Brigadier General Rabbi Dr. Israel Drazin
Mar 13, 2014
Rabbi Israel Drazin was ordained as a rabbi in 1957 at Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Maryland. After receiving semichot from two other rabbis, he entered Army active duty, serving until 1960 in both Louisiana and Germany. He left active duty in 1960 and officiated as a weekend rabbi at synagogues until 1974 and then officiated as a rabbi on an intermittent basis until 1987. He also continued to serve in the Army's active reserves, soldiering with half a dozen units. He attained the rank of Brigadier General in 1984. He graduated the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College and its War College for generals in 1985. Additional degrees include a B.A. in Theology (1957), an M.Ed. in Psychology (1966), a JD (1974), an MA in Hebrew Literature (1978), and a Ph.D. in Aramaic Literature (1981). Thereafter, he completed two years of post-graduate study in philosophy and mysticism.
After receiving his JD in 1974, he immediately began a private law practice, handling a wide variety of cases until his retirement in 1997.
Rabbi Drazin worked in a variety of capacities for the U.S. Civil Service from 1962 until retiring in 1990. For example, he advised insurance company executives regarding civil rights and equal employment; he supervised a team of lawyers who handled litigation relating to Medicare; and, he served as the director for all Maryland’s Federal Agencies’ relationship with the United Fund.
From 1978 until 1981, he lectured at the US Army Chaplains School on legal subjects. The Army recalled him to active duty from March 1981 until 1984 to defend the constitutionality of the military chaplaincies which had been challenged on constitutional grounds and were facing potential disbandment; the challenge was rebuffed. Thereafter and until 1988, he was the first Jewish person to serve as Assistant Chief of Chaplains, the highest reserve officer position available in the Army chaplaincy. During his military career, he revolutionized the role of military chaplains, making them officers responsible for the free exercise rights of all military personnel and requiring them to provide for the needs of people of all faiths as well as atheists.
Rabbi Drazin is a prolific writer whose output includes popular and scholarly articles, books, and dozens of book reviews. He has published 24 books and written over 2,100 book reviews. His work includes articles for www.jewishideas.com; book reviews for Amazon.com and the www.thejewisheye.com; a book about the case he handled for the US Army; For God and Country (1995); Legends Worth Living (editor, 1991; written by his father); A Rational Approach to Judaism and Torah Commentary; Maimonides: The Exceptional Mind; Maimonides and the Biblical Prophets; and, Maimonides: Reason Above All. Targumic Studies (1982), Targum Onkelos to Deuteronomy (1983), Targum Onkelos to Exodus (1988), Targum Onkelos to Leviticus (1993), and Targum Onkelos to Numbers (1998) and Targum Onkelos to Deuteronomy (2010). He and late fellow RCA chaver Dr. Stanley Wagner published the five volumes of Onkelos on the Torah as well as several other books. Biblical scholars consistently praise the five scholarly books on the Aramaic translation of the Bible, Rabbi Drazin's latest book. published in March 2014, is Mysteries of Judaism. His next book will be published in May 2014, Hirhurim b'Targum.
From 2000 to 2004, he served s the Executive Director of the Jim Joseph Foundation, a foundation which supports Jewish education. Over the years, he has been honored with a number of military awards, the RCA's Joseph Hoenig Memorial Aware (1985), and the JWB's Distinguished Service Award (1986).
"Some have wondered," Dr. Drazin notes, "how I got interested in Onkelos. A professor suggested that I could do it. Since it seemed like an uninteresting topic, I therefore took his suggestion as a challenge and got to work. I think that I made it interesting. I am proud of the discovery that I made about the dating of Onkelos and that Nachmanides was the first scholar to see derash in the Targum, which is not really there, and other discoveries.
"My father, mother and other relatives were all highly educated in both Torah and secular matters. In truth, I became a rabbi only because of the information I could acquire, not to serve as a pulpit rabbi. I entered the military at a time that I was tired of studying and wanted to get away from it. This period of alienation from study only lasted for a few weeks. I took books along with me to basic training.
"Since I was young, I have never been able to do only a single thing at one time. That's why my career is so varied. Today, I write on Torah commentary and place philosophical and thought-provoking articles on my website www.booksnthoughts.com.
I read 200 books a year. I am grateful beyond measure that my wife, Dina, accommodates my needs by doing most of the functions that a husband generally performs."
Rabbi Drazin and Dina live in Boca Raton, FL. They are proud parents of four, grandparents of fifteen, and great-grandparents of one..