Rabbi Bemel is a chaplain in the United States Navy after spending almost 30 years in the business world. His call sign at the air wing, which has since become his nickname, is Rabs. Now, having worked with thousands of Marines in Okinawa, Japan and hundreds of sailors during a Persian Gulf deployment with the carrier air wing for the USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN-76), and the submariners at Submarine Squadron 11 at Naval Base Point Loma, he is back in civilian life sharing what he has learned to help people live more intentionally.
The Institute for Living Intentionally, established in 2013, is an outgrowth of Rabbi Bemel’s work as a navy chaplain helping sailors and Marines deal with the demands of military life. In the course of various shipboard exercises and carrier deployments he created the Three Pillars of Fitness – Physical | Mental | Spiritual, to help sailors and Marines get and stay at peak performance.
Seeking to address the mental and spiritual aspects for people leaving military life, he joined with Father Christopher Allen and Dr. Bryan Dove in starting its inaugural program, A Higher Calling – Chaplains for Veterans, which provides round the clock chaplain support to veterans and their family members.
Rabbi Bemel blogs on personal development, entrepreneurship, spirituality, military, and history at www.bemel.com. He writes extensively on history and has several articles in Germany at War, Encyclopedia of World War I: A Political, Social, and Military History, 2nd Edition, and Russia at War, all of which will be published by ABC-Clio this year and the beginning of 2015.
For his first tour of duty in the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps, Rabbi Bemel was stationed at Marine Corps Base, Camp Smedley D. Butler in Okinawa, Japan where after eighteen months he became Acting Deputy Base Chaplain, which usually requires 14 years of service. He administrated a department that included eight chapels and a staff of fourteen people, while overseeing supply procurement and contracting, and providing direct care for 300 sailors of the dental clinics and 100 Marines assigned to or incarcerated in the brig. As well, he worked with thousands of Marines, family members, Department of Defense personnel, American expatriates, and local nationals living in Okinawa.
His second tour was as the Command Chaplain for Carrier Air Wing Fourteen at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. During this tour Rabi Bemel provided pastoral care to over 1,300 sailors and Marines at five locations in two states and during a seven-month shipboard combat deployment to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. He also participated in the humanitarian assistance in the wake of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
In August 2012 Rabbi Bemel transferred to the navy reserves, was assigned to a domestic emergency response unit in San Diego, CA, then was recalled to active duty in February 2013. As the chaplain for Submarine Squadron 11 based at Naval Base Point Loma he helped submariners and their families prepare for deployment and deal with the long separations that are a part of the Silent Service. He got underway on submarines several times and this was truly UNDER way.
Rabbi Bemel received the following awards and decorations: Captain George P. Smith, USN Leadership Award, the Deep Submergence Insignia pin, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Two Gold Star, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, and other campaign and service awards.
Prior to his military service, Rabbi Bemel spent twenty years running the firm he founded, Bemel Management Co., that performed real estate appraisal, brokerage, and management services. During that time it appraised over $1 billion worth of property, brokered and auctioned off more than $27 million worth of real estate, and managed a portfolio valued at over $25 million.
He has 36 years of experience as a teacher, trainer, and speaker including 23 years conducting classes and seminars on a wide variety of business topics including entrepreneurship, sales, finance, investments, real estate appraisal and brokerage, tax and regulatory matters, and personal finances. In 1989, he co-founded Paller Real Estate School in Agoura, California and established the ongoing curriculum. He was certified to instruct appraisal standards and ethics by the Congressionally-appointed national board, of which there were fewer than 400 nationwide. Currently, he is an instructor for UCLA Extension.
Academically, Rabbi Bemel received rabbinic ordination from the Pirchei Shoshomin Semicha Program in Lakewood, New Jersey. He hold a Master of Religious Studies from Aish Hatorah Los Angeles, a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Southern California, and is currently working on a Master of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University.
Father Allen is a native of Glastonbury, CT. He graduated from Glastonbury High School in 1979, received a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from the University of Connecticut in 1983, a Master of Arts in Linguistics from the University of Washington in 1994, and a Master of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology in 1999. On June 14, 2009, he received a diploma in Orthodox Pastoral Theology from the Pastoral School of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America, Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.
In October, 2001 Father Allen was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church and served as a college Father for the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas from 1999 to 2002. During the same period, he also served as Associate Priest/Youth Minister at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Denton, TX. From 2002 to 2005, he served as Vicar of the Church of the Ascension and St. Mark in Bridgeport, TX, in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. During his tenure there, the bishop appointed him Dean of the Diocese’s Northern Deanery.
Father Allen began his navy career as a reservist, enlisting in the Advanced Paygrade Program as a Religious Program Specialist, 3rd Class in 1997 while still in seminary at Boston University. After serving for a year with NMCB-27 at NAS Brunswick, ME, he was encouraged to apply to and was commissioned in the navy’s Chaplain Candidate Officer Program. He superseded to the Selected Reserve as a chaplain in April, 2004, and served with Marine Air Group 41 at NAS-JRB Fort Worth, TX, until May, 2005, at which time he requested and received orders to Active Duty.
Arriving in August of 2005 at Naval Station Great Lakes, he completed his tour as Staff Chaplain and transferred to Recruit Training Command (RTC) in August, 2008 where he saw to the transition of hundreds of recruits into their new life in the navy. In addition, he headed up the largest and most comprehensive navy civilian volunteer ministry program, accommodating the religious needs of a wide array of faith groups.
From RTC, Father Allen was ordered to Marine Corps Base, Camp Butler, Okinawa in August of 2009. In addition to his duties as Okinawa’s only Orthodox Chaplain, he served as the Base Chaplain’s Supply and Budget Officer and Contracting Officer Representative as well as Headquarters and Services Battalion Chaplain and Chaplain for Camp Foster. In December, 2011, he deployed to Afghanistan to provide special ministry support for Orthodox personnel of the Coalition Forces and augmentation of pastoral care for II Marine Expeditionary Force, Forward.
Completing his tour in Okinawa in May, 2012, Father Allen returned to civilian life in San Antonio, TX, in order to begin a new Orthodox mission in that city with the blessing of his diocesan bishop. He transitioned into the Reserve Component and is currently assigned as Battalion Chaplain for the 4th Marine Division, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion in San Antonio. From March to September of 2013, Father Allen was chosen to serve on special orders to support the Command Religious Program at the Navy Medicine Training Support Center on Ft. Sam Houston, San Antonio, TX.
He has twice been awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and once the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
In 2006, Father Allen, his wife and sons all converted to the Orthodox Christian faith. Father Allen was ordained to the Orthodox priesthood through the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in November, 2006, incurring no break in service during this transition. In January, 2007, Father Allen restarted the Orthodox service at RTC’s Recruit Memorial Chapel. On June 14, 2009, Father Allen was awarded the first elevation of priestly rank (Nabedrennik) for his diligence in service to the Church, and on October 14, 2010, he was awarded the right to wear the kamilavka, an additional mark of seniority and honor. He was also instrumental in helping to establish his jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church as a recognized Endorsing Agent for Orthodox Fathers. He continues to serve his diocese administratively as chair of the Diocesan Audit Committee.
Father Allen speaks several languages, including Irish, Swedish, Spanish and some Russian. He has worked in several positions in the computer and insurance industries. He has been married for 22 to his wife Melissa, who is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and they have two sons, ages 19 and 16.
Dr. Bryan Dove, Founder, Director of Policies & Procedures, A Higher Calling – Chaplains for Veterans