In advance of
the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the so-called “Chaplain
of Ground Zero,” Col. Jacob Z. Goldstein spoke of his memories in the aftermath
of the collapse of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center with a crew from
“I got there
right before the second tower collapsed,” Goldstein recalls in an interview
that can be viewed on Jewish.TV,
the multimedia portal of the Judaism website Chabad.org. “And that’s where I
spent the next four-and-a-half months of my life.”
An Army officer
and Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi who famously received special permission to keep his
full-length beard while serving the armed forces, Goldstein would later be sent
to Iraq where following the fall of Baghdad he would preside over Chanukah
festivities at the former palace of toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
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But his time at
Ground Zero, where he assisted in recovery operations and helped grieving
families, would forever change Goldstein’s life.
“When my men
and I arrived at Ground Zero, fires were raging out of control and the smoke
was burning our eyes. The first thing I noticed was the ash. Cars, people, buildings
– everything was covered in ankle-deep ash,” he wrote
in the weeks following the attacks. “Some time later it occurred to us that
many people who had been inside the World Trade Center had been completely
burned, cremated by the intense heat of the explosions and fires. This ash was
|Chaplain Goldstein sits in a gold throne found in Saddam Hussein’s palace in Baghdad.
“I did not
clean my boots that night. How could I? Would it make a difference? Within four
hours I would be back outside, amid the carnage and destruction,” he continued.
“I have not shined my boots since September 11, and when my mission here is
completed and I am no longer needed at Ground Zero, these boots will be buried,
never to be worn again.”
In his series
of 14 clips on Jewish.TV, Goldstein similarly tells of stories both harrowing
and amazing, such as blowing a ram’s horn known as a shofar from the site of
such destruction, constructing a sukkah atop a two-and-a-half ton Army truck,
and leading a family who lost a loved one in the mourner’s prayer known as Kaddish.
The videos come
as part of a special section produced by Chabad.org, where visitors can find a collection
of articles and first-person recollections from the days, weeks and months
following the attacks, as well as leave their own thoughts and reflections.
To view “The Rabbi of Ground Zero: A Chaplain’s Recollections of
9-11,” click here.