USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Jewish crew members on board the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) celebrated Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, while deployed in the North Arabian Sea Sept. 17.
Capt. Irv Elson, a Navy chaplain temporarily assigned to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, embarked Truman Sept. 16 to perform the service for 12 crew members.
"This is a very important Jewish holy day," said Elson. "I call it the Super Bowl of Jewish holy days. It begins with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which was celebrated last week, and ends with Yom Kippur, the day of atonement."
Yom Kippur includes a 25-hour fast, starting at sundown the day prior. The holy day is a time of the year when Jewish people seek forgiveness for sins committed against God.
Truman's Command Religious Ministries Department (CRMD) hosted a question and answer session during Elson's first night on board, allowing crew members the opportunity to meet with the rabbi in the ship's chapel and ask anything they wanted about Jewish history and culture.
Jewish crew members celebrated Yom Kippur by conducting the traditional evening service held by Jewish communities around the world. The Yom Kippur service was open to all crew members, even those not of Jewish faith.
"Prayers are prayers, and God is on Truman just like he would be at home," said Elson. "During the day of atonement we talk about making resolutions for the next year, and how we'll live our lives."
Because of the importance of Yom Kippur to Truman's Jewish crew members, CRMD was thankful to have Elson on board to lead the service, and that the crew members were able to worship with their own spiritual leader.
"It's a much better thing when the actual recognized faith leader can sit down and talk to these folks, and be a blessing to them," said Chaplain Cmdr. William Holiman. "It's preferred that crew members receive their spiritual guidance in the most direct form."
Having Elson on board was also beneficial for Truman's Jewish lay leader, who was able to learn from the rabbi for future celebrations.
"I'm not as knowledgeable as he is," said Quartermaster 3rd Class Benjamin Pinon, Truman's Jewish lay leader. "He helped me remember different aspects of our faith, and he went through the prayer book with me so that I know the correct way of doing things."
The service and support of the Jewish community is a positive illustration of what Truman is deployed for, and what America was built on.
"In the United States, we have freedom of religion, and to be able to treat each other with dignity and respect even though we're not of the same faith group a very powerful statement of what freedom of religion is really all about," said Holiman. "God says I'm supposed to love God, and I'm supposed to love my neighbor as myself. That means taking care of, honoring and respecting my neighbor. And in this case that means my neighbors in the Jewish community on board, and I think it's a very wonderful thing in terms of what we can do for them."
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.