Camp Humphreys to host first annual Passover Seder

by Maj. Peter Bogart, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
Stripes Korea

The 1st annual Passover Seder on Camp Humphreys will be held Friday, 30 March, at the Pacific Victors Chapel.

The feast was organized by Rabbi (Capt.) Michael Cohen, the only Rabbi serving with the Army in Korea and one of only 12 across the service. Cohen recently arrived in Korea with the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, as part of a standard rotation of forces.

Cohen, who is the battalion chaplain for the 3rd Brigade Support Battalion, 1st ABCT, 3ID, was tasked with establishing the Jewish community at Camp Humphreys. The Jewish services were previously centralized at Yongsan Garrison and led by a civilian contractor.

Cohen first approached the culinary specialists from 1ABCT about the feasibility of supporting the event and then lined up the proper paperwork through battalion and brigade leadership.

Sgt. 1st Class Bart Starr, who is the lead in preparing the feast, said he has prepared for Seders with his family but this is his first time doing it in the Army and for this large a group.

“When you prepare the Passover meal, you cleanse the entire household or kitchen and prepare in a kosher environment,” said Starr. “I have three Soldiers who volunteered to help me cook and it’s a great chance to showcase their ability and skills in more than just regular military cooking.”

Pastor (Maj.) John Hubbs, the brigade chaplain, said that one interesting aspect of the feast is that it will be held at the same time as another religious service in the same building, something that is unique to the Army experience and highlights the cooperation among chaplains of different faiths.

Cohen echoed this sentiment when he described how the mutual support from fellow chaplains has been incredibly helpful since he only recently arrived in the brigade and is on his first tour in Korea.

“We are all colleagues and peers but also really good friends,” said Cohen. “We help each other out, I even guest taught at a Catholic bible study, and everyone has been really supportive and helped bridge the gap.”

Cohen has been establishing Jewish services on Camp Humphreys while also having to plan for his eventual redeployment and the possibility of being unable to lead services during field exercises, deployment readiness exercises, and other Army training events.

“It’s challenging but it’s also a chance to build the community from the ground up where everyone is starting on the same level,” said Cohen. “My goal is to empower everyone to be able to lead in case a Rabbi is not available.”

The Seder is a Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover and is performed by a community or by multiple generations of a family, involving a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.

The Passover Seder is just one of many religious events happening across Army installations in Korea as part of Holy Week and Easter Weekend. Complete lists of services can be found on the unit and installation social media pages or through the unit chaplains.

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