Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ruben Reed
The first-in-class aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) received a dedicated Torah from the Jewish Welfare Board during a presentation ceremony in the ship’s forecastle Nov. 29, 2017.
The Torah, which means “to guide” or “instruction”, contains the first five books of both the Jewish and Christian Bible, known as the Five Books of Moses.
The hand-scribed Torah took a year to complete and was donated by Philip Kamaras and his family.
“It is with great pride and humility that my family has donated a Torah to protect and serve the brave men and women who risk their lives daily and travel in harm’s way,” said Kamaras. “My dad was a blue-collar worker who was drafted at age 34 before landing in Europe to fight for the four freedoms. Now his legacy will live on as his Torah sails the world, overlooking brave Sailors and giving them strength.”
“We are very honored to accept this unique and special donation,” said Cmdr. Steven Barstow, Ford’s command chaplain. “We will cherish this Torah as a command, protect it, and use it to deepen the faith journeys of our Sailors for generations to come.”
Vice Adm. Herman Shelanski, Naval Inspector General, was a guest speaker at the dedication ceremony.
“It’s a place for Jews to come and to open the Ark, to find that light, that spark, even for thirty minutes every week,” Shelanski said. “There’s an intensity there, a need, and a beauty that this brings to the people that are here on this ship.”
Shelanski also said that Sailors need those moments of spirituality to remind them there is something bigger and greater for them. The Torah is a symbol of that and how they tie that day’s efforts into what they’re doing in their life.
“The Torah is the cornerstone religious text in the Jewish religion, and having it onboard is a huge statement of support for religious diversity and spirituality,” said Lt. Matthew Golub, assigned to Ford’s reactor department. “It provides a physical connection of my Jewish life to the proud tradition of Jews in the Navy and in America.”