Navy Chaplain Reflects on Ancestors’ Journey during Sukkot
Sailors and Marines on the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) celebrated the Jewish festival of Sukkot Wednesday, Oct. 15.
U.S. Navy Chaplain Yonatan Warren, assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), led the ceremony on Germantown’s flight deck. Warren is one of 12 active duty Rabbis for the Navy and Marine Corps.
“Sukkot is the festival of booths and is also known as the time of our happiness,” said Warren. “The celebration follows Yom Kippur, which is known as the Day of Atonement and is a reminder that a full religious experience is not just repenting, but also having a positive experience where you take in family, friends, good conversation and good food.”
The attendees began the celebration by building a traditional Sukkah, a booth used to celebrate Sukkot and to honor the heritage of Jewish Sailors and Marines.
“The booths used in Sukkot are there to remember the expeditionary mindset of the children of Israel after leaving Egypt,” said Warren. “For 40 years they lived in temporary shelters that needed to be put up at night and taken down in the morning. As a result, we do it every year to honor their journey.”
Once completed, everyone gathered inside the booth for conversation, ceremonial wine and traditional Jewish challah bread.
“To me this was an important reminder of my upbringing,” said Marine 1st Lt. Ari Schiff, assigned to the 31st MEU. “Rabbi Warren really went out of his way to give us this experience. I haven’t really had the opportunity to fully celebrate Sukkot in the past few years, so this was great.”
According to Warren, giving deployed Sailors and Marines the time to practice their religion will give them the strength they need to make it through difficult times.
“Trying to find the right time during deployments can be difficult,” said Warren. “Setting up ceremonies like this in the Navy and Marine Corps is not easy, but it’s not supposed to be easy. If it were, it wouldn’t mean as much to people.”
Germantown is currently underway conducting joint forces exercises in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.