Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Salute to Rabbi Alexander Goode

Today, Jewish Treats brings you the sad but heroic story of Rabbi Lieutenant Alexander D. Goode.

Ordained by Hebrew Union College in 1937, Rabbi Goode took his first position in Marion, Indiana, and then served as the rabbi of Beth Israel Synagogue in York, Pennsylvania (while earning a Ph.D. in Oriental Languages from John Hopkins University). In 1942, he was accepted as a military chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces.

In January 1943, Rabbi Goode began his first, and only, naval voyage aboard the USAT Dorchester, which was transporting over 900 soldiers to Britain via Greenland. He was one of four chaplains on board (along with Methodist Reverend George L. Fox, Roman Catholic Priest John P. Washington and Reformed Church in America Reverend Clark V. Poling).

Just after midnight on February 3, 1943, a German U-boat torpedoed the Dorchester. Tragically, not only was the ship sinking fast, but there weren't enough lifeboats or life jackets. Within half an hour of being hit, the Dorchester sank with 672 men still aboard. And while survivors had a horrid tale to tell (of bodies freezing in the icy water), they also spoke with awe and respect for the four chaplains.

In all the chaos, Rabbi Goode, Reverend Fox, Father Washington and Reverend Poling remained calm as they comforted and organized the soldiers and gave away their own life jackets and gloves. Numerous survivors reported that the last thing they saw before the ship sank was the four chaplains standing on deck, arm in arm, praying.

Rabbi Goode was 32 years old and was survived by his wife, Teresa (a niece of Al Jolson) and his daughter Rosalie.

In 1948, an act of Congress designated February 3rd as Four Chaplains Day.

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