The Jewish Soldier Who Refused to Kneel

During World War II, Master Sergeant Morris Kravitz fought bravely in the North African campaign in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy.

Before making his way to Rome for a much-needed leave, his soldiers asked for an unusual favor. Would their sergeant visit the Vatican and get rosary beads blessed by the Pope to send home to their mothers?

After taking a photo outside the Tomba del Milite Ignoto, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Sergeant Kravitz made a detour to the Vatican.

He purchases two dozen rosaries and waited in a special hall to ensure that the beads were blessed by the Pope.

When Pope Pius the 12th entered the room, everyone kneeled to greet him. Everyone except my father. When the Pope asked for an explanation my father politely explained that he is Jewish, and we bow only to God. The Pope responded that he understood and respected him.

My father (Moshe ben Avraham) was born in 1921 and passed away on the 24th of Nisan in 1989. Family and Jewish continuity were values he cherished.

Each year on Veteran’s Day I fly an American flag in his honor and on the anniversary of his passing, 31 years from this coming Shabbos, Torah portion Shemini, I always lead the synagogue prayers and recite the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer.

Due to the pandemic, this will be the first year I will be unable to say Kaddish for my father.

Our tradition explains that recitation of Kaddish, which praises God, brings merit and spiritual elevation to the soul. How will I honor my father this year?

Fortunately, our sages teach that there are other options including giving charity and learning Torah in his memory.

In addition to increasing my learning and donating in my father’s honor, I would like to ask you to help honor this real Jewish hero.

It would be very meaningful if my friends, students, and family would contribute $18 to a cause my father was very proud of. You can contribute to www.JewsforJudaism.org/donate or if you prefer, to any charity of your choice.

My father fought a war to defeat tyranny and I am proud to carry on his legacy by fighting for the survival of the Jewish people.

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz

P.S. It is customary to learn Mishna, like the Ethics of our Fathers, because the word Mishna and Nishama (soul) share the same Hebrew letters. These inspiring teachings can be found at: