Recovered Torah will be used on the USS George Washington
New York, NY. Updated from May 25, 2011. In a moving Fleet Week ceremony aboard the USS Iwo Jima yesterday, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC) presented a Torah to the Navy for use aboard the USS George Washington. The Torah was recovered during a criminal investigation by the NYPD and the Manhattan DA’s office. The JCRC was given the responsibility of returning the Torah to an appropriate religious use by the courts. (See a slide show of the ceremony here and a U.S. Navy article on the arrival of the “New York Police Department Torah” aboard the USS George Washington here.)
At the ceremony, Richard Janvey, Vice President of the JCRC recalled his father, who served aboard an aircraft carrier and sailed into dangerous waters in the Pacific during some of the legendary battles of World War II. He explained the significance of the gift, saying,” These memories are present for me this Fleet Week and on the eve of Memorial Day. It is so fitting to present this Torah which will have an honored place on the USS George Washington. It will serve as a significant anchor for sailors onboard, and be another link in our long chain of connection.”
Today’s presentation was made through the JWB Jewish Chaplaincy Council’s Torahs for Our Troops program. Rear Admiral (ret.) Rabbi Harold Robinson, its Director, noted that the Jewish Chaplaincy Council selected the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group because it is deployed off of Japan, further than any other carrier. “Religious services connect soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen to their homes and families, especially when they are far from home.”
The JCRC’s Richard Janvey saw another significant symbolism. “Mose Sexais, President of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, wrote a letter of congratulations to President George Washington that subtly confirmed the status of Jews in the newly established United States. On August 17, 1790, President Washington replied and said:
For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
Janvey continued, “President George Washington outlined the basic freedoms of Jews in the United States. And we remember those today.
Today we also recall the men and women aboard the USS Iwo Jima, the USS George Washington, the men and women in military service, the NYPD and the men and women of our system of justice who continue to protect the freedoms granted to all Americans and who allow us in the words of President Washington to sit in safety…and where none shall make us afraid.”
The ceremony was hosted by Capt. Chasse, Commander of the USS Iwo Jima, a LHC Carrier. Presenting the Torah to Rear Admiral Herman A. Shelanski, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 10, Michael Miller, Executive Vice President and CEO of the JCRC observed, “The Book of Proverbs describes the Torah as a “Tree of Life for those who hold fast to it.” May this Torah inspire and give comfort to the Jewish men and women of the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group and may this Torah symbolize our deepest wish that G-d protect all of them as they protect our homes, our values and our freedoms.”