Fort Benning Adds Support Services For Jewish Trainees After Consultation With ADL On Mistreatment Complaint
August 6, 2009, Atlanta, Ga…After a series of consultations with the Anti-Defamation League over the mistreatment of a Jewish trainee at Fort Benning last fall, The United States Army has now taken steps to improve support services for Jewish trainees on the base.
The Army has assigned a fulltime Jewish chaplain to Fort Benning, begun a Friday night worship service on base for Jewish families, started offering Kosher meals for incoming trainees, and is making plans for on base High Holiday services.
"We are pleased that the Army has taken steps that promise to make Ft. Benning a more welcoming place for Jewish trainees," said Bill Nigut, Southeast Regional Director of the ADL. "We're encouraged that the Army seems to understand that it has a role to play in supporting religious diversity on the base."
The changes come in the aftermath of an incident last October, when Michael Handman, a Jewish trainee, reported that he had been subjected to verbal harassment by two drill instructors who demanded he remove his yarmulke in the dining hall. In a separate incident, Handman was assaulted by another trainee.
As a result of Handman's complaints, the ADL entered into a series of conversations with Army officials and successfully persuaded them to move Handman to a safe location on the base and to take action against the men who had targeted him for abusive treatment.
The trainee who hit Handman was dismissed from the Army and the two drill sergeants were disciplined and forced to take a religious diversity training course.
In discussions with the Army, Mr. Nigut asked base officials to reevaluate the general climate of support for Jewish personnel at Ft. Benning.
At the time of the incidents, the base did not have a fulltime Jewish chaplain. They announced recently that Major Carlos Huerta will become Ft. Benning's on-base rabbi.
Until now, Jewish trainees and other personnel have had to arrange passes and transportation to go off base to attend Jewish services in Columbus, Georgia. Now, weekly and High Holiday services will be offered on the base. In addition, the Army has never before offered Kosher meals at Ft. Benning.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.