Sunday, October 31, 2010

“A small segment of our country is bearing the burden of these wars,’’

This is a good example how one person can show extraordinary LEADERSHIP, and by doing so, serve as an example for others on how things SHOULD BE.....

Thanks to Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe for a great story and thanks to Rabbi Raphael Kanter for putting in place a great idea he saw in practice elsewhere.....If more remembered what was important, like they do, we would be a better nation.

Kevin Cullen
Remembering the fallen of our forgotten wars
By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / October 31, 2010

NEW BEDFORD — The cantor, Nathaniel Schudrich, carried the Torah down the center aisle of the chapel yesterday, and the people stepped from the pews to touch it, gently, like an old friend.

They said “A Prayer for Our Country,’’ the people of Tifereth Israel, and then Charles Gorfinkle, the president of the congregation, stood up.

Sometimes Dr. Daniel Nussbaum reads the names, but yesterday it was Charlie Gorfinkle’s turn. He put the list of names on a lectern and began to read.

“Marine Corporal Kristopher D. Greer, 25, of Ashland City, Tennessee,’’ Charlie Gorfinkle said.

Rabbi Raphael Kanter got the idea a few years ago while attending a service at the Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York.

“In the middle of the service, someone in the congregation stood up and just started reading the names of the servicemen and women who died most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan,’’ Rabbi Kanter was saying.

“Army Private First Class Bradley D. Rappuhn, 24, of Grand Ledge, Michigan,’’ Charlie Gorfinkle said.

Rabbi Kanter sat in the synagogue in New York and was profoundly moved, listening to the names, the ages, the hometowns of young Americans who died so far away, in forgotten wars, wars forgotten even as they still rage.

“Army Sergeant Andrew C. Nicol, 23, of Kensington, New Hampshire,’’ Charlie Gorfinkle said.

“It was simple, it was dignified, and I thought it was so necessary,’’ Rabbi Kanter said.

Rabbi Kanter came back to Tifereth Israel in New Bedford and got up at the Shabbat service and explained what he wanted to do.

“Marine Private First Class Vincent E. Gammone, the third, 19, of Christiana, Tennessee,’’ Charlie Gorfinkle said.

So the rabbi began reading the names of the war dead.

“Marine Lance Corporal Kevin M. Cornelius, 20, of Ashtabula, Ohio,’’ Charlie Gorfinkle said.

Many people in the congregation opposed the wars. But no one opposed honoring and remembering the young people sent to fight them. After a while, the rabbi asked members of the congregation to take turns reading the names of those most recently killed. They do it every week.

“Marine Corporal Max W. Donahue, 23, of Highlands Ranch, Colorado,’’ Charlie Gorfinkle said.

Somebody asked whether it was appropriate to read the names at bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah services, when the young people of the congregation celebrate their coming of age in their faith. Those are joyous occasions.

“Rabbi Kanter said it was important that we read the names, even at bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs,’’ Cantor Schudrich said. “Our young people need to hear these names and honor the people whose names are read. So often, I’m struck by the ages of our military people who die in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are so young.’’

“Army Sergeant Faith R. Hinkley, 23, of Colorado Springs, Colorado,’’ Charlie Gorfinkle said.

Rabbi Kanter said his congregation’s simple act of remembrance is born of a conviction that the wars are too invisible. Most Americans don’t have a loved one serving. Most Americans go through every day not giving the wars a passing thought.

“A small segment of our country is bearing the burden of these wars,’’ Rabbi Kanter said. “Why is it when our veterans come home, their care is so poor? If the children of the rich and powerful were fighting these wars, it wouldn’t be the case. In fact, we wouldn’t be fighting these wars. I think the draft should come back. It’s unconscionable that we’re not sharing the burden of war equally. I wonder how quickly we would go to war, and whether we would prosecute wars the same way, if we had a draft, if the burden was shared.’’

So, in this, the most political of seasons, when politicians talk about everything but the wars that are bankrupting the nation and robbing us of so many fine young men and women, a congregation at a synagogue in New Bedford reminds itself every week what honor and sacrifice really mean.

They pause, they listen, they remember.

“Army Master Sergeant Jared N. Van Aalst, 34, of Laconia, New Hampshire,’’ Charlie Gorfinkle said.

Charlie Gorfinkle finished reading but, for a moment, his eyes lingered on the small, thumbnail photos next to each of the names. The faces were young and fresh, and you could see Charlie Gorfinkle looking at them, not so much as if he knew them, but that he wished he had.

Charlie Gorfinkle exhaled, and then he said, “Let us pray for the day when there are no longer any names to read.’’

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company

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