Photo Credit: Revah Hafakot
IDF paratrooper Joe Brickman and his grandfather, retired U.S. Army Col. (ret.) Jacob Goldstein

When 35 soldiers from the haredi Hetz paratrooper company received their red berets Thursday in a ceremony at Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill – there was an American Lubavitcher Hassid among them.

Among the new paratroopers was Joe Brickman, a native of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, NY, and a grandson of Colonel Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, former chief chaplain of the New York Army National Guard. Rabbi Goldstein made a special trip to Israel in order to attend the ceremony and congratulate his grandson and fellow soldiers.

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The ceremony took place at Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill, a national memorial site commemorating the valor and heroism of the paratroopers who fought to liberate Jerusalem during the Six Day War.

Hetz is the Hebrew acronym for “Haredi Tzanhanim” – Haredi Paratroopers. The unit was founded at the start of 2017 following the success of the haredi Netzach Yehuda (Nahal Haredi) Brigade.

The former chief chaplain enlisted after encouragement from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, o.b.m. He was seen as a trailblazer: the first soldier to receive a U.S. military exemption from shaving his beard.

“We are thrilled with the successful integration of a haredi company into the paratroopers,” said rabbis from the Nahal Haredi organization who escort the soldiers through the years of army service, and beyond. “Hetz paratroopers prove it is, indeed, possible to serve in combat units in the IDF without compromising on an authentic haredi lifestyle.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.