For the week ending 8 April 2017 / 12 Nisan 5777

Rabbi Noson Sachs (61)

by Rabbi Shlomo Simon
Library Library Library

Fairfield, Connecticut

Jerusalem, Israel

Ohr Somayach 1979-1980

Yeshiva University, BA Psychology, MA Human Resources

Semicha, Yeshiva University

Ohr Somayach, 2014 to present

Some of our students like Ohr Somayach so much that when they retire they return to the Beit Midrash they left when they were in their early 20’s. One might call them “double ba’alei teshuva” (masters of return). One of these returnees is Colonel Noson Sachs, US Army.

Noson grew up in Fairfield, CT, in a non-observant home. His family belonged to a Conservative shul, and his Jewish education ended when he was bar mitzvah. He went to public school, and when he graduated from high school he went to college in Ames, Iowa — Iowa State University. He did not choose the college because of its proximity to a large and impressive Jewish community. He was planning to be a veterinarian, and Iowa has lots of farm animals and a vet school. There were also quite a few religious Christians in the college who read the Bible every day. Not wishing to be ignorant of the text that his own Jewish People gave to the world, Noson also started to read the Bible. A rabbi he knew directed him to Morristown, New Jersey, the home of a Chabad yeshiva, where he studied for a few months. His growing interest in Torah study compelled him to leave Iowa and come to New York where he enrolled in Yeshiva University. After graduation he decided that he needed more time involved in Torah study, and came to Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem where he joined Rabbi Moshe Pindrus’ shiur for a year. He loved it. He returned to New York and enrolled in Ohr Somayach in Monsey where he stayed for a year, and then got married to a young lady who had recently graduated from Stern College. The next three years were spent in the kollel of YU in Washington Heights, from which he received semicha, rabbinical ordination.

He heard that the US Army Reserves was looking for chaplains and decided to apply. He joined the Army as a lieutenant and was sent for training. He loved it. He decided to take an active duty commission, and was posted to the large US Army base in Frankfurt, Germany. He spent three-and-a-half years in Germany doing kiruv (outreach). He and his wife hosted large Shabbat and Yom Tov meals. He also established a Talmud Torah there for 30 children. When his posting to Germany ended he left active duty and returned to the States. There he received a Master’s degree in Human Resources, and went to work for the Council of Jewish Federations in New York. He soon realized that being a chaplain suited him better than corporate-style work. His next job was as a chaplain in a large hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. He enjoyed his work there and stayed for 21 years.

All this time he was still in the Army Reserves and received regular promotions. In 2005 he was mobilized and sent to, among other places, Afghanistan and Iraq. He was on active duty until 2010. During this time he was involved in a new Army program called “Strong Bonds”. The Army had noticed a high degree of marital discord and divorce within families of its soldiers, especially the ones who were on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. They developed the Strong Bonds program to teach conflict resolution skills to soldiers and their spouses. It was very successful, leading to Noson’s promotion to full colonel and being put in charge of the program in 13 states.

Highlights of his Army career include conducting services for the High Holidays and Succot at the Bagram US Air Force Base near Kabul, Afghanistan, learning Talmud Bavli in Bavel (Iraq), and eating “shalosh seudahs” on Shabbat in Saddam Hussein’s Boardroom in his Palace in Bagdad.

Noson retired in 2014 and moved with his family to Israel, returning to the Ohr Somayach Beit Midrash to learn Torah.

“I feel such hakaras hatov (gratitude) to Ohr Somayach. When I first came I had no money. They understood this and didn’t ask me for anything. I’m happy that I can now pay tuition through my GI Bill.”

We are also grateful that Rabbi Colonel Sachs and his family have returned “home” to the Ohr Somayach family in Jerusalem to continue Torah study (and pay tuition as well, of course.) May they enjoy many more years of happiness and success.

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