By Retired Chaplain Col. Jacob Goldstein
As I write this column, tectonic shifts and actions are occurring in our country. Our daily way of life has changed for many Americans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our schools are shut, synagogues are closed to prayer and other functions, people are confined to their homes, and our lives are turned upside-down in ways that are difficult to describe. How can we not go to synagogue to pray, attend a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a wedding, etc.? I wish to share with you an event that changed my life during my 38 years as the longest serving Chaplain in the U.S. armed forces.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I, along with millions of other Americans, was engaged in my daily routine. In an instant, our lives were changed by coordinated terrorist attacks, one at the World Trade Center in New York City. That day I received a message on my pager from the Headquarters of the New York National Guard, where I served as the Chaplain for the Joint Forces Command. The message called me and other unit ministry teams to the World Trade Center site. I saw the horrors of deaths and destruction in an area where hundreds were killed in the blink of an eye. The lives of all Americans were changed from that day forward. No longer were we the open society that existed up to the moment of those attacks. A new way of life started. There were additional security scanners in buildings, more intense airport screenings, and security guards in many buildings with questions asked of all who entered.
This brings me to where we are now in our lives, which have turned upside-down. Eventually after 9/11, our lives returned to a new normal as we adapted to a changed reality. Our country returned to its success, until this pandemic hit the entire world. Just as the Lord assured Moses in the desert, “Do not be fearful and tremble, for I the Lord am with you,” place yourself in the hands of Hakodesh Boruchhu, the Lord above, and continue to do good deeds, be charitable to one another, and engage in prayer as we Jews have always done in times of distress and danger.
I will conclude with an incident that happened to me at the World Trade Center site. On my third day there with almost no sleep, a fellow chaplain came to me and handed me a Yarmulke someone had found in the rubble. Instinctively I turned it over to see if it had an inscription inside. It said, “The wedding reception of Steven to Melanie, Sept. 10, 2001.” Imagine light in the darkness, a religious symbol for all to see. May the Lord guide us in all our deeds for good, heal those who are ill, and comfort the families who have lost dear ones during this time.
Volume 74. Number 2. 2020