The U.S. Army has listed Rabbi Jeffrey Goldman as a deserter, making him subject to arrest if he returns to the United States. But he maintains that he was driven out of the military chaplaincy by anti-Semitic harassment from Christian colleagues.
Goldman, 33, left Fort Stewart, Ga., in January 2002 to return to his native Canada after just one year as an Orthodox Jewish military chaplain. He said that he believes he resigned legally from the Army and that the desertion charge was a vindictive response to his allegations.
While he was posted at the Georgia base, Goldman said, he worked in a "poisonous atmosphere" created by three Christian chaplains. One of the men taunted him by displaying Nazi guard uniforms, he said. His supervising chaplain told him, "Rabbi, if you want to survive down here, this is the South, and you'd better forget you are a [expletive] Yankee rabbi from up north," Goldman said.
"It was a very, very harsh environment. I never had any problems with the officers or the soldiers, only the other chaplains," Goldman said in an interview.
Goldman said he appealed for help to the official "endorser" who sends Jewish chaplains to the military, the Jewish Chaplains Council. The head of the council, Rabbi David Lapp, disputed Goldman's account and denied giving Goldman permission to quit. "It never happened," he said in a telephone interview from New York.
Lapp also said "I haven't heard anything" about tension between Jewish and non-Jewish chaplains.
Goldman's complaints led to an Army inspector general's investigation. Officials at Fort Stewart declined to discuss the case or disclose the results. Goldman said the inspector general's report "was trying to make this look like I was afraid to go on deployment and I fled and used the anti-Semitic allegations to cover it up."
He said Protestant chaplains resented him in part because Jewish, Muslim and Catholic chaplains are courted by the military to relieve a shortage in those faiths -- a charge the Pentagon denies.