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January 18, 2017 / 20 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘military’

Jewish Practice In The U.S. Military (VIII)

Monday, December 26th, 2016

Adell Sherbert became a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, she refused to work on Saturday causing her to be discharged from her employment. Sherbert looked for Monday-to-Friday work with the other three mills in Spartanburg but failed to find suitable employment. She then filed for unemployment compensation benefits under the South Carolina Unemployment Compensation Act which was denied.

The Unemployment Commission justified their position by stating that they only provided unemployment benefits to people for whom work was not available, not to people who were unavailable to work. Sherbert sued, first in a lower court and then subsequently in the South Carolina Supreme Court – both of which rejected the appellant’s contention that the South Carolina statute abridged her right to the free exercise of her religion.

It was the State’s position that the unavailability to work each Saturday was akin to not being available to work at all and hence undeserving of unemployment benefits. The State also argued that they had an additional compelling reason for not issuing unemployment benefits in order to protect themselves from others who would fraudulently claim religious objections to work.

Adell Sherbert

Adell Sherbert

The ruling of the South Carolina Supreme Court forced Sherbert to decide between following the precepts of her religion (and forfeiting her benefits), or accepting employment that included a Saturday shift.

This did not seem in consonance with the constitutional liberties afforded by the free exercise of religion; it was as if the state had fined her for being a Sabbatarian. Accordingly, she appealed to the US Supreme Court claiming that the denial of unemployment compensation violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

On June 14, 1963 the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Adell Sherbert’s ability to freely exercise her faith by refusing to work on her Sabbath without giving up her right to unemployment benefits.

Justice Brennan wrote the majority opinion. “To condition the availability of benefits upon this appellant’s unwillingness to violate a cardinal principle of her religious faith effectively penalizes the free exercise of her constitutional liberties.” In other words, the governmental imposition of such a choice infringes upon the Sabbatarian’s religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Subsequent to this ruling, the United States Supreme Court developed what became known as the Sherbert Test, which requires the court to determine whether: (a) the plaintiff has a claim involving a sincere religious belief; and (b) whether the government action is a substantial burden of the person’s ability to act on that belief. If those two elements are established, then the government must demonstrate that it is acting in furtherance of a compelling government interest.

At the time of the Goldman case, even though it was rarely applied, the Sherbert Test was considered a ‘‘high water mark’’ in the constitutional protection of minority religious beliefs whose religious practice conflicted with state laws.

Sherbert predated Goldman by twenty years, but the similarities between the two were apparent: In Sherbert, in the absence of a compelling government interest, she should not have been forbidden from the free exercise of her religion. Likewise, Goldman, in the absence of a compelling government interest, should not be barred from observing his religion by wearing a yarmulke.

This was indeed Nathan Lewin’s argument: The government should not be allowed to make Goldman violate his faith unless they could show a compelling interest.

Although the Geller case with the beard did not come to this, the government had a compelling interest with a beard which did not exist with a yarmulke. Namely, a beard poses a problem with a gas mask which obviously does not exist with a yarmulke.

The Appeals court rejected the Sherbert argument by accepting the military’s contention that they had a compelling interest to deny Goldman’s request. It was their perspective that Goldman was not a solitary soldier doing his job in a base hospital; he was a potential instigator, perhaps even an agent provocateur, that could undermine the smooth running of the country’s defense (read: compelling basic public necessity).

That’s right; Simcha Goldman wearing a yarmulke in uniform was perceived as an act of insurrection that could weaken the very foundations of the military. But how?

To ensure discipline, the military is scrupulous about uniformity. All recruits have the identical haircut, wear the same uniform and are monitored to see that there is constant conformity. Any deviation from the standard could undermine the all-essential esprit de corps and fray the fabric of order and obedience.

To be continued.


Chodesh Tov – have a pleasant month!

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Russian Military Tu-154 Aircraft with 91 On Board Disappears En Route to Syria

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

A Tupolev Tu-15 three-engine medium-range narrow-body aircraft belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry disappeared from the radar after its takeoff at 2:40 GMT from Sochi, a Russian city on the Black Sea, where it had stopped to refuel, Russian media reported Sunday. There were 91 people on board, including 83 passengers and eight crew members.

The Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying “hull fragments of the Tu-154 plane operated by the Defense Ministry have been found about 1.5 km off the Black Sea coast of Sochi at a depth of 50-70 meters.”

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the passengers were musicians of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the official choir of the Russian Armed Forces and crews from media outlets Channel One Russia and Zvezda.

Aircraft was en route to the Russian base in Latakia, Syria. “The aircraft departed to Latakia and then disappeared from the radar,” a source in regional emergency services told TASS.


