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Journey of service leads chaplain to Navy

04 June 2020

From MC2 Kenneth RodriguezSantiago

A commitment to helping others led Lt. Emily Rosenzweig, recipient of the Navy's first Joshua Goldberg Award, to the sea service.

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Throughout the country and across the globe are a universal set of professions that stitch the fabric of civilization together. Cooks, plumbers, and electricians, just to name a few, can be found from the smallest towns to the largest metropolitan areas.

Cruising through the Pacific Ocean, the more than 300 Sailors assigned to USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) hold these same essential professions to keep the ship operational and to support the small, floating city. And just like any small town or large city ashore, the Navy has individuals who provide religious support and counseling services - Navy chaplains.

Lt. Emily Rosenzweig, deputy chaplain for Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) Nine, and currently underway aboard John Paul Jones, realized at the age of 15 she wanted to live a life of service to others. Growing up in Mount Vernon, a suburb of New York City, she first started her journey of service when she was ordained as a rabbi in 2006.

After being ordained, she worked in a synagogue in Columbus, Ohio, for five years. She liked the work but strived to do something different.

“I very much liked the people at the synagogue and the larger Jewish community of Columbus, but I felt like I wanted to have a broader exposure and impact,” said Rosenzweig. “One day I was looking at the rabbi’s professional newsletter and saw an announcement about the military needing Jewish chaplains. That’s when I knew this was my next step.”

Nine months after seeing the newsletter, Rosenzweig commissioned as a Navy chaplain in December 2011.

“Even though I am quick to share with others that people in the Navy have all sorts of economic, religious, political, and cultural backgrounds, I'm still surprised by the life stories individuals share with me,” said Rosenzweig. “At least once a week I find myself doing something rabbinical school did not prepare me for at all, and it's exactly what I wanted.”

Unlike Rosenzweig’s sole focus in her role as a rabbi prior to the Navy, the Navy Chaplain Corps represents more than 100 faiths across the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. She credits this diversity and variety as one of the most rewarding parts of her job.

“My favorite part of being a chaplain is helping people make connections to what is sacred,” said Rosenzweig. “In some cases that's facilitating religious practice, but more often it's helping people find meaning in their struggle or forgiveness for themselves or others.”

Rosenzweig’s passion to help her fellow shipmates with their spiritual needs has not gone unnoticed in the Chaplain Corps. During her time aboard John Paul Jones, Rosenzweig was awarded the Navy’s first Joshua Goldberg Award, May 18.

The Goldberg Award is named after Chaplain Joshua L. Goldberg. He was the Navy's third Jewish chaplain and the first commissioned during World War II. He was a major proponent of chaplains facilitating for the religious needs of their Sailors that they couldn't themselves perform. The award is given to an O-3 or O-4 chaplain who has shown excellence in that area of naval chaplaincy.

“I am honored to be chosen as the first ever winner of the Goldberg award,” said Rosenzweig. “To know that the work I’ve done to take care of my Sailors hasn’t gone unnoticed by my supervising chaplains is gratifying in itself.”

Capt. Michael Williams, U.S. Pacific Fleet chaplain, commented on the significance of Rosenzweig’s selection as the inaugural recipient of the Goldberg award.

“As the first award recipient, it is a significant and positive statement on Lt. Rosenzweig’s ministry accomplishments and future leadership potential,” said Williams. “It means she has proven herself as a professional Naval chaplain in an institutional setting, which demands a unique understanding and acceptance of working in a pluralistic and ecumenical religious environment.”

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