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Chaplains on Hall of Fame medal

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The 2014 Jewish-American Hall of Fame medal honors U.S. Jewish chaplains.

On one side is Rabbi Jacob Frankel, the first U.S. Jewish chaplain. On the other side is Rabbi Alexander Goode along with the other members the immortal Four Chaplains of World War II fame.

One side of the medal features

One side of the medal features Rabbi Jacob Frankel, the first U.S. Jewish Chaplain

The other side

The other side of the medal features Rabbi Alexander Goode with the other members of the Four Chaplains

The medal is designed by Eugene Daub, who has designed seven of the last eight medals in this long-running series.

Issued in very small limited editions, these approximately 2-inch, 3-ounce art medals are available on a first come-first served basis in bronze (maximum of 150 pieces) for $45, pure silver (maximum of 85) for $200, and gold-plated pure silver (maximum of 35) for $250.

Prices will be discounted by 20 percent if you mention Numismatic News when you order.

Orders should be sent to the non-profit Jewish-American Hall of Fame, 5189 Jeffdale Ave., Woodland Hills, CA 91364, or call (818) 225-1348.

Rabbi Frankel (1808-1887) was commissioned a chaplain in 1862.

At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Jews could not serve as chaplains in the U.S. armed forces.

Jews enlisted in both the Union and Confederate armies. On the Union side Congress adopted a bill in July 1861 that permitted each regiment’s commander, on a vote of his field officers, to appoint a regimental chaplain so long as he was “a regularly ordained minister of some Christian denomination.”

However, on July 17, 1862, Congress adopted President Lincoln’s proposed amendments to the chaplaincy law to allow “the appointment of brigade chaplains of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish religions.”

Almost as soon as the law changed, the Board of Ministers of the Hebrew Congregations of Philadelphia requested a Jewish hospital chaplain. Jacob Frankel’s fellow clergymen nominated the popular rabbi, nicknamed the “sweet singer of Israel,” and Lincoln signed the commission on Sept. 18, 1862. For three years, he acted as Army chaplain, singing, chanting, and praying with hospitalized and other soldiers.

Rabbi Goode (1911-1943) was one of the immortal Four Chaplains.

Few stories of bravery in World War II captured the imagination and admiration of Americans more than the Four Chaplains. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Rabbi Goode applied to the Army, receiving his appointment as a chaplain on July 21, 1942. Chaplain Goode went on active duty on Aug. 9, 1942. In October 1942, he was transferred to Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, Mass., and reunited with Chaplains John Washington, a Catholic priest; Clark Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister; and George Fox, a Methodist minister – all of whom were Goode’s classmates at Harvard.

The Dorchester left New York on Jan. 23, 1943, en route to Greenland, carrying the four chaplains and approximately 900 others, as part of a convoy of three ships. On Feb. 3, 1943 at 12:55 a.m., the vessel was torpedoed by a German submarine off Newfoundland.

The torpedo knocked out the Dorchester’s electrical system, leaving the ship dark. Panic set in among the men on board, many of them trapped below decks. The chaplains sought to calm the men and organize an orderly evacuation of the ship.

As life jackets were passed out to the men, the supply ran out. The chaplains removed their own life jackets and gave them to others. They also helped as many men as they could into lifeboats, and then linked arms and, saying prayers and singing hymns, went down with the ship.

“As I swam away from the ship, I looked back. The flares had lighted everything. The bow came up high and she slid under. The last thing I saw, the Four Chaplains were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them again. They themselves did not have a chance without their life jackets.”

– Grady Clark, survivor