Azerbaijan President: We Bought $4.8 Billion in Israeli Military Equipment

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Baku, and revealed that “so far the contracts between Azerbaijani and Israeli companies with respect to purchasing of defense equipment is close to 5 billion dollars. More precisely – $4,850,000,000. The biggest part of these contracts have already been executed and still we are continuing to work on that and we are very satisfied with the level of this cooperation.”

All this has been achieved in the 20 years since Netanyahu’s last visit to Azerbaijan, President Aliyev noted.

At the meeting, according to an Israeli press release, agreements were signed (Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin signed for Israel) on standardization, double taxation, agricultural cooperation and the establishment of a mixed commission on advancing bilateral cooperation on economic matters, science, technology, health, agriculture and trade.

President Aliyev reminded his Israeli guests that “for centuries Jews and Azerbaijanis lived in peace and friendship,” including “the times of Tsarist Russia, when Azerbaijan was a part of the Russian Empire,” as well as “during the time of the Soviet Union.”

“For your information,” Aliyev continued, “I’d like to say that there are seven synagogues in Azerbaijan, five of them in Baku; Jewish schools, you will visit one of them, Chabad Or Avner, the Jewish education center which was inaugurated in 2010. I remember that day because I was there at the inauguration ceremony and the late President made a video address to us. I am glad that Mr. Prime Minister has timed his tight schedule to visit that education center and also meet the representatives of the Jewish community.”

In his response, Netanyahu told his host, “We obviously have a robust relationship in energy. Now we’re talking about not just the sale of oil from Azerbaijan to Israel which is a very important part of our oil imports, we’re talking about using common facilities for export of gas and the linking of Israel’s gas exports potentially to a great pipeline that is being built as we speak right now from Azerbaijan into Turkey. This is obviously something that can strengthen both our economies and I think provide a larger service.”

“We can do, we think, wonders together in agriculture, in education, in IT, any area, and we welcome such cooperation because we think that ultimately the greatest resource that we have is this, it’s the resource of conceptual products, the ability to take all the industries, make them more efficient,” Netanyahu continued. “I gave an example of dairy-farming and I boast once again that we have the most productive cows in the world, more than the French cows or Dutch cows or even American cows. And this is something that replicates itself along many, many fields. So we welcome this cooperation to secure and better the future of both our nations.”

But regardless of the burgeoning economic ties between the two countries, Netanyahu told his host the unique aspect of their relationship is the fact that “Israel is the Jewish state, it’s a Jewish state. Azerbaijan is a Muslim state, predominantly Muslim population. Here you have an example of Muslims and Jews working together to secure a better future for both of us. And It’s an example that shines against the background of intolerance and lack of acceptance and mutual respect.”

Netanyahu called on the world’s nations to “come to Azerbaijan and see the friendship and the partnership between Israel and Azerbaijan. It’s not only good for both our countries and both our nations, I think it’s good for the region and good for the world.”


Israeli Military Industries Demonstrate 80-Mile Range Magic Spear Rocket

Monday, December 5th, 2016

IMI Systems (Israel Military Industries) last week presented a live fire demonstration of its Magic Spear – a precise 155-mm rocket with a 40-km range – in a show it dubbed “Artillery Systems – The Next Generation,” Defence Alert reported.

Established in 1933 and fully owned by the Israeli government, IMI is a defense systems house specializing in the development, integration, manufacturing and life cycle support of modern land, air and naval combat systems and HLS solutions. IMI’s products have been qualified with the IDF, US Military (Air Force, Army and Navy) and NATO nations.

IMI Systems employs 2,900 personnel in three divisions. In addition to the modern design and development shops, IMI operates production facilities, supported by advanced laboratories and test facilities accounting for 30% of the company’s infrastructure.

The live fire show was held at a test site in southern Israel and was attended by senior officials and industrialists from 17 countries. It also included demonstration of a 120-kg exploding warhead installed on an extra long-range missile designed for attacking high-quality targets at a range of 80 miles, as well as an advanced warhead.

The demonstration was designed to highlight IMI Systems’ capabilities, establishing it as the world’s leading producer of advanced artillery systems.


Jewish Practice In The U.S. Military (VII)

Friday, November 25th, 2016

In July 1981, Judge Aubrey E. Robinson granted Simcha Goldman a temporary restraining order preventing the Air Force from enforcing its headgear regulation. After a full hearing in September 1981, Robinson again ruled in favor of Goldman, enjoining the Air Force from enforcing its uniform regulations that prevented Goldman from wearing his yarmulke while in uniform. Robinson held that the regulations violated the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause and noted that the military failed to show any objective studies showing that religious exemptions would erode morale in the military.

It looked like Simcha Goldman had won his own private battle; the court upheld his right to wear a yarmulke in service and the Air Force did not challenge this ruling. Then suddenly things starting moving like a force of air.

