later in the process he has a brain tumor. He hasn’t got very long to live. The beauty of it is, this individual is a very, very, very strong died- in- the- wool Baptist. He’s never ever seen a Jew, not even a rabbi.

The irony of this is that the doctor who finally comes to see him is a man whose name is Moses. So that’s ironic. So I arranged for this phone call for him to talk to his wife. He calls up his wife and he says, “Here I am hon, sick in a bed in Haifa. I’m being treated by a man whose name is Moses and the rabbi is taking care of my spiritual reasoning.” He says, “Maybe there’s been something wrong with my upbringing all along?”

It was really very beautiful because the two of us bonded. He subsequently went home to Mayport where he was stationed, and he died. When he died, his wife called me up to tell me that he was in the hospital and among the last things he talked about was his relationship with the rabbi. You truly have an impact on other people. You just don’t know how deep it is or how profound it is until…and sometimes you just never know.

The tour in the Med left me with lots of memories, but this one stands out in a great way. You don’t ever forget being at sea at 0 dark 30 standing on the deck and looking at the stars and wondering where you fit into this enormous universe and then get shocked into reality when somebody comes and taps you on the shoulder and says, “ you know, seaman Jones is having a really rough time because his girlfriend just wrote him a “dear John” letter. Can you talk to him?”

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