Support our mission

You call yourself “the approachable rabbi.” Why is that?

Well, here’s the G-rated version: because there are only seven rabbis in the Navy, many people don’t know that they can come to us even if they’re not Jewish. They don’t know what to expect. I lead off the approach by saying I’m a [Naval Support Activity Naples] chaplain for all folks.

If this isn’t sacrilegious to say, I admit, rabbi, you do get around. You’re quite popular on the base, and many have said you not only live up to your “approachable” title, but you’re quite funny at that.

Thank you. Yes, everyone seems to know who I am, and my wife can attest to that. I’m here 12 hours a day, so I have plenty of business. Sorry, honey.

You’ve been in for 14 years, meaning you signed up for military service much later than most. What call did you answer?

It was a birthday that ended with a zero, and a realization that the frontline was where I belonged. It was during the time of Desert Shield/Desert Storm and the Navy was looking for chaplains. I actually answered a postcard — literally.

Any regrets?

None. No question about it. I’ve had the time of my life, making a difference in people’s lives. … And I need to be part of a team. My single best military experience was last year in Fallujah, when I was asked to be a fill-in for a battalion chaplain who got hurt. My PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) was leaving my battalion.

I used to be the shy, retiring, introvert. Rabbis have a reputation for being scholarly. Then I learned I need to be part of a team. It was then that I discovered I’m good at what I do.

And it’s helped me appreciate the maturity of [today’s youth]. Like my son, who will be 22 at the end of the month and is now in the National Guard serving in Baghdad. He’s learning about life much faster than I ever did.

What interests you outside the realm of religion?

I’m an old movie buff and I love things New York. I spent most of my life denying I was a New Yorker, even though I was born in Brooklyn, but I only lived there for a year before my family moved to Richmond, Va. But I’ve since fallen in love with New York. It’s a combination of the food, architecture and movies. In a simple weekend, I can see more of the world [there] than in Norfolk or any other place I’ve lived.

Chaplain (Lt. Cmdr.) Seth Phillips

Age: 54

Title: Chaplain.

Stationed: Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy.

Europe readers: Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Send the person’s name and contact information to: news@estripes.osd.mil.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up