After the Allies are victorious in the battle against the Axis in Europe, Sergeant Nathan Marx, in “Defender of the Faith,” is rotated back to the States, to Camp Crowder, Missouri. A veteran and a war hero with medals to prove it, Sergeant Marx is modest enough—and totally unprepared for confrontations with Private Sheldon Grossbart from the Bronx, whom he is assigned to train along with other recruits for the continuing war against Japan. Quickly recognizing in Marx a “landsman”—that is, a fellow Jew from New York—Grossbart begins to play on the sergeant’s hidden sympathies. Although he is far from an observant Jew himself, Marx cannot bring himself to reject totally the pleas for special favors that Grossbart repeatedly brings to him, such as being excused from a “G.I. Party” (that is, a barracks cleaning) on Friday nights (the start of the Jewish Sabbath). Marx is uncomfortable about this, but Grossbart is persuasive, not only on his own behalf, but also on behalf of Fishbein and Halpern, two other Jewish men in the company.
One success leads to another, as Grossbart wheedles favor after favor from Marx. He apparently goes too far when he complains about the nonkosher food and writes a letter to his congressman over his father’s signature. When the commanding officer of his company finds out, he questions Grossbart in front of Marx, holding the sergeant up to him as a model. At this point, Grossbart backs off, and another letter arrives, again purportedly from Grossbart’s father to his congressman, praising Sergeant Marx for helping his son over the hurdles he has to face in the Army. In a note attached to the letter, passed down through the chain of Army command to Marx, the congressman also praises the sergeant as “a credit to the U.S. Army and the Jewish people.” After that, Grossbart seems to disappear from his life for a while, and Marx is...
(The entire section is 771 words.)