OTF Soldier Story for March 23, 2009 - Capt. Andrew Shulman
Current Unit: 4th Battalion, Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division
Current Position: Battalion Chaplain
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.
Hometown: Savannah, Ga.
Years of Service: 2
In the weeks leading up to Passover, many in the Jewish faith will begin their annual preparations to observe the holiday. This year, Capt. Andrew Shulman will pack his bags and get ready for a short-term deployment to Iraq to help Soldiers celebrate the Jewish holiday. As one of only a handful of Jewish Chaplains in the Army, he has been called on to support the religious needs of many Soldiers, including those outside of his faith.
Celebrating the Passover Seder in theater will be a familiar experience for Shulman, who was overseas for last year's holiday as well. In spring 2007, Shulman was sent to the Green Zone to perform the Passover Seder for Soldiers, as well as Jewish Iraqi civilians and Jewish members of the State Department, who were currently in Iraq. Although he was stationed at Camp Victory, as one of only three Jewish Chaplains in theater, Shulman routinely went to other bases to meet with Jewish Soldiers in need of guidance and religious support.
Some of Shulman's responsibilities while deployed, were more somber than others. In keeping with the Jewish custom of "schmira" or guarding, Shulman sat with the bodies of Jewish Soldiers who had been killed in action, reciting Psalms until their coffins could be taken for burial. As part of the custom, he paid respect to the Soldier who had lost his or her life, and ensured that the body was properly prepared for burial.
Reflecting back on his own adherence to Jewish customs while deployed, Shulman said he wanted to be the standard bearer to show other Soldiers that it was possible to keep Jewish traditions while serving overseas. Shulman kept kosher, meaning that he stayed within the Jewish dietary restrictions such as abstaining from eating pork products and not mixing meat and dairy products. He says although the Army had kosher MREs and the base dining facilities had kosher options, his family and friends sent him care packages with food to round out his options. Shulman also observed the Sabbath by refraining from using anything that showed human dominance over the physical world, such as electricity.
Currently stationed at Hunter Army Airfield Base, Shulman lives in Savannah, Ga. with his wife, Lori, and their two daughters, Zoe (8) and Tema (6). Although he says his family was surprised when he decided to become an Army Chaplain — he had previously worked as a synagogue program director before getting what he described as "cabin fever" — they are very supportive of his mission.