Today, Jewish Treats brings you the sad but heroic story of Rabbi Lieutenant Alexander D. Goode.
Ordained by Hebrew Union College in 1937, Rabbi Goode took his first position in Marion, Indiana, and then served as the rabbi of Beth Israel Synagogue in York, Pennsylvania (while earning a Ph.D. in Oriental Languages from John Hopkins University). In 1942, he was accepted as a military chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces.
In January 1943, Rabbi Goode began his first, and only, naval voyage aboard the USAT Dorchester, which was transporting over 900 soldiers to Britain via Greenland. He was one of four chaplains on board (along with Methodist Reverend George L. Fox, Roman Catholic Priest John P. Washington and Reformed Church in America Reverend Clark V. Poling).
Just after midnight on February 3, 1943, a German U-boat torpedoed the Dorchester. Tragically, not only was the ship sinking fast, but there weren’t enough lifeboats or life jackets. Within half an hour of being hit, the Dorchester sank with 672 men still aboard. And while survivors had a horrid tale to tell (of bodies freezing in the icy water), they also spoke with awe and respect for the four chaplains.
In all the chaos, Rabbi Goode, Reverend Fox, Father Washington and Reverend Poling remained calm as they comforted and organized the soldiers and gave away their own life jackets and gloves. Numerous survivors reported that the last thing they saw before the ship sank was the four chaplains standing on deck, arm in arm, praying.
Rabbi Goode was 32 years old and was survived by his wife, Teresa (a niece of Al Jolson) and his daughter Rosalie.
In 1948, an act of Congress designated February 3rd as Four Chaplains Day.
Went to school with Rosalie in Washington, DC. Her mom remarried, and relocated to Ohio – or so that’s the story I heard when she left. I have remembered Rosalie and thought about her through the years. If anyone knows where and how she is, I’d be happy to hear. Please ask her to contact Elayne Tatar (was Elayne Shochet). Thanks for any help.
I was a small kid when the world learned of the amazing bravery of the Four Chaplains. But I still remember the story and the commemorative postage stamp issued. So when the advisory board of the non-profit Jewish-American Hall of Fame (www.amuseum.org/jahf) voted to honor Jewish Chaplains in 2014, I knew that we had to include the Immortal Four Chaplains on the limited issue commemorative medals we were issuing. I am pleased to present this proposal on kickstarter to raise interest in the venture. I hope that you and others will want to continue to honor the Four Chaplains in the 21st century by supporting this project. Note that the other side of the medal commemorates the first Jewish Chaplain, Jacob Frankel, whose appointment was made possible by President Abraham Lincoln. For further information as how you can help, please visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1143477881/immortal-four-chaplains-limited-edition-medal-by-e.