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NEWS | Dec. 6, 2023

JBSA members come together to share, learn at community Shabbat

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The purpose of the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps is to provide Soldiers with religious support to build strong, ready teams to deploy, fight, and win the Nation’s wars.

The Air Force Chaplain Corps’ goal is to help all Airmen and their families meet challenges head on by providing skills, resources, and tools to not only enhance resiliency, but help them achieve their greatest potential.

No matter the branch of service, the premise is the same, “Taking care of people,” and that is exactly what Joint Base San Antonio chaplains did Dec. 1, 2023, when they held a community Shabbat dinner, with support from the Jewish Federation of San Antonio and its president and CEO, Nammie Ichilov.

Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest and celebration that begins Friday before sunset and ends the following evening after nightfall, according to It includes candle lighting, prayers, and feasting on braided bread and other special treats.

The JBSA dinner, held at the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Military and Family Readiness Center, was one of many special Shabbats held across San Antonio, all of which were open to anyone who wanted to attend, regardless of their religious beliefs.

“Tonight, at tables across San Antonio, hundreds of Jews and non-Jews have gathered for the Share the Light of Shabbat program,” said U. S. Army Rabbi (Maj.) Mendy Stern, Jewish Chaplain at JBSA. “Attendees at tonight’s Shabbat will experience the customs of Judaism, while engaging in insightful discussions about the religion’s historical journey.”

Among the 120 plus attendees at JBSA, half of whom were Jewish, was U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Christian Ruiz, a recent training graduate from the 12th Training Squadron at JBSA-Randolph. The Airman looked forward to learning more about the Jewish faith with his family. 

“I think this is a phenomenal experience to learn about the Jewish culture and the Jewish belief system,” he said. “I think it is great that I can learn here and share this information with people in my unit.”

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Krystal Penick, a logistics staff member at the Navy Medicine Training Support Center, attended the Shabbat to support a friend.

“I am here to support freedom of religion,” Penick said, adding that she felt very comfortable attending the event.

“It feels very inviting. I don’t know anything about it, but I still feel welcome,” she said. “It was very special to be invited by my dear friend.”

Another NMTSC staff member, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alec Sanders, attended the Shabbat to support a friend as well.

“Everyone has been nice and inviting,” Sanders said. “I learned more about the culture, and I wanted to show my support.”

The Jewish attendees of the Shabbat also appreciated the opportunity to share and learn, Stern said.

“No matter the denomination, it is vital that everyone on JBSA to feel welcome and free to practice their religion and observe their individual beliefs,” he said. “Freedom of religion is a First Amendment right for all, including those in the military.”

After remarks from Ichilov, Stern reiterated the value of allowing others to practice their faith without fear.

“It is very important that we stand together against antisemitism or any other type of negativity toward a specific religion,” he said. “We should learn from each other, support each other, and build a stronger, more understanding community.

“Like all hatred, antisemitism comes from a fear of those different from us, and a lack of understanding about that person’s or group of people’s experiences and perspectives,” he said. “It can be seen in unkind jokes, graffiti, social media posts, and even violence.

“On this Shabbat, let us embrace Shabbat Shalom -- a Sabbath of Peace,” he said. “Let us unite to support, educate, and build a stronger community. Together, we can make a difference!

For a listing of all chapel services and events on JBSA, go to: or visit the chapel Facebook page for your installation.