The wing commander at the March Air Force base decided that there should be no exceptions to their regulations. This sentiment was conveyed to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) who apprised the Under Secretary of the Air Force. The Under Secretary walked out of his office in the Pentagon, headed left down the corridor a full 27 yards and then deposited the request upon the desk of the Secretary of the Air Force.

There wasn’t all that much further that this could climb other than out the door of the Pentagon and across the Potomac four miles to the White House. Prudency urgently demanded that some arresting sobriety be applied. Judge Robinson’s decision applied to Dr. Simcha Goldman only. The injunction addressed the petitioner exclusively and could impact on no other serviceperson.

If the Air Force were to launch an appeal and the court would reject it, the Goldman decision would then become the law for all. A betting man probably would have rejected such odds and consequences; but then again, a betting man is not a military man. Indeed.

The Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of Defense appealed the District Court decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The government in its appeal argued that wearing a yarmulke in the military was an obstacle to uniformity, esprit de corps and teamwork.

Goldman’s defense was that the military’s regulations violated the protection afforded in the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states in part that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

When may the government enforce a law that burdens an individual’s free exercise of their religious beliefs is a question that has been the source of fierce legal debate. Goldman’s counsel, Mr. Nathan Lewin, argued that Goldman’s privilege of free exercise in this case should be analyzed under the standard enunciated in the Supreme Court’s 1963 decision Sherbert v. Verner.

The Sherbert case started in 1957 when Adell Sherbert became a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, a Christian denomination that teaches that Saturday, not Sunday, is the proper day for the Christian Sabbath, and accordingly Saturday is the day of rest. Two years after this affiliation, the workweek at the mill where she was employed in Spartanburg, South Carolina changed to six days; and Sherbert refused to work on Saturday causing her to be discharged from her employment.

Sherbert looked for Monday-to-Friday work with the other three mills in Spartanburg but failed to find suitable employment. She then filed for unemployment compensation benefits under the South Carolina Unemployment Compensation Act. The South Carolina Employment Security Commission denied the request claiming that her religious justification for refusing suitable Saturday work was not adequately compelling.

Judgment was based on the state law which provides that, to be eligible for benefits, a claimant must be “able to work and…available for work;” and a claimant is ineligible for benefits “if…he has failed, without good cause…to accept available suitable work when offered him by the employment office or the employer….” In other words, the Commission only provided unemployment benefits to people for whom work was not available, not to people who were unavailable to work.

Sherbert sued, claiming that the denial of benefits was an unconstitutional infringement of her First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. The Court of Common Pleas for Spartanburg County rejected this claim and found for the Employment Security Commission (ESC). Sherbert then appealed this decision to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which affirmed the lower court’s decision by rejecting the appellant’s contention that the South Carolina statute abridged her right to the free exercise of her religion.

(To be continued)

Chodesh Tov – have a peasant month!

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

US Delegation Visits Israel to Learn Emergency Response Technology

Monday, November 14th, 2016

A delegation led by the chief of the U.S. National Guard Bureau visited Israel last week to learn new techniques in emergency response, according to Defense News.

The delegation, hosted by Israel’s Homefront Command, was led by Air Force General Joseph Lengyiel, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Participants watched a large-scale exercise in northern Israel, where emergency responders trained in alerting and assisting civilians “under threat” by Hezbollah terrorists.

The Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group has an arsenal of nearly 100,000 rockets and missiles stored in the mountains and valleys across the border from northern Israel.

The American delegation also was briefed on the latest technology being used in Israel, including the “personal alert” service, an individual warning system that sends alerts straight to one’s smart phone.

In addition, the group learned about the new “National Alert” system, a central command and control system that activates and sends out alerts across all the warning channels of Homefront Command.

Hana Levi Julian

Jewish Practice In The U.S. Military (VI)

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

In April, 1981 Rabbi Dr. Simcha Goldman was forbidden from wearing a yarmulke while serving in the US Air Force. He brought the matter to court, suing the Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, on behalf of the Air Force for having violated his First Amendment rights under the Free-Exercise clause. The Air Force countered that it had strong interests in maintaining a rigid uniform requirement to maintain esprit de corps and teamwork.

The legal irony was that when Goldman sued the military he was already out of service, hence the issue of the yarmulke was moot; courts deal with actual problems, not theoretical ones. However, since Goldman was prompted to take emergency leave consequential to the Air Force’s refusal to allow him to wear a yarmulke in service, he lost several days of work and compensation to the tune of $100.

Goldman was suing over the civil rights issue, but as Dovi Butler from COLPA was putting together the case for him, the attorney asked if there was anything else that he wanted to throw in. The $100 was an afterthought, but only because of this, the theoretical – and no longer pertinent issue of the yarmulke – was resuscitated.

