The Jews of West Point

In the Long Gray Line

By Lewis Zickel

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 352

ISBN: 978-160-280-117-2


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The Jews of West Poinit in the Long Grey Line by the late Colonel Lewis L. Zickel, a 1949 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, is a fascinating and highly readable look at the institution that since 1802 has trained the leaders of the American Army. The book focuses specifically on the Jews who have attended West Point and gone on to serve with distinction as professional military officers. Since most American Jews have not regarded the military as potential career choice, it will probably come as a surprise to learn that West Point's first graduating class was half Jewish (admittedly it had only two members). It will be equally surprising to learn that Jews are and have been a significant if small presence at West Point.
The book is divided into three parts. The first is an account of the role of Jews in military history and at West Point. Considerable attention is given to the creation of a Jewish Chapel for cadets and to the Academy's Jewish chaplaincy.
The second part is autobiographical. It tells Colonel Zickel's personal story, from his childhood in New Jersey through his four years as a cadet, and his service in the Army during and after the Korean War. After retiring from the Army he was actively involved in serving West Point as it had served him. He played a key role in the creation of the Jewish Chapel and in programs to enhance the religious experience of Jewish cadets.
The final part of the book consists of excerpts from a questionnaire Zickel sent to each of the 630 living Jewish graduates of West Point. Among other things, they were asked to recount memories about their tenure at the Academy that would be of Jewish interest. Very few reported any experience of anti-Semitism. Moreover, many mentioned that West Point had brought them closer to Judaism and Jewishness, not merely because of activities connected with the Jewish Chapel, but also through contact with the chaplains, and because they so often came from homes or places where there was little Jewish content. Several of them were bar or bat mitzvah at West Point.

This is a very interesting and important book, a fitting testimonial to the nearly 800 Jews who down the years have stood in the Long Gray Line and served in the defense of their country.