Story by Seaman Oscar Quezada
PACIFIC OCEAN – USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) command religious ministries department (CRMD) celebrated Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish holiday, with a visiting Navy Rabbi, Oct. 3.
Lt. Josh Sherwin, a Navy chaplain, from Orlando, Florida, is one of ten active-duty rabbis in the Navy and is assigned to Destroyer Squadron 1.
Having a rabbi onboard for the holiday is unusual, as there are relatively few compared to the number of ships at sea.
“It’s called a High Holy Day, there are only a few of them, [and they] are incredibly important,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Mitchell Dubin, from Sarasota, Florida. “The fact that we managed to get someone who has studied this for their entire career, has dedicated his life to the study of Judaism and to help us through this incredibly important day is almost overwhelming.”
Rosh Hashanah is a two-day event, representing the beginning of the Jewish year, that marks the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve in the Jewish tradition.
“Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, similar to how January 1st begins the new calendar year. But in addition to changing the page on the calendar it’s also about looking back at the past year on how you did things well, things you didn’t do so well, mistakes you made and lessons learned,” said Sherwin. “Then you look ahead to the new year and look at how you can make the new year better.”
Sherwin provided the Sailors Rosh Hashanah services including customary observations such as sounding the shofar, a hollowed-out ram’s horn, and sharing symbolic foods with Sailors, such as apples dipped in honey, to induce a “sweet new year.”
Celebrating the holiday on the ship while underway also afforded unique opportunities, such as having the Tashlikh ceremony on the ship’s fantail. Participants of Tashikh symbolically throw away bread, representing their sins, into a body of water to wash the sins away.
“The water is represented in tradition as life and the current of the water carries those sins away,” said Sherwin. “It’s really cool, I don’t think most Jews get to do it off an aircraft carrier. In fact, the congregation in San Diego was really jealous.”
Rabbi Sherwin will be with John C. Stennis until the end of the underway and, like all Navy chaplains, is available to talk with Sailors.
“I feel very lucky to be here, very happy to be here, I’ve always found that my underway and my deployed holidays are more special and more memorable than the ones I spend in a congregation back home,” said Sherwin. “I’m very thankful and happy to be here with the crew of John C. Stennis.”