This paltry $100 over which the case was convened would result in the expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars on Uncle Sam’s tab in court-related expenses.

Goldman sought to acquire a permanent injunction along the lines of the temporary restraining order, and the Air Force – after initially waffling – resolved that it would fight. Their decision contained an inherent gamble, as the temporary restraining order, and the permanent injunction that Goldman sought, would have awarded him alone the right to wear a yarmulke in service. But if the Air Force was to lose their challenge, this might open a floodgate of requests for head coverings from turbans to taqiyahs to kafiyehs – all with a legal precedent from a district court.

And yet, and yet, the Air Force had made their decision and decided to call in the big guns. We’re talking very big and top guns, respectively. The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Force appealed the district court decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

All stops were unplugged for the Air Force’s appeal. At tax-payer’s expense, Captain Simcha Goldman was flown from California to Washington D.C. to give a deposition. It is extremely unusual – nearly unprecedented – for the defendant being sued to cover the expenses of the plaintiff. It also demonstrates how determined the Air Force was to high-handedly quash this lawsuit.

It might also be assumed that they believed (Simcha’s words) Goldman to be a big mouth, and he would inevitably say something in the deposition that could be used against him.

In order to fortify their case, for which they were going to great lengths and sparing no expense, the Department of Defense felt it essential to bone up on their knowledge of Jewish law as it pertained to wearing a yarmulke. Farcically, the authority they employed to instruct them was a Jewish Conservative chaplain, hardly an expert in the intricacies of halacha.

The thrust of the Air Force’s defense was that the Constitution only protected a genuine religious law; not a personal preference. Wearing a yarmulke, they argued, was not the law. This was to be established by subjecting Goldman to a battery of questions formulated by their expert non-scholar, argued by a military lawyer absolutely clueless about what he was trying to prove before judges even more in the dark, unfamiliar with the terms and not comprehending the concepts.

Here is some of the legal wizardry marshaled by the Air Force’s Litigation Dream Team to highlight how arbitrary and non-binding Jewish law is.

*Orthodox Jews do not eat meat and milk together, yet they are not required to have two separate refrigerators. Are they?!

A: The prohibition is to consume meat and milk together; not to store them together. Refrigerators have not been known to do the former.

*Do you wear tzitzis as prescribed by the Biblical Verse Numbers 15:38.

A: I do

*So why are you concealing them?

A: To display them openly would be a violation of military protocol and uniform regulation.

*“Aha!” cried the prosecution with an exult of victory, “if you compromise on this issue, why were you so intransigent on the yarmulke issue?”

A: The requirement to wear tzitzit may be fulfilled whether they are concealed or not. There is no way to cover the head in a concealed way.

This would have and should have been an adequate answer, but Simcha Goldman decided to get legalistic and elaborated that not all of the commandments have the same weight. Some are biblical, some are rabbinic. Some rabbinic laws may actually carry more weight than a biblically ordained law.

Goldman plowed on inducing the kind of excitement reserved for a logarithm chart. Despite the judges’ best efforts, one magistrate’s eyes were glazed, another looked about as numb as a guy doped up for a bypass and the third seemed oddly unenriched by the fine distinctions between rabbinic and biblical law. But this was not about to stop Team Air Force.

*Do you wear a yarmulke when you take a shower?

A: A yarmulke is meant to display fear of Heaven when one is out and about. There is no need to cover one’s head in the privacy of a shower, nor is it in any way practical.

*JAG’s military lawyer grasped at the straw. Do you mean to imply that there is no requirement to fear Heaven in a shower?

Instead of replying the obvious, which would have – admittedly – required some halachic clarification which would have surely been lost on the judges, Goldman flustered. In this moment of indecision. another question was fired causing the plaintiff to reply, “I do not know.”

*What do you mean, “You do not know? You are a rabbi; you must know the answer.”

Nathan Lewin, who represented Goldman in the hearing, could take no more of this and wisely retorted, “Not every lawyer knows the answer to every legal question.”

In summation it would be fair to say that although the courtroom had all the excitement of a mausoleum on a slow day, witnesses recalled that although the Defense’s Talmudic arguments did not score any points, they were nonetheless humor-inducive.

Just like in the restraining order, Judge Aubrey Robinson ruled again in favor of Goldman in a decision rendered in April, 1982. The main attorneys for Dr. Goldman were Nathan Lewin and Dovi Butler; Dennis Rapps wrote the brief. The judge noted that the military failed to show any objective studies conveying that religious exemptions would erode morale in the military.

(To be continued)

Chodesh Tov – have a pleasant month!

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/chodesh-tov/jewish-practice-in-the-u-s-military-vi/2016/10/30/

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