For a long time a German Jew could not imagine serving in the Bundeswehr, Germany’s army. Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews, on Tuesday explained in an op-ed in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung why the Jewish soldiers serving in the Bundeswehr now deserve their own military pastoral care.
“Seventy years after the end of World War II, it’s time to once again establish a Jewish military chaplaincy in the Bundeswehr and to build on an old tradition,” Schuster wrote.
But things have now changed, he added: “Young Jews, of course, consider Germany to be their home.”
About 300 Jewish soldiers serve in the Bundeswehr today. Introducing military rabbis based on a treaty with the state, Schuster said, would enrich the “ethical and lifelong education” of all soldiers.
“News of extreme right-wing incidents or the suspicion of right-wing extremist networks in the Bundeswehr regularly frighten the public,” he explained. “How is order being established among the troup?”
“To expect from the Bundeswehr a morally impeccable attitude, as from the rest of society, would be unrealistic,” he continued, suggesting the Bundeswehr is a reflection of society, and the ‘citizen in uniform’ must live by principles which are based on inner guidance. Soldiers should be responsible and democratically minded citizens.
“But the Bundeswehr also attracts other people – people who like hierarchical structures as well as command and obedience. These are obviously not just citizens who value democratic values and want to realize them,” he wrote.
In Schuster’s view, adding Rabbis to the spiritual mix influencing young German soldiers would go a long way to influence these soldiers in a positive way.