Jewish cadet Josh Scheinberg leads the new Scabbard and Blade class at Virginia Tech.
By Josh Scheinberg
Four years ago, I left a very prominent Jewish town in southern New Jersey to come to Virginia Tech, join the Corps of Cadets and pursue a commission in Air Force ROTC. With my brother already in the U.S. Army, I knew the challenges I would face, but soon after arriving at Virginia Tech I realized that keeping my Jewish identity in a southwest Virginia military environment would be one of them.
The Corps of Cadets, compared to the other senior military colleges and academies, is one of the smallest with about 800 cadets, and in my graduating class of 2006 I am the only Jew. Every year there is usually about two or three Jewish cadets for each new class, and over the four years I have been here we have policed ourselves to make sure we keep our Jewish identities and have the opportunities to practice Judaism. The Corps of Cadets has a group of chaplains who act similarly to chaplains in the military, and they give religious guidance and initial counseling to cadets who request it. Fortunately, when I was a freshman there was a Jewish chaplain who made sure I got to go to services, took care of problems I had in the corps and eventually became a friend and mentor. When he graduated, I made sure that I filled that position, and each year the position is held by another Jewish cadet with similar goals and aspirations for the Jews in the corps.
Virginia Tech provides a unique experience for those in the Corps of Cadets because the corps is fully integrated into the civilian university. After freshman year, cadets have the opportunities to join clubs and become involved socially within the university. This allows Jews in the corps to be able to become part of Hillel and stay connected with the Blacksburg Jewish community. Hillel has provided a great outlet and Jewish connection for all the Jewish cadets, and its support has made cadet life a little easier.
In my experiences at Virginia Tech and in the military, I have seen that Judaism thrives on proactive people who take the responsibility of making sure Jews in all parts of the world stay connected and have a place to pray and gather socially. Virginia Tech, Hillel and the Corps of Cadets are filled with these types of people, and I am sure that the Jewish students and cadets here at Virginia Tech will continue to support Judaism and our nation wherever they go.
Josh Scheinberg is a 2006 graduate of Virginia Tech who is now a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.