Alabama rabbi asked to give Republican convention invocation

Rabbi Ira Flax, a retired military chaplain now living in Birmingham, has been asked to give the invocation during the Wednesday session of the Republican National Convention.

The convention will be Sept. 1 to 4 in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Flax said he was asked to deliver an invocation on Sept. 3, likely at the evening session.

Flax said he was contacted by convention organizers on Aug. 14, and “I was very excited… it’s an honor just to be asked.”

Yohana de la Torre, deputy press secretary for the convention, would not confirm the schedule, saying it is has not been finalized or released.

When it comes to the convention schedule, Flax cautioned “Everything is subject to change.”

Flax began his Air Force career in Biloxi, Miss., in 1988, and has served in Germany, Turkey and Nebraska, and the Air Force Academy in Colorado. He smuggled his tallit and tefillin into Saudi Arabia, a country that can and will confiscate non-Muslim religious objects, even from military members. He also was the only chaplain on duty at the base in Germany the night 57 wounded Rangers were brought in from Somalia in the “Black Hawk Down” incident.

When he was stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery starting in 2003, he moved his family to Birmingham and chose to retire there after a final posting in Texas. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel on June 1.

This month, Flax will also begin serving as a visiting rabbi for Beth Israel in Biloxi. The congregation lost its building in Hurricane Katrina and has been meeting at a church for almost three years. Groundbreaking on a new building in nearby Gulfport is anticipated in the next couple of months.

Flax will visit Biloxi monthly to lead services. “It’s kind of a nice homecoming,” he said, since that is where he first started.