By RICHARD GOLDENBERG
Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A.
SCHENECTADY– Jewish War Veterans joined with the First Reformed Church of Schenectady and 100 attendees in the Clark Poling Chapel to honor Rev. Charlene Robbins as the 54th recipient of the Four Chaplains’ Brotherhood Award on Sunday, Feb. 24.
Albany Post 105 of the Jewish War Veterans has led the effort to recognize a local member of the community since 1966 in honor of the value of selfless service of the Four Chaplains in 1943. The vision of the Four Chaplains Award is to impart the principles of selfless service to humanity without regard to race, creed, ethnicity, or religious beliefs.
Clark Poling was one of the four chaplains lost in the North Atlantic in February 1943 during the sinking of the troopship Dorchester. Poling had served the faith community at the local First Reformed Church before entering military service as an Army chaplain in World War II.
The chaplains of four different religious faiths gave their lifejackets to others and perished in the sinking.
Robbins has led a life of service to others in various forms since her ordination on Sept. 9, 2001 from the Holistic Studies Seminary Institute in Albany, first ministering to and comforting first responders and aid workers following the terror attacks at the World Trade Center on 9/11.
“Charlene inspires us in her devotion to others, and in particular her focus on serving veteran organizations,” said Fred Altman, JWV Albany Post 105 commander.
Robbins is also a Gold Star Mother to Army Staff Sergeant Thomas Robbins, who died in action in Iraq on Feb. 9, 2004, attempting save the lives of his soldiers during a mortar explosion.
It was the intersection of these two elements of her life that inspire Robbins’ efforts today.
“All my life, I just wanted to be that person to help others,” Robbins said.
She was recognized in 2005 as a grand marshal by the City of Albany Memorial Day Parade, participating on her son’s behalf. Her introduction to the wider veterans’ community 14 years ago sparked her action and support, bringing spiritual leadership, empathy, comfort and peacefulness to the many veteran and civic events she supports.
She is chaplain of the Tri-County Council of Vietnam Era Veterans as well as chaplain for a variety of community programs, including the Albany County Honor-A-Veteran program, the Albany County Honor-A-Living Veteran program, Albany High School Junior ROTC, the City of Albany Memorial and Veterans Day parades and the Town of Colonie annual Memorial Day Service.
The Four Chaplains Brotherhood Award exists to further the cause of “unity without uniformity” by encouraging goodwill and cooperation among all people. The non-denominational award honors people whose deeds symbolize the legacy of the Four Chaplains, according to Altman.
“When you read the story of these Four Chaplains, it really makes you take pause, to reflect on those values that come to the front in difficult times,” said Congressman Paul Tonko.
Tonko presented Robbins with a proclamation, that he and Congressman Antonio Delgado, representing the region had prepared and was joined by elected officials, including New York State Senator James Tedisco, Assembly Representative John McDonald, City of Albany Treasurer Darius Shahinfar, and New York State Division of Veterans Affairs Deputy Director Jason Chakot.
All joined in the praise of Robbins’ support to the veterans’ community with state and local proclamations, including the City of Albany declaring Feb. 24 at Charlene Robbins Day.
“I thank and commend the Jewish War Veterans for bringing us together each year for this event, to retell the tale and honor those in our community who live up to the ideals of those Four Chaplains,” Tonko said.
First held in 1966, the Jewish War Veterans of the Capital District have recognized civic leaders, community organizers and issue advocates, educators, healthcare providers and clergy for their humanitarian efforts that convey the spirit of the Four Chaplains.
The Jewish War Veterans have posts in Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga Springs.