By: A1C Noah Sinai USAF
Being a young, enlisted, Jewish, military member has come with a whole set of struggles, from leadership not understanding religious accommodation to fighting for Basic Allowance for Subsistence at a dining facility that mainly served pork. However, what I have learned is that the support in the Jewish military community far outweighs the struggle.
When I joined the military, I came in already knowing Ch, Captain Levy Pekar. Anytime I needed anything, whether it be a Jewish need or personal advice, I knew I could count on him. Thankfully, before I left for Basic Military Training (BMT), Captain Pekar got me in touch with Ch, Captain Rappeport. This expanded my support system in the military before I was even at BMT. As a young airman, let alone a recruit, it is scarce to have the full support of two captains. I was fortunate for this.
Furthermore, at BMT, I continued to expand the members I knew in the community. I met airmen who I still speak to today, over two years later. We are all able to still communicate and share our experiences in our career field and discuss being Jewish at our respective bases. Having these connections today helps us all learn about other career fields and how they work. After BMT and Tech School, I headed to Osan AB, Republic of Korea. There I was fortunate to have Ch, Major Gary Davidson. He immediately welcomed me into the fantastic community he has built there and made me feel like I had a family there when I knew very few people and was 6,526 miles away from home. Having this support made life on the ROK much easier. I had a mentor to go to for any advice I needed, whether it be professional or religious. Additionally, with the help of Rabbi Davidson, I was able to speak about being Jewish in the military to a wide range of military members at a Wing level event. Having this opportunity as an Airman First Class at the time was something I would have never been able to have without the support of the Jewish Community at Osan.
Most recently, I was fortunate enough to become a multi-base lay leader as a Senior Airman and to attend Aleph’s annual conference. At this conference, I was able to meet more Jewish Department of Defense members and continue to expand the support I have received from the community. I received my first set of tefillin; I met other lay leaders like Captain Shmuel Bushwick, Captain Henry Baron, and 1LT Alexis Samloff, who were able to discuss how they work as lay leaders and what they do for their communities with me. With the knowledge gained, I was ready to head back to RAF Lakenheath and establish the Jewish community between Lakenheath and Mildenhall.
Overall, the Jewish military community has been a true blessing for me. I have met so many incredible people (many of whom I did not list in this article) and have learned so much about Judaism, myself, and the military. For any other young enlisted members, I encourage you to learn from and engage in the community, become a lay leader, and practice; however, best fits you. The best advice I can give is to let your leadership know as early as possible about any conflicts, whether it is keeping Kosher, having an upcoming holiday, or explaining Shabbos. If you ever need help, reach out, the members of this community are always there for each other.
Originally printed in the Tishrei 2020 issue of The Jewish American Warrior.