Lt. Col. Larry Bazer joined the military as a chaplain in 1989, during his first year of rabbinical studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He joined because it offered an experience his rabbinical studies couldn’t, and because he’s loved the military since playing with G.I. Joes as a child. “I guess I see myself sort of as G.I. Jew,” he told me via Skype last December, while he was deployed to Afghanistan with his Massachusetts Army National Guard unit.
However, Rabbi Bazer’s story begins before his deployment to Afghanistan as the only rabbi in the country. On 9/11, he was rabbi of a synagogue on Long Island and chaplain for the New York National Guard and the New York offices of the FBI. The day the planes hit the Twin Towers, he raced to ground zero to support the troops and federal agents in the rescue operations. Chaplains are first responders too.
Ten years later, Lt. Col. Bazer found himself deployed to Afghanistan on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 as the only rabbi in the country. He returned from his deployment in February and has resumed his duties as rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom in Framingham, Mass.
All photos are courtesy of Larry Bazer. More photos can be found on his blog, “Postcards from an Army Chaplain.”