One Small Step

Joining a congregation’s men’s club led one man to become a leader for Jewish soldiers in Afghanistan.

by William Becker, Ph.D.

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Army soldier reading bible

There are various inspirational phrases that start with the words “one small step.” These phrases generally reflect on how one small step can lead to much bigger things. What follows is a Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs success story.

A young man moved to the Norfolk, Virginia, area from Chicago with his family about ten years ago. The family had been members of a Reform temple, and were considered “twice-a-year Jews.” The gentleman had a very minimal Jewish background and never had a bar mitzvah.

He was convinced to join Rodef Sholom Temple in Norfolk and became involved in its men’s club. He was a participant in the first men’s club Hebrew literacy class using the Sholom Aleichem book. He also put on tefillin for the first time in his life, learned how to lift and tie a Torah, how to take an aliyah, and other Jewish customs. He became an adult bar mitzvah at the synagogue and was able to read Torah at his daughter’s bat mitzvah.

A little over a year ago, he left for a one year deployment to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He was a civilian contractor working as a senior intelligence analyst at a forward operating base in Kandahar Provence. He found that there were a number of Jewish soldiers and civilian contractors at the base for whom there were no Jewish activities or services. He saw a group of Jewish men who needed to be involved in Jewish life. He volunteered to be their lay leader. He applied to the Jewish Welfare Board, and after completing a very long questionnaire, was accepted as a Jewish lay leader for his base. He received a shipment of prayer books from his synagogue and various supplies from the JWB. He started to conduct Shabbat services every Friday night and helped the soldiers celebrate Chanukkah, Purim and Passover.

Thus, as a result of one man’s positive interaction with the Rodef Sholom Temple and its men’s club and exposure to the FJMC Hebrew literacy program, a group of soldiers in Afghanistan had enhanced Jewish experiences.

Recently, this gentleman, Rick Goldblatt, was honored at the Seaboard Region’s Annual Tidewater Area Blue Yarmulka Man of the Year Breakfast.

So, the next time someone asks you what the FJMC and its constituent men’s clubs do and if they make a difference, please tell them this story.

William Becker, Ph.D. is president of the Seaboard Region, FJMC.