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Carrier Strike Group 11 Celebrates Chanukah at Sea
The menorah was lit for the eighth and final night of Hanukkah during an observance on board the guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) on December 17, 2020.
Chanukah, known as the “Festival of Lights” commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean Revolt and is usually celebrated in December. Lt. Emily Rosenzweig, a Navy chaplain and rabbi from Mount Vernon, assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9, led the Sterett Chanukah services following observance of the first three nights aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 11.
“Chanukah celebrates a small group’s religious identity in the face of a much larger cultural identity,” said Rosenzweig, who added that she believes it gives Jewish service members pride to serve in the military as the United States is the first country to support their beliefs from the creation of the nation.
“Fighting and defending the American way of life involves fighting for people like us who celebrate holidays that aren’t always celebrated by the majority of people,” said Rosenzweig. She is one of fewer than 10 active-duty Jewish chaplains in the Navy, and having a rabbi on board for the holidays can mean a great deal to the Jewish Navy community.
“I have been in the Navy 13 years and I have only encountered three Jewish chaplains throughout my career,” said Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 1st Class Courtney Follin, from Oxnard, California, who participates in the weekly Shabbat services aboard Sterett. “To be able to celebrate Chanukah with Lt. Rosenzweig during this deployment is pretty remarkable.”
In addition to leading Jewish services, Rosenzweig provides counsel and support to any Sailor or Marine regardless of their religious affiliation.
She says that being out to sea is challenging and deployed service members can benefit from the spiritual support that religious services bring, regardless of their beliefs. This is especially true during holidays such as Christmas or Chanukah, which often involves family traditions and time with loved ones.
“Even though we may be out here and not where we may want to be during these times, we can still create a warm and connected experience during the holidays,” said Rosenzweig.
Sterett and Nimitz are part of Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and Pacific through the Western Indian Ocean and three critical chokepoints to the free flow of global commerce.