Lt. Emily Rosenzweig, the deputy chaplain for the Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) Nine, won the US Navy’s first Joshua Goldberg Award.
The Navy said Lt. Rosenzweig won the award because of her work with chaplains of all faiths to develop and support programs, activities and budgeting initiatives, showing true concern for the spiritual development of Sailors and Marines.
“I am honored to be chosen as the first ever winner of the Goldberg award. 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,” Lt. Rosenzweig said in a statement released by the Navy.
She was underway aboard the guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) when notified of her selection in a congratulatory email from Capt. Michael Williams, the U.S. Pacific Fleet chaplain, Rabbi Irv Elson, director of the Jewish Chaplains Council, and Capt. Charles E. Varsogea, executive assistant to the Chief of Navy Chaplains.
Varsogea said: “This award and others like it celebrate the work of chaplains who expertly manage to embrace both their own religious convictions and the sometimes very different needs of the people they serve.”
The Joshua Goldberg Award was created by the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) Jewish Chaplains Council to recognize chaplains that emulate Rabbi Goldberg’s passion for ministry to people of all faiths.
The namesake of the award is Joshua Louis Goldberg (January 6, 1896 – December 24, 1994) who was a Belarusian-born American rabbi. He was the first rabbi to be commissioned as a U.S. Navy chaplain in World War II, making him only the third to serve in the Navy in its history at that time.
Goldberg was the first to reach the rank of Navy Captain, equivalent to an Army Colonel, and he was the first to retire upon completion of a full active-duty career.
Captain Goldberg had an unusual military background for a U.S. Navy chaplain. He was drafted into the Russian army when he was a teenager, then deserted after the collapse of the Western Front.
He made his way to the United States and then enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served in an infantry unit in Europe during World War I.
After the war he returned to America to teach Hebrew and started rabbinical school studies in Manhattan. He was ordained in 1926 and accepted a position of rabbi at New York’s Astoria Center.
He made weekly visits to the Brooklyn Naval Hospital to visit service personnel during that time. At the outbreak of World War II, a doctor at the hospital suggested he become a Navy Chaplain and Goldberg volunteered to serve.
During World War II Goldberg conducted interfaith services, ensuring that American soldiers and sailors had places to worship, no matter their faith. He also developed a “practical field training manual” entitled, “Ministering to Jews in the Navy” for theological students being trained to serve as chaplains that was published in 1951.
Once the state of Israel was established, Goldberg was sent on a visit as a representative of the Chief of Naval Operations where he worked on matters that had important implications in the area of international understanding.
The Navy had no Jewish chaplain officially attached to the staff of the Chief of Chaplains. Goldberg—as the senior Jewish chaplain in the Navy—served in an unofficial capacity as the Jewish representative to the staff.
Chaplain Goldberg traveled the world over and spoke 6 languages, English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, French and German. “Josh” as he was known in the Navy, served everyone and brought them together and created an esprit de corps which transcended religious differences.
“My life in the Navy has been a saga of deep spiritual satisfaction. The Navy Chaplain Corps motto was “cooperation without compromise”, and that’s what it was like. Rabbis, Priests, and Ministers went out together, worked together, and spoke on the same platform. Priests and Protestant Ministers helped arrange Passover services throughout the world. It was not a lessening of stature for us to help each other. We lifted each other up, and helped preserve the dignity of each other’s religion. We were practicing “ecumenism” long before anyone had heard of the word,” said Goldberg as he reflected on his life in the Navy.
He retired from the U.S. Navy on January 1, 1960 and continued to support military personnel in many ways, traveling at his own expense to Naples for several years to lead services for the Jewish High Holy Days for overseas Jewish military personnel.
He also led the international meeting of the Jewish War Veterans in 1962. The delegation traveled from New York, stopping in London, Paris, Rome and Israel.
Goldberg won numerous awards and accolades for his tireless efforts.
He received the Frank Weil Award for “distinguished contributions to the Armed Services” in 1958.
That same year, Goldberg received the Gold Medal of Merit from the Jewish War Veterans of the United States.
His other awards included the Four Chaplains Award in 1956 and a “Medal for International Cooperation” from the French Government . He received the honorary Rank of Commander in the French military.
He received the first “Person of the Year” award from the New York Police Department Shomrim Society in 1959.
The Captain Joshua L. Goldberg Memorial Chapel was dedicated in his honor in 1995 at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Washington, D.C.
Upon retirement, he lived in West Palm Beach, FL, and wrote a weekly column called “Wisdom of the heart” in the Palm Beach Post.
Goldberg died on December 24, 1994 at age 98 and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on January 6, 1995.
He was married to Henrietta C. Davis, a former R.H. Donnelly executive. He had two daughters – Josephine and Naomi from his previous marriage to Eleanor Rottman. When Goldberg died, he and Henrietta had four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Much of Chaplain Goldberg’s family died during World War II, including his mother and younger sister who died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
The work that Captain Goldberg did to create interfaith cooperation continues and lives on through Chaplains, including Lt. Emily Rosenzweig.
“I am grateful to all the chaplains, the JWB and the leaders of the Chaplain Corps who chose to highlight the legacy of Chaplain Goldberg through the establishment of this award,” said Rosenzweig.