CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- More than 400 civilians and military personnel gathered in the hangar bay aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as rabbis from across the San Diego area came together Sept. 8 to conduct a region-wide Jewish Shabbat Service.
The service was sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Religious Ministries Department in conjunction with Hadassah, a national Jewish women's volunteer organization.
A Shabbat normally starts prior to dusk on a Friday and continues until after sundown on Saturday. According to Cmdr. Joel Newman, a Navy rabbi and the master of ceremonies, the Shabbat, or Sabbath, is not only a day to rest; it's also a time to reflect.
"The Shabbat is celebrated on the seventh day of the week," said Newman, who is stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif. "If you've had a rough week, it's viewed as a time for rest, prayer, family and time for you to put your work aside."
Newman added that although many of the people who attended the service had never been aboard the ship, Ronald Reagan wasn't the focus of the ceremony.
"Though most the people here at the service have never been on a Navy ship, I believe they came to Ronald Reagan to see an authentic torah, which is very rare for a ship to have."
According to Newman, a torah is a scroll made of animal skin with the five books of Moses written by quill. The torah aboard Ronald Reagan is a 300 year-old torah that survived the holocaust.
"Friends of Ronald Reagan loaned it to the ship for the life span of the ship," said Newman.
According to one man who attended the ceremony, coming aboard Ronald Reagan was the opportunity of a lifetime.
"Experiencing the Sabbath on a Navy ship is unique," said Joel Heffler, 72, a San Diego resident. "Ronald Reagan is part of this city and it's very nice to be able to come on board. Also, the torah that is on the ship gives us a chance to connect to our past. It's a reflection of the strength of our people and our religion."
Commissioned in 2003, Ronald Reagan is the Navy's newest Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier and returned to San Diego July 6 from her maiden deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and maritime security operations.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.