JWB Jewish Chaplains Council®, a signature program of JCC Association of North America, recently awarded scholarships to two Hebrew Union College (HUC) rabbinical students. These students are chaplain candidates in the military reserve and have demonstrated enthusiasm for military chaplaincy through their endeavors. Funding for the scholarships, which is to be used for rabbinical school tuition and fees, was made possible by a generous grant from the Irving S. Weinstein Philanthropic Funds.
The Weinstein scholarships are the outgrowth of a comprehensive study JWB commissioned in 2019 to increase the number of rabbinical students and rabbis recruited into the armed forces. By removing financial impediments to rabbinical studies and ordination, the scholarships promote interest and enrollment in chaplain candidate programs in the military. The scholarship recipients will serve as full-time, active duty military chaplains for a minimum of three years following ordination.
Jerry Weinstein, trustee of the Weinstein Philanthropic Funds, stated, “My uncle, Irving Weinstein, a veteran of World War II, proudly served in the U.S. Army Air Corps and was stationed in Savannah, Georgia, where he likely was the only Jewish man on the base. He was embraced by a local Jewish family and from those days forward, he became intensely proud of his faith and the U.S. military. We know of no better way of honoring him and his values but through this scholarship program. We wish the current recipients well in their journey, and we are hopeful that knowledge about the scholarship’s benefactor will further inspire them.”
Fourth-year student, Elias Chajet, is completing a MA in Jewish Education and will be entering his fourth year of rabbinical studies next year. A Virginia native, Chajet holds a bachelor’s degree in Judaic studies from Hofstra University and was an education fellow for the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Mississippi, before beginning rabbinical studies at HUC. He is a Jewish Center for Justice seminary fellow and a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy in the Chaplain Candidate Program.
“I am honored to receive the Weinstein Scholarship,” shared Chajet. “The Weinstein family’s dedication to and support of Jews who serve in the US military, specifically chaplains, is a true blessing. With their financial support, I can focus on my studies rather than worrying about where next semester’s tuition payment is coming from. Upon ordination and supersession to active duty, I hope to make the Weinstein family, my family, and our HUC community proud with my service to our nation. I pray that my service can contribute to the quest of forming a more perfect union.”
Third-year rabbinical student Matt Derrenbacher earned a B.A. in religious studies from Nazareth College of Rochester and a master’s degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He is a chaplain candidate for the United States Air Force and holds two student pulpits at Reform congregations—Temple Beth-El in Brownsville, Texas, and Temple B’nai Israel in Petoskey, Michigan—where he leads services, provides chaplaincy services, leads Torah study and adult education sessions, and teaches b’nai mitzvah students. He attended Officer Training School for the United States Air Force during the summer of 2020.
“This scholarship means the world to me,” said Derrenbacher. “My goal for my future rabbinate is to help foster an excitement for Judaism and Jewish living. As a military rabbi and chaplain, I will have the privilege of bringing Jewish life to Jewish soldiers wherever they may be – celebrating Shabbatot and Chagim with them, connecting Jewish values to their military experience, and giving them a taste of home and a sense of Jewish community. As a military chaplain, I will be responsible for being chaplain to all soldiers of every or no faith. This means that I not only have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with them and bring comfort and healing, but I will also have the honor of acting as an ambassador for the Jewish People in these interactions. Each interaction is a sacred opportunity to build bridges by engaging in interfaith dialogue and interactions in an incredibly unique environment. This scholarship helps me to make all of this possible by helping to fund my education.”
For information about JWB Jewish Chaplains Council® and U.S. Army chaplain candidate scholarships, visit: https://jcca.org/what-we-do/jwb/