Thursday, June 1

Air Force to host Shavuos Services

The Air Force is hosting a Shavuos celebration in Great Falls!

Rabbi Schecter will lead Shavuos services on Thursday, June 1; Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday, June 2; Shabbat morning services as well as Havdallah and discussion on June 3 and Hebrew school on June 4.

Rabbi Schechter has strong ties to the Electric City. Her grandmother is a life-long Great Falls resident and her mother is a Great Falls native. Her father, Rabbi Phil Schecter, was stationed in Great Falls as an Air Force chaplain in the mid-1960s.

“He (my father) has always spoken in glowing terms about his experience in the Air Force, so it just seemed obvious that I would join the same branch of service,” said Schecter in an Air Force interview last year.

Rabbi Schecter is stationed at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California. A native of New York, she received her certificate of Rabbinic Ordination from Hebrew Union College in 2003.

Before entering the rabbinate, Schecter spent her first year of college abroad on a kibbutz program in Israel, and then attended college in Kyoto where she conducted research on the history of the Jewish community of Japan and Israeli-Japanese trade relations. Wanting to strengthen ties between Israel and Japan, she worked for a time for the Consulate of Israel in Tokyo as an interpreter for visiting delegations from Israel.

In 1996 Schechter enrolled in rabbinic school, and over a seven-year period she received a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters, a Master of Arts in Jewish Education, and was ordained Rabbi from HUC. She was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the Reserves in September 2003 and entered active duty service in January of 2004. Chaplain Schechter is the first female Rabbi to serve in the United States Air Force, and for a time was the only Active Duty female Rabbi in the Department of Defense.

Schecter was inspired to serve in the military because of 9/11.

“Clearly, supporting our troops was the best way to help our country,” Chaplain Schechter said. “The experience has gone above and beyond my expectations.”

Chaplain Schechter explained the major difference of serving as a rabbi in the civilian sector versus in the military is that the majority of civilians being served are Jewish, while serving as a chaplain in the military, it’s the complete opposite.

“You join [the military] because you want to be present for that small number of Jews who are here, and you want to be there for everyone else as well,” she said.

For Chaplain Schechter, the most rewarding aspects of being a military chaplain are job satisfaction, being there for those she serves and the military lifestyle.

Serving the needs of everyone regardless of background or religious beliefs, military chaplains are not only spiritual leaders but also serve as a clearinghouse for information and referral services at the base.

Chaplains assist service members of various military services with the unique challenges of military life: deployment, certain types of family stress unique to the military lifestyle, marital issues, depression, etc.

In addition to leading services, Chaplain Schecter will be available for one-on-one meetings with congregants; active duty and otherwise; while she is in Great Falls.


Bill said...

These kind of religious events, and the tax-payer funded chaplains, regardless of their particular religion, should not be promoted by the United States government. In my opinion, they violate the separation of church and state.

Treasure State Jew said...


Are you saying that the military should not offer chaplaincy for our troops? If so, I think you are way off the mark.

There is a big difference between promoting a particular religion and offering pastoral options for those that our government has asked to risk their lives for our country.

Chaplains, of all faiths, provide a great service for our soldiers. By providing that service, the government is not creating a national religion or blending the line separating church and State. They are caring for the mental and physical health of those that serve.

Paul Zallek said...

It does seem fishy that religious leaders can get government paychecks funded by taxpayers.

Paul Zallek
A Treasure State Catholic

ZenPanda said...

The military provides comfort to all members, spouses and family members’ regardless of religious orientation.

If anyone thinks that TSJ here is promoting this event as part of the government you are wrong. He is doing this community a favor by informing them of the opportunity to practice their faith with the Rabbi just as if I said a Cardinal or Bishop was coming to Malmstrom.

Chaplains SERVE the military needs out of choice and are not ENDORSED by the government. They are doing their work within the government just as the soldier, sailors, airmen and officers are.

Treasure State Jew said...

Look; military servicemen and servicewomen are asked to do hard, physically and mentally challenging jobs. They are asked to put their lives on the line for us. They are asked to separate themselves from their families for months, if not years, at a time.

All of this is stressful. Military chaplains help our servicemen and servicewoman, and their families, through extremely trying times and circumstances. It has nothing to do with promoting religion, it has to do with caring for the health of our troops.

Anyone arguing that the government is promoting religion, or violating constitutional separations, is ignoring facts and practicing sophistry. It just ain't so.

Bill said...

Why can't the same service be provided through some kind of auxiliary, privately funded organization?

ZenPanda said...

Bill- why would it need to be? These airmen are entitled access to their faith. Chaple on MAFB is for ALL to practice.

Byrd said...

The military chaplains have common experience and understanding of what the servicemen and women go through and live with. A civilian organization might not be able to handle some of the things that might come up, like telling a wife/husband that their husband/wife has been killed in action.

My family ended up in Great Falls due to the AF and we stayed after Dad retired.

david said...

I would also like to point out that while civilian houses of worship are often available to military personnel, that is not always the case. Military personnel are sometimes stationed in areas that are either foreign, too remote, or otherwise not able or willing to offer such civilian-based churches and such.