A brilliant student, orator, and debater, Rabbi Roland Gittelsohn was an outspoken social activist and frequent lecturer on political topics during the 1930s. Despite his passionate support of pacifism, Gittelsohn voluntarily joined the navy when the United States entered World War II, becoming the first Jewish chaplain assigned to the United States Marine Corps.
Gittelsohn’s remarkable story, told here from his surviving notes, chronicles the evolution of his crisis of conscience and gives an insider’s view into the Battle of Iwo Jima. Author Lee Mandel’s research provides an unprecedented look at how the US Navy took clergymen of all religions and molded them into a highly effective support force for America’s fighting forces.
Mandel traces the Gittelsohn family from their emigration from Russia through Roland’s ordination and his excursions into the political and Zionist movements that shaped the 1930s. Delving into Gittelsohn’s pivotal decision to join the armed forces as a chaplain and his experiences in battle, Mandel details the behind-the-scenes anti-Semitic power struggles that almost prevented what was to become one of the most famous oratories in military history. At the dedication of the Fifth Marine Division Cemetery, Gittelsohn delivered a eulogy known as “The Purest Democracy” and often referred to as the “Gettysburg Address of WWII.” In this dramatic narrative, Mandel draws from many historical sources, including Gittelsohn’s 1988 autobiography, extensive personal papers, and the rabbi’s unpublished war memoir—including his analysis of why pacifism failed—to present a complete picture of this unusual man.
About the Author
Lee Mandel was born in New York City, graduated from Washington and Jefferson College, and received his medical degree from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. As a doctor in the United States Navy, he earned numerous honors for service and leadership. Dr. Mandel’s talent for research is in high demand, and he has been featured on “Ten Things You Don’t Know About John F. Kennedy,” an episode of the History Channel’s Ten Things You Don’t Know About series. He is the author of Moryak: A Novel of the Russian Revolution, winner of the 2010 Grand Prize for Fiction from the Santa Fe Creative Arts Council. A retired navy captain, Mandel is a staff physician at the Newport News Shipyard Clinic. He and his wife live in Suffolk, Virginia.
A Pacifist Rabbi’s Journey from the Pulpit to Iwo Jima
By Lee Mandel
HISTORY / Military / World War II
RELIGION / Judaism / History
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Military
368 pp. 6 x 9
7 photos Notes Index