Torah returned to USS Harry S. Truman

by | Mar 14, 2024 | Featured, Jewish Tidewater

The Truman Holocaust Torah was returned to its home aboard the USS Harry S. Truman on Sunday, March 3 after being safeguarded at Temple Israel for the past year while the ship underwent repairs.

The ceremony for the Torah’s return, which took place onboard the ship at Naval Station Norfolk, was attended by nearly 100 members of Tidewater’s Jewish community. LCDR (Rabbi) Yonatan Warren, a senior USN chaplain assigned to Truman, led the service.

Following a welcome from CAPT Dave Snowden, Commanding Officer, USS Harry S. Truman, Cantor Elihu Flax led in the singing of the National Anthem.

Former Captain of the Truman, VADM Herm Shelanski (retired), was the ship’s commanding officer when the Torah was presented to the ship on June 24, 2007 by United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. His story of securing the Torah is on page 7.

Betty Ann Levin, executive vice president/CEO, UJFT, spoke about the day the Torah was first presented: “In June 2007, over 600 members of our Jewish and broader communities gathered, thanks to VADM Shelanksi’s leadership. I was here that day, as were so many of us.

“I was reading the article written in our Jewish News and the president at that time of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater was someone we miss dearly, Dr. Abbey Horwitz (of blessed memory), who presented the Torah to then Captain Shelanski, commanding officer of the Truman. It was a testament to our Jewish community, and the generosity of our leaders like Abbey, Tavia Gordon (of blessed memory), Daniel Gordon, Sam Werbel, Jerry Miller, and VADM Shelanski, in collaboration with the Talisman family, that this Torah is on the Truman, in the Hoffberger Ark from the United States Naval Academy Commodore Levy Jewish Chapel in Annapolis.”

Levin thanked these leaders and “so many others for their commitment to our community, country, and the Jewish people. They enabled the Federation to provide the funds so that this rescued Torah could find a safe home on the USS Truman and an ultimate home in our Jewish community,” she said.

Levin also spoke about the partnership and friendship Tidewater’s Jewish community has forged with the Navy over the years, particularly with the USS Truman. “We are grateful for our continuing relationship with the Navy as we have brought numerous groups to the Truman and other carriers over the years and have collaborated on many programs and commemorations in our community, including welcoming military families at our Jewish Community Center in Virginia Beach.”

“As the USS Truman prepares to sail again, this Torah will be with them,” said Levin. “There has perhaps never been a more important time, since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, for the American Jewish community to be more grateful for the strength of our US Navy. From our Jewish community, thank you for safeguarding our freedom, protecting us, our allies, democracy, and helping to secure peace around the world.”

Following the ceremony, Rabbi Warren unrolled the Truman Torah to its full length within the hangar bay and read from it.

LCDR (rabbi) Yonatan Warren carries the Truman Torah.
USS Harry S. Truman.
VADM Herm Shelanski (retired) shakes hands with Susan and Dr. Mayer Levy, former Lieutenant, USN carrier pilot.