Fort Belvoir is home to a dynamic Jewish congregation

Julia LeDoux
December 18, 2019 - 1:54 pm
Belvoir Jewish community

Fort Belvoir Jewish Community

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On the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Fort Belvoir is home to one of the military’s most active and thriving Jewish congregations.

“People are surprised to learn that there are Jews in the military,” said Army Chaplain (Capt) Heather Borshof.

The congregation on the Virginia post is made up of Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard personnel said Borshof.

“Each branch adds their own personality to the community,” she said. “We have people that served in World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The members appreciate having like-minded folks praying together. They all have the same thing in common – duty to and love of country.”

The community is also very welcoming and people feel comfortable almost immediately, Borshof said.

Belvoir Jewish community
Fort Belvoir Jewish Community

“We are large for the military but still intimate in our numbers,” she said. “Our regulars notice when someone is new and make it a point to reach out to them to make them feel welcome.”

Borshof said several factors make practicing their faith important to the military community.

“Here we are all alike – we are all Jewish. Rank, military branch, belief, and denomination doesn’t always matter – we are all able to pray together,” she said.

Borshof said there are times when Jewish service members are in places where they are the only Jewish person or family.

“This may be in remote areas in CONUS (continental United States) or stationed somewhere with no Jewish community,” she said. “So because we have a strong community here at Fort Belvoir, it is something they greatly appreciate and take advantage of.”

The congregation began in the late 1950s, Borshof said. Weekly Friday evening Shabbat services bring about 20 to 40 people to Belvoir Chapel.

“Once a month, we have a Saturday morning Shabbat service, with about 30 people attending,” she continued.

Belvoir Jewish community
Fort Belvoir Jewish Community

The High Holy Day services draw several hundred people to the chapel; Passover brings about 120 and minor holidays 60 to 80, Borshof said.

“We have 12 kids in Hebrew Sunday School,” she added. “We welcome people from DoD, DHS, anyone can get on post with valid ID – driver's license or CAC card.”

While the community normally meets at Belvoir Chapel, on occasion it moves to other locations if needed.

“The Jewish community is part of the Religious Support Office, so there are times things need to be moved around as everyone works together as part of the greater team,” explained Borshof.

The community also has representation at the Jewish Community Center in Fairfax County, which is home to the installation. The Belvoir Jewish Community coordinator serves as the military liaison to the JCC.

“We have several great events throughout the year to include weekend retreats, field trips to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Bethesda,” said Borshof. “The community really enjoys getting together.”

Reach Julia LeDoux: Julia@connectingvets.com

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