Chap Ernest Lapp Cam Ranh Bay 1967

Wednesday, Feb. 24 / 4:00 pm / Lovejoy 215

Ronit Stahl, Washington University in St. Louis

The 1960s were a time of rupture, with the Vietnam War riveting and ripping apart the American nation. If Vietnam generated a “crisis of conscience” for many Americans, it created a particular conundrum for American rabbis. Abraham Joshua Heschel’s declaration that victory in Vietnam would mean “moral defeat” tested the rabbis and rabbinical students who donned uniforms to serve soldiers as military chaplains. To whom were rabbis obligated–individual conscience, the Jewish community, the American state, or conscripted servicemen? This talk examines how American rabbis grappled with the “crisis of conscience” generated by Vietnam and what it reveals about Jewish identities, politics, and obligations in the 1960s.