Although the first Jewish Chaplain, David Goldberg, had been appointed to the Chaplain Corps in 1917 and been granted the right to change the Corps insignia he wore from a Latin Cross to a Shepherd’s Crook to reflect his faith, that insignia essentially had been forgotten after he retired from duty in November, 1919.

Goldberg’s first and only sea tour had made him question the wisdom of having a Jewish Chaplain on board a ship because there were so few Jewish Sailors to whom he could minister; only five were serving on the USS Grant with him on his deployment, and in a letter to Chief of Chaplains John B. Frazier he said it would be more acceptable and justifiable to have a Christian Chaplain rather than him taking up that billet. Although Goldberg had served an acting Chaplain of the Detention Barracks at Naval Station Great Lakes and served in the Naval Reserve from 1925 to 1941, there were no Jewish Chaplains in service after he had stepped down. In fact, the Uniform Regulations failed to mention the Shepherd’s Crook insignia due to the fact that there were no Jewish Chaplains serving to wear it.

But this oversight became an issue in 1931 when H. Cerf Straus was sworn into the Naval Reserve as a Chaplain of the Jewish faith. When Straus rightly pointed out the anomaly of a Rabbi wearing a Latin Cross—the only insignia mentioned for the Chaplain Corps in the last edition of the Uniform Regulations—the matter was taken by Chief of Chaplains Sidney Evans to the Commandant of the Eleventh Naval District, which included Straus’ residence. Evans suggested to Straus that he should submit a request to wear the same Shepherd’s Crook that David Goldberg had received approval to wear back in 1918.

A week after submitting his request, Straus’ efforts were endorsed by the Bureau of Navigation before they sent it along to the Secretary of the Navy on February 8, 1932. Charles F. Adams III, Secretary of the Navy and descendant of two Presidents, approved the request.

In 1941, the insignia Jewish Chaplains that had been the cause of so much debate was replaced by an insignia featuring the Tablets of Moses surmounted by a Star of David. Just why the change was made, however, is difficult to ascertain. According to a story posted on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Web site dated April 18, 1943, the change was made because “it was decided that the device bore too close a resemblance to a wisp of spaghetti left on the shoulder boards by contouted [sic] inadvertence.”

Whether or not this is a joke is difficult to tell, but one part of Chaplain Straus’ legacy is much clearer: He was the only Jewish Chaplain in the Navy serving at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

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