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Blumenthal, Cardin & Van Hollen Seek Answers After U.S. Air Force Academy Schedules Training Exercise on Yom Kippur

“Jewish cadets were put in an impossible position of choosing between freely exercising their faith, or participating fully in military training specifically planned to build teamwork and camaraderie,” wrote the senators

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) wrote U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall (USAFA) following news reports that the United States Air Force Academy scheduled one of its most important training days of the year, the Commandant’s Challenge, on Yom Kippur. According to local news coverage, the challenge designed to foster teamwork, leadership, and character was scheduled on the most solemn of Jewish holidays. In their letter, the senators expressed concerns about the Academy’s efforts to protect the religious liberties of cadets, airmen, and guardians.

The scheduling of such an important Academy event on Yom Kippur was unnecessary and suggests a fundamental disregard for Jewish cadets and their first amendment rights,” wrote the senators

The senators also expressed concern about reports of a Jewish cadet seeking guidance from a senior cadet in her chain of command and being told the problem was her, “being Jewish.” The junior cadet was also reportedly encouraged to, “try Christianity” and attend bible studies. According to the senators, these reports of prejudice, along with the scheduling of Academy activities in conflict with Jewish religious observances, may indicate, “institutional concerns that we strongly feel must be examined.”

The full text of the letter is available here.