Theology Student Recites Kaddish for Fallen Soldier

Theology Student Recites Kaddish for Fallen Soldier

Airport chaplain relates her ties to Judaism and campus life at Emory.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Murru is shown receiving the casket of a fallen soldier and honors their faith choices. Currently, she is saying Kaddish weekly for a captain with Jewish roots.
Murru is shown receiving the casket of a fallen soldier and honors their faith choices. Currently, she is saying Kaddish weekly for a captain with Jewish roots.

Set your clock by Terri Murru standing to the far left of the bima every Saturday at Ahavath Achim Synagogue as she stands to say Kaddish.

However, this prayer, in memory of the dead, is not being recited by a family member, but by Murru, a last-year student at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, and full-time chaplain with the Ministry of Presence at the Hartsfield Jackson Airport. This involves her support for the Honor Guard, responsibilities that center around the military, including liturgical services, new recruits, the travels of thousands during Army holiday blocks, and the sorrowful role of handling fallen soldiers.

Although non- Jewish, Murru began studying Torah 26 years ago in an effort to learn about Middle Eastern Jews. She stated, “I have worshiped my whole life and had extraordinary rabbis who encouraged my studies; and congregations who welcomed my perspective.”

Terri Murru is the Ministry of Presence and has made concerted efforts to bring Judaism into Atlanta airport.

For a decade, she has been an associate member of B’nai Torah in Boca Raton, Fla., and participates in Friday Torah study and Shabbat services via Zoom.

As Honor Guard Chaplain, Murru found herself with a fallen soldier who had Jewish roots. This hero, who perished in the November USAF Osprey crash in Japan, was labeled “Spiritual but not Religious” or “Humanistic Atheist.” After he was sent home, his sister questioned Murru’s experience with Judaism, who then recognized the opportunity to honor the Jewish father’s side of the family.

Murru stated, “It’s not uncommon for the fallen to be unreligious as was the case with our captain. I respected his life choice in prayer as we received him. He went home to a Unitarian funeral; I decided to say Mourner’s Kaddish at Ahavath Achim where Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal [initially] engaged the congregation in honoring him.”

Her other connections to Judaism for the airport include streaming High Holiday services in the F terminal, and leading Haggadah readings for Passover. Murru explained, “We have more than 676,000 employees and 94 million passengers traveling annually. They don’t always have a choice in timing, and it’s a delight for most to find a true interfaith chapel available 24/7.”

In addition to acknowledging Jewish holidays, she assures that there are siddurs in the three chapels. She also works with Rabbi Yossi Lew, of Peachtree City Chabad, and would welcome more volunteer rabbis.

Speaking about Emory, Murru says, “As for Candler students, we are fortunate to have (Jewish) Professor Michael Berger on campus and in our library. The campus Interfaith Chapel is amazing. I was told Emory is 30 percent Jewish; I’ve had wonderful conversations with our extraordinary President [Greg Fenves] about his father, a Holocaust survivor.”

Murru helps the military, passengers, and employees observe Judaism with siddurs and services along the way.

Murru “fell in love” with Israel in 2015 for three months while learning beekeeping and ended up conducting interfaith walking tours in Jerusalem. She returned in 2018 for the summer in Nazareth. Future trips were cancelled because of COVID and now, war.

In terms of personal worship, she said, “Shabbat is the best kept secret and greatest gift. Havdalah is my favorite service … my Torah studies are with remarkable scholars who add dimensions and unmatched learning.”

Her most meaningful prayers besides the Kaddish, are Vidui, and “Who does not love Aleinu?”

Terri is working on her Hebrew skills in an effort to be truly fluent since attending services and singing has made memorization easier.

Regarding campus antisemitism, Murru stated, “Most know that I’m not objective. It’s a tough time. I pray for the day when all college campuses focus on framing political issues with academic rigor. Please know you are not alone in this horrific war. We are all praying for you and with you! Hostage return is at the top of my daily prayer list.”

Murru is currently in the ordination process with the Episcopal Dieses of Atlanta. After another “year of discernment,” she hopes to become a priest.

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