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Ten Questions with Lakewood Mayor Menashe Miller

Shimmy Blum

When Lakewood native and US Air Force chaplain Menashe Miller, returned home from Iraq on January 7, his colleagues on the Township Committee chose him to be the mayor of Lakewood. Despite the pressures of his new post, Mayor Miller graciously shared some time with Mishpacha.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What inspired you, as a born-and-bred Lakewood ben Torah, to strive for political and military careers?

I never strived for any of this. Prior to my involvement in these matters, I was a quiet kollel yungerman sitting in the back of [Beth Medrash Govoha’s] Beis Eliyahu. If you had told me then that I’d be mayor of Lakewood or involved in the military, I would’ve said that you landed on your head. But obviously, Hashem had different plans.

My kiruv activities with Gesher [currently Torah Links] got me involved with several Jewish troops based at McGuire Air Force Base, located about forty miles southwest of Lakewood. I was urged to get involved in an official capacity, which I did. My political career began when local askanim were seeking a yungerman with a simple name to run a “write-in” primary race against an individual they mistrusted on matters of interest to the kehillah. I won the primary, an unusual occurrence for a write-in candidate, lost in the general election, but won a seat on the committee the following year.

 

What do your chaplaincy duties demand from you?

Chaplains are there to serve the religious and emotional needs of troops. Although I’m a Jewish chaplain, I serve troops of all religions. We serve as morale boosters and crisis counselors. Serving in the military, especially overseas, is very stressful and unfortunately often causes family breakups, depression, and suicide, in addition to deaths and injuries on the field.

Though I’m only a reservist, I train for about two weeks a year and must serve at least twelve days a year. I’m officially assigned to a unit at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, but my travels constantly take me throughout the Unites States. In addition to being trained for chaplaincy duties, I’ve been trained for some basic warfare scenarios. Additionally, twice a year, I undergo a fitness evaluation, in which I must do push-ups, sit-ups, and run 1.5 miles in under twelve minutes.

 

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