From the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, October 9, 1986
NAVY RABBI JOINS ICELAND TEAM
MR. PELL. Mr. President, as the President departs for the summit meeting in Iceland with Soviet
leader Gorbachev, the Nation's Jewish community prepares to observe one of the most important dates
on the Jewish religious calendar, the high holiday of Yom Kippur.
For this reason, the President has asked Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, a navy chaplain stationed at the Naval
Chaplains School in Newport, RI, to fly to Iceland with President Reagan and conduct Yom Kippur
services for the President's staff.
This is not the first time that Rabbi Resnicoff has been a part of momentous events. In 1983, the rabbi
cared for th injured and dying in the aftermath of the terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut,
Lebanon. The President took note of Rabbi Resnicoff's actions in Beirut and asked him to prepare a
report on the terrorist attack and subsequent rescue effort.
Mr. President, the Providence Journal recently reported on Rabbi Resnicoff's participation in the iceland
summit and I ask unanimous consent that the text of the article, entitled, "Navy Rabbi To Join Iceland
Team," be printed in full in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the article was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
NAVY RABBI TO JOIN ICELAND TEAM
Newport--Rabbi Menachem Resnicoff and his family immigrated to America nearly a century ago, in
flight from the persecution that haunted Jews in their native Russia.
Today, his grandson will complete the journey that his grandfather began more than 80 years ago.
Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, a Navy chaplain, will fly to Iceland to lead Yom Kippur services for President
Reagan's summit staff.
"I'm only sorry that my father is not alive to see this, that one generation after they escaped to America,
one of our family will lead a service at a meeting with Russia," Rabbi Resnicoff said from his office at the
Naval Chaplains School in Newport.
"My grandfather used to thank God that there was a country like America. It was that feeling he
bequeathed to me."
ONLY CHAPLAIN AT SUMMIT
Rabbi Resnicoff isn't sure why he was chosen to be the only chaplain at the pre-summit between Mr.
Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that begins Friday. All he knows is that the White House
asked the Armed Forces Chaplain Board to select a rabbi, and the Navy's chief of chaplains picked him.
Perhaps someone in the administration remembered the Navy chaplain who cared for the dying and
wounded in the aftermath of the 1983 terrorist bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut, lebanon.
Mr. Reagan asked Rabbi Resnicoff to write an account of the attack and the rescue effort that followed.
The President later read the report during a national convention headed by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
"My first feeling was one of pride in America," Rabbi Resnicoff said of his trip to Iceland. "[It's] the
thought that someone in Reagan's staff felt comfortable bringing in religion as a matter of course, that this
was an important time of the year."
The summit falls during the high holy days of the Jewish relgion. Yom Kippur--the day of atonement--is
the holiest day of the Jewish year, capping a period of reflection, study, and prayer.
Rabbi Resnicoff believes there is a certain lovely irony to the timing of these two "events."
"Jews believe they can learn from the past," he explained. "We're telling ourselves as individuals, as a
people, and as a nation, that we should learn from past actions and break out of unhealthy cycles."
Someone recently asked Rabbi Resnicoff what he would say if he met the Soviet leader.
"What would I say to Gorbaachev if I could stand in front of him in the uniform of a U.S. Navy officer
with the Ten Commandments--the symbol of a Jewish chaplain--on my sleeve? I would not have to say
another word. My uniform says it all."
Rabbi Resnicoff joined the Navy because of his father's love of America. But it was his experience in
the Navy that led him to become a Rabbi. It was in Vietnam's mekong Delta that he began to elad
services for fellow Jews.
He said he returned to the Navy after completing his rabbinical studies for two reasons. "Loyalty. If it
hadn't been for the Navy, I woudn't have become a rabbi. An second, almost never did I see a rabbi in
The rabbi isn't sure what he will say in his sermon on Sunday, the beginning of Yom Kippur. He said he
might draw on the historic message of Yom Kippur--the nation that people can learn from their mistakes.
The idea I got from my father is you can make things better or worse. Just as individuals can make a
difference, so can nations. A nation is not an evil thing. It can either be a force for good or for suffering.
"I believe it's my responsibility not only to be a good indiviual but to be a good citizen."
What hopes does Rabbi Resnicoff have for the first meeting of the two superpower leaders?
"It may be impossible, but if Russia could understand that America does not negotiate based only on
what's good for us...[and that] we really care about individual liberties and human rights, that would be a
The only thing Rabbi Resnicoff regrets is not being able to spend Yom Kippur with his wife and
daughter. But after 10 yars in the Navy, the rabbi has grown accustomed to missing holidays with his
If his father were alive today, Rabbi Resnicoff thinks he would be thrilled with the honor bestowed upon
"For my father, I know there would be tears on his cheeks. He'd say that he's only sorry that his father
wasn't alive to see this."
Click here for photocopy of original Congressional Record page.
Click here for Yom Kippur sermon in Iceland.
Click here for webpage for Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff