Lance Allen Wang, Assoc. Editor

I remember it clear as day. Our Jewish lay leader at Victory Base in Baghdad was redeploying, and she asked the 10-12 of us, located in a small room off to the side of a plywood Chapel surrounded by blast walls, furnished with a few folding chairs and a small wooden ark with a toy Torah (a souvenir from Israel), if any of us would be interested in taking over as lay leader. There was nary a peep from the “congregation” – a collection of men and women from different services, plus a few contractors for good measure. I was hardly in a position to consider myself qualified to take over. Although I didn’t want to be a lay leader, I was unable to stomach the thought that in a war zone some young Jew might not be able to pray at a time that he may want or need to the most, all because I decided not to volunteer. I pulled the lay leader to the side, and said that I’d be happy to volunteer, as long as she understands that my only qualifications were that I’m Jewish.

At the time, I was hardly an observant Jew. Although fiercely proud of my ethnicity and cultural heritage, I was mostly secular in my outlook and lifestyle. I’d been to services a handful of times during the twenty years or so that I’d been in the military, and the last time I’d led a service was when I became a Bar Mitzvah over a quarter century before. I wasn’t a member of a Shul – we had briefly joined one, but it was clear that we had very little in common with the congregation. There were lots of imported European cars in the parking lot in contrast with my dirty pickup truck, and pretty much no one who wore fatigues to work. It was a very Reform shul, but the kind that eschewed kippot and Hebrew in their services. We didn’t stay very long.

Needless to say, I ended up taking on the role. It turned out to be one of the most transformational experiences of my life. I’m sure many people perform that role daily in civilian and military congregations and find it rewarding or mundane, depending upon their circumstances. But as for myself, my time as lay leader became a period of personal spiritual exploration that coincidentally took place during a period of trial and vulnerability.

I’ve always said that the best way to learn something is to teach it. While I felt that my skills as a prayer leader were greatly lacking, it was clear that within the small congregation there were those who knew less about Judaism than me. Some were not Jewish at all, but were in the process of converting at home or were considering it. We had others who recollected bits and pieces of the service from their youth – but most attended for the same reason I did, to share the company of fellow Jews on Shabbat for a couple of hours. I began to study how to lead a service. I would pick the brains of the Jewish Chaplains that would occasionally visit for a few days. Then something else happened.

I’d been lay leading for a bit over a month and I was in my unit’s headquarters talking with several other officers when there was a rocket attack. It was much larger than the usual 107 millimeter rockets, and this one was far too close for comfort – it roared overhead like a freight train and landed just beyond our blast walls, killing one civilian and injuring several soldiers. Plaster rained down in our headquarters, but other than a blown out window and some shrapnel scattered about the area, we were shaken but no worse for wear. But I was troubled, and I was fortunate that a week later we had a visiting Rabbi, a reservist from Pittsburgh, I think.  I asked him if I could speak with him privately, and he quickly agreed. I think he knew I needed guidance.

We grabbed some coffee and sat in the plywood Chapel. I told him I didn’t get it- as a Jew, as a lay leader, I thought I was doing all the right things. But then there was the rocket attack and I felt nothing. No divine presence, no sheltering hand. Nothing! In retrospect, silly as it sounds, I felt like a spiritual failure and wholly unqualified to lead anyone in prayer.

The Rabbi thought for a moment, and then said, “I’m going to respond to you, but before I do, I want you to be willing to sit and listen to the entire answer.” I wish I could do justice to the way the Rabbi explained it, so I will forego attempting to say what he said, but I will instead tell you what I heard. These may be completely different things, but I internalized what I heard, and in the end, I suppose that is the most important.

He asked me if I believed in God. I knew I couldn’t just dismiss this with a shrug. I’d never really considered the question as a grown-up. I still took many things for granted as though I’d just learned them in Hebrew School, when in fact, that was a long time ago and I’d grown quite a bit since I’d had any form of formal Jewish education. I could no longer take things for granted. God could no longer be seen as the “cosmic Santa Claus” such as children see Him.  But I needed to find a way to fit an adult understanding of God into the crazy quilt my life had become. So I responded with the old standby, “I’m not sure, but I have spiritual feelings.” Truth be told, I sure wanted to believe in God, and if was going to help me avoid the feeling of spiritual emptiness that I was feeling at my most alone, I was all ears.

We discussed the concept of spirituality, and its connection to faith.  What I realized was that spirituality is those things that touch the soul and our ability to feel and appreciate them, while other creatures cannot, is part of our evidence of the divine. But in the end, faith is not a solid line.  The divine is not “provable.”  Nor is absence of the divine “provable.” That’s why it’s called “faith” and not “fact.” To watchers of “Law and Order” – “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Those spiritual things help connect the “doing and saying the right things” to the divine. Faith helps makes the “doing and saying the right things” mean something.

He then offered me some suggestions. “Talk to God,” he said. He asked me if I pray. . “I lead prayer,” I told him. “Yes,” he said, “But do you pray?”

I told him I did when I was leading services, but it felt like a one-way conversation, and I never did on my own. He said, “Talk to God. It need not always be in the context of prayer. Watch Teviah in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ – he’s constantly talking to God. He even kvetches at God.” In retrospect, this was helpful advice. Judaism is often so connected with the concept of communal prayer and gathering, we forget our own personal relationship with the divine. In the privacy of the small trailer I called home, the gentle swaying of prayer became the embrace of an omnipresent parent.

Discovering faith and the need for an adult understanding of God helped me become a better lay leader. I was able to lead short discussions with the congregation, conversations which were sorely needed to share the extraordinary circumstances in which we found ourselves. These discussions dealt with hard topics, like the loss of one of our own to a roadside bomb. Another member was a military police officer, who was coming to terms with cleaning blood out of one of her vehicles after a particularly difficult patrol.

It’s almost ten years to the day since I was sent to Iraq. Since then, I’ve retired and settled down outside a small rural village in upstate New York. I still pray twice a day – I make time for spiritual exercise as well as physical. I spent four years as President of my congregation, and still lead a service once a month.

Do I approach faith with the surety of a child? No, I don’t. I’m challenged by it, intrigued by it, and know that whatever it is, it is a part of me. I still wrestle with it – but doesn’t the word “Israel” mean “wrestled with God?” Much like with the regular cycle of reading Torah, we read the same scripture repeatedly, and while the words don’t change over time, we and our world do.   So we tease out new meaning, new relevance, and new ways to use it as a prism with which to view ourselves, our lives, and God.   So long as I continue to do that, I find myself in a good place.

Volume 71.  Number 2. Summer 2017

By Seth Meyerowitz with Peter F. Stevens

Book review by Sheldon A. Goldberg, Ph.D.
Docent/Historian, NMAJMH

One of the greatest fears of airmen during World War II – especially Jewish airmen – was to be shot down and captured by the Nazis.  Allied airmen, regardless of their religion, were labeled terrorflieger – terrorist airmen – by the Nazi hierarchy. Many of those downed over German territory were captured and sent to POW camps, the less fortunate were lynched by German civilians, shot on sight by German soldiers, or if captured by the Gestapo, tortured and then killed. Those shot down in France and not captured by the Nazis but rescued by French citizens and given over the Maquis – the French resistance fighters – were extremely lucky and smuggled out of France. Staff Sergeant Arthur Meyerowitz, a young Jewish B-24 flight engineer and top turret gunner who was shot down over France on his second mission on 31 December 1944 was one of the lucky ones. The Lost Airman is the amazing true story of his 6-month journey with the help of the French resistance to escape from Nazi-occupied France.

Injuring his back after cutting himself out of the tree in which he landed after bailing out of his burning B-24, Meyerowitz takes a chance and walks to a French farmhouse to seek help from its occupants. His luck holds out – the French family are in close contact with a French resistance group, the Morhange and its leader, Marcel Taillandier. Marcel takes Arthur and his journey through a number of safe houses begins. He is taught to be and act like a deaf mute to avoid possible capture by the Nazis, always on the lookout for downed airmen. The perilous journey takes him through France to Toulouse where he spent four months hiding in the open and finally over the Pyrenees into Spain and eventually to Gibraltar and Allied control.

Aside from the description of Arthur’s journey, there are a number of excellent reasons anyone interested in World War II history should read this well-written book. First, it tells the story of a young, Bronx-born Jew who, disqualified from the Aviation Cadet program due to an accident affecting his eyesight, opts to become a flight engineer rather than an administrative officer because he wanted to fight for his country. Second, it is the story of an individual with tremendous will power, fortitude and courage that enabled him to do what his French rescuers required of him in order to survive. Third, it provides an in-depth look at the French Maquis and how they operated, including infiltrating the German occupation authorities. Finally, it describes the heroism of those patriotic French men and women who faced torture and death rather than give up the names of their resistance colleagues.

The Lost Airman is based on Arthur Meyerowitz’s escape debrief, post-war letters from his French rescuers, and interviews with Arthur’s brother Seymour, and the narration reads easily like a novel. Whatever literary license that was taken, smoothly bridges gaps and is factually based and logical, portraying Arthur and the members of the Maquis as true heroes.

Volume 71. Number 1. Spring 2017

By Jeffrey R. Weitzenkorn
Commander, Post 735 MA

On January 30, 2017, representatives of Sharon Post 735 presented a check in the amount of $1,600 to Richard Leeman, Assistant Chief of Voluntary Service, and Lana Otis, Voluntary Services Program Manager, at the Brockton Campus of the Veterans Administration Boston Healthcare System.  The Post raised these funds during their Veterans Day solicitation at the local Shaws Supermarket from November 9th through 11th of last year.

These funds will be used to help hospitalized veterans for the personal needs of these men and women while undergoing treatment and extended care within the VA facility.  Among the items provided are specialized telephones for paralyzed patients so that they may more easily maintain contact with their families.

Since 2009, the post has raised and contributed over $23,000 to this organization.

In addition, Post 735 has received the Jewish War Veterans Department of Massachusetts Community Service Award for their continued support of hospitalized veterans for the years 2014 and 2015. The post also regularly sponsors deserving seniors from Sharon High School and Stoughton High School at the annual Massachusetts Classmates Today Neighbors Tomorrow scholarship breakfast program.

Volume 71. Number 1. Spring 2017

By Jordana Green

Regardless of political leanings, the rise of anti-Semitism on a national level is a concerning and bipartisan issue.

In a viral Facebook post written on February 4th, a New York City subway rider recounted how he and his fellow passengers worked together to erase Nazi symbols scrawled across the subway car using Purell hand sanitizer and tissues. This particular anecdote has a happy ending, but it exemplifies a concerning trend:  New Yorkers worked together- in a city where people notoriously keep to themselves on public transit- and did not let hate win, but few expected swastikas and “Jews belong in oven” to be scribbled all over a public train in one of the most diverse cities in the world. In 2017.

It is no secret that anti-Semitism is at an all-time high, likely in part because anti-Semites feel safe expressing their horrific opinions given the current political climate. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) website lists numerous reports from 2015 demonstrating the rise of anti-Semitism on both a national and global level. Although they have not yet published reports from 2016, it is likely that the numbers will continue to rise.

Over three separate days in January, 57 bomb threats were called in to 48 Jewish community centers (JCC) across the country; another 11 hoax bomb threats occurred on February 20. Under-reported by mainstream media, the coordinated threats were often called in at the same time or within hours of each other.  The JCCs followed proper procedures- calling the police, informing the ADL, and evacuating the premises- and Jewish institutions across the country are re-evaluating their security measures and assisting the FBI and the ADL in investigations. While bomb threats are a tactic often used to incite fear, they still need to be taken seriously. That these threats were coordinated speaks to the likelihood that they were premeditated and the fact that only Jewish buildings were targeted indicates an anti-Semitic undertone.

A quick perusal of headlines from Jewish newspapers reveals similar stories that also flew under the radar. In a strip mall in Philadelphia, a mikveh, Jewish ritual bath, was vandalized with illegible graffiti and while the area’s security cameras were all damaged, the other storefronts were unscathed.  In Washington, D.C., the police are investigating a litany of anti-Semitic threats made against a family who voiced support for Black Lives Matter, including a letter with the notorious yellow “Jude” star.  At Hebrew Union College, the Reform affiliated rabbinical school in Cincinnati, a sign was spray-painted with a swastika. So many hate crimes have been reported since November that it would take pages to list them all.

While many incidents were perpetrated by anonymous vandals, others were organized and supported publicly.  A neo-Nazi group organized (and later cancelled) a march against the Jewish community in Whitefish, Montana, aiming to recruit a Hamas member to speak at the armed march.  The coordinators further encouraged attendees to bring copies of Mein Kampf for a neighborhood kid’s “story hour.” March organizer Andrew Anglin originally picked January 16, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as the “James Earl Ray Day Extravaganza.” This event was created specifically to target Jews, Jewish businesses, and everyone who supports the Jews. The names, photos, phone numbers, and addresses of the town’s Jewish residents have been made public by an alt-right and white supremacist website, The Daily Stormer.

Worthy of note is that this rise in anti-Semitic incidents is not confined to the United States.  In the United Kingdom, anti-Semitic hate crimes rose by 36 percent in 2016, the highest numbers since the Community Security Trust charity started keeping records in 1984. On average, there were more than three incidents per day, ranging from vandalism and property damage to hate mail and graffiti.

Anti-Semitism has persisted through the ages and Jewish history is littered with attempts to hurt, defile, embarrass, and exterminate the Jews. During late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, the Romans first expelled the Jