Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America

Letter to the Superintendent of the Air Force Academy

Spring 2005


Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa, Jr.
Superintendent, U.S. Air Force Academy
2304 Cadet Drive, Suite 342
USAFA CO 80840-5001

Dear General Rosa:


I am writing to you on behalf of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, the oldest active veterans group in the United States, concerning recent reports of unwarranted evangelism and religious harassment at the Academy. There can be no place at our service academies for activity of this nature, and such actions must immediately be condemned and prevented from recurring. Significant penalties must attach to this kind of un-American behavior.

This year the Jewish community is celebrating 350 years of Jewish life in America. The first Jews who arrived in New Amsterdam fought for the right to serve their community by standing guard with the other citizens of the new colony. They began the tradition of Jewish service to the military that has been sustained over these last 350 years and still continues today at our service academies and throughout our armed forces. This is as much a reflection of their ability to practice their religion unhampered in the course of that service as much as any other factor.

The officers of today and tomorrow, who are being trained at these academies to lead troops are of many ethnic and religious backgrounds, and must understand the diversity of those whom they will command. America's military, like the country itself, derives its strength from the contributions of its diverse population. Appreciation and respect for that cultural diversity is a sine qua non required for those who will lead the troops.

The incidents at the Air Force academy, which included harassment of Jewish cadets, the sending out of a letter by one of the academy's top officers to tell them that they are "accountable first to God," and the hanging in the football team's locker room of a banner announcing, "I am a Christian first and last…I am a member of Team Jesus Christ," have all contributed to an atmosphere of intolerance and discrimination.

This atmosphere of intolerance must not be allowed to exist any longer. Freedom to practice one's religion unhampered is a cornerstone of our democracy. Throughout our history, people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds have answered the call to serve in the military. It is therefore of paramount importance that those who will lead our troops, the graduates of our military academies, respect and enforce the cultural and religious diversity of our society.

While you and I may exhibit pride in our religions, there is no place in the military or in society at large for bigotry, religious favoritism, anti-Semitism, or anti-any other religion. Those who engage in such activities must be called to answer for their actions, and the atmosphere that allows these incidents to occur must be changed. All those applying to become part of the elite corps of cadets must be well aware before admission that incidents of discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated and will be cause for punishment or dismissal at the academy.

We look forward to hearing from you concerning how you intend to address these issues.
Sincerely,
Louis Abramson
National Commander


CC:
President of the United States
Secretary of Defense
Secretary of the Air Force
House Armed Services Committee
Senate Armed Services Committee
Joint Chiefs of Staff

 

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