Chaplain of the few serves the many
December 18, 2013
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- As a company of Soldiers takes a break from a field exercise in the crisp German morning breeze, Army chaplain and Los Angeles native Capt. Andrew Shulman from the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion binds leather straps around the arm of Sgt. Zachary Gardner and prays.
The Soldiers were performing the Jewish spiritual practice of praying while donning Tefillin, a usually viewed as a sign of faith and remembrance. Jews have strapped these small leather boxes containing parchments of scriptures from the Torah onto their arms and head for centuries.
Shulman is one only 12 active duty Jewish chaplains in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps, and he is the only Jewish chaplain currently stationed in Europe.
The opportunity to pray with Tefillin while in the field comes only rarely.
"There are only so many of us (Jewish chaplains). Sometimes you find (Jewish-American) Soldiers who have lost touch with their faith for a long time, and get to experience some powerful prayers in tough times," said Shulman.
The wrapping of Tefillin is a Jewish spiritual practice observed worldwide. Jews consider it an act that demonstrates faith in God.
"(Praying with Tefillin) definitely makes things better. I can connect with a higher power… It's nice that the Army gives me the time (for religious practices), and is very open with religion. It definitely makes the day better," said Gardner, a native of New Smyrna Beach, Fla. and an infantryman with the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command.
"Chaplain Shulman comes from a unique background, and a low density of our Soldiers," said Lt. Col John Bretthorst, the 18th CSSB commander and a native of Poteet, Texas. "His perspective gives me a different look on things, and listening to his observations helps broaden your mind on how the world functions."
Shulman has also conducted numerous religious support activities with allied Soldiers from the Israeli defense force and German army.
"Chaplain Shulman genuinely cares," said Bretthorst, "that ultimately brings strength to the military."