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PC Welcomes Jewish Chaplains Monument Tour

Providence, R.I.--Providence College will host a tour stop for a national plaque to fallen American Jewish military chaplains on Monday, October 3.

The stop is part of a 10-state, 25-location regional tour on the way to the plaque’s permanent location, Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where a monument dedication ceremony will take place on October 24.

The effort to establish and erect a permanent monument to Jewish military chaplains has been led by Ken Kraetzer ’79 of White Plains, N.Y., a leader in College alumni activities in the New York City area, and Rear Admiral Harold Robinson, U.S. Navy (Retired), director of the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council.

The Jewish Chaplains Monument Tour began in South Carolina in mid-September. The tour is intended to provide an opportunity to view the plaque for citizens who may not have the opportunity to visit it in Arlington, as well as to educate the public about the service of military chaplains.  

The plaque, which will be on display in Providence City Hall earlier in the day, will be available for viewing on campus from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in Slavin Center ’64 Hall on October 3. Arrangements are being coordinated by the Department of Military Science and its Army ROTC Patriot Battalion. 

There will be a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. that will include prayers, a short speaking program, and a remembrance of three PC alumni who were killed in the line of duty while serving as military chaplains: Rev. Valmore G. Savignac ’32, Rev. Anthony E. Czubak ’32, and Rev. Leo P. Craig, O.P. ’35. 

Kraetzer, whose father served in World War II and who hosts a weekly radio show on veterans and the military, developed the idea for a permanent monument to Jewish military chaplains several years ago. During a visit to Arlington National Cemetery’s Chaplains Hill in search of the names of the three PC alumni chaplains memorialized there, he said he remembered the story of the “Four Chaplains.”

The Four Chaplains--a Catholic priest, two Protestant ministers, and a rabbi--died heroically when their troop ship, The Dorchester, was torpedoed in the north Atlantic Ocean in 1943. The four were inducted into the “Hall of Heroes” in PC’s Feinstein Institute for Public Service. 

Kraetzer found the names of the priest and ministers at the monuments on Arlington’s Chaplains Hill, but not the rabbi, Alexander Goode. There are monuments erected for World War I, Protestant, and Catholic chaplains.

Kraetzer then contacted the Jewish War Veterans of the United States about the oversight. That group put him in touch with Admiral Robinson, who suggested and supported the idea for a fourth monument at Arlington to Jewish military chaplains. 

National effort ends happily

That decision led to what essentially has evolved into a two-year national campaign spearheaded by Kraetzer and Robinson. It has involved the Sons of the American Legion Squadron in Pelham, N.Y., of which Kraetzer is a member, the Jewish War Veterans, the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance, the Jewish Federations of North America, and, ultimately, the U.S. Congress.

In May, the House of Representatives and the Senate voted unanimous consent for the memorial, as new monuments at Arlington require congressional approval. The final hurdle was cleared in June with approval from the U.S. Fine Arts Commission. 

Kraetzer noted that several people played major roles in facilitating the congressional approval process. They included Fay A. Rozovsky, J.D., M.P.H. ’73 & ’08Hon., president of the National Alumni Association, and her husband, Lorne; U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Jeffrey Padwa, City of Providence solicitor. 

The plaque that ultimately will rest in Arlington contains the names of 14 known Jewish military chaplains who died while on active duty in several wars and conflicts from World War II through the Cold War era, including the Vietnam War. 

Kraetzer, who is a past president of the PC Alumni Club of New York, said he is delighted that the effort to establish a permanent monument has been realized. In particular, he said it has been rewarding to listen to family members of the deceased chaplains who may have lost a family member more than a half-century ago. 

“They are so heartfelt, so appreciative. That’s what makes it worthwhile,” he said. 

The monument dedication in Arlington on October 24 is open to the public. It will take place at 1:00 p.m. at the Memorial Amphitheater and will be preceded by a wreath presentation at the adjacent Tomb of the Unknowns at 10:15 a.m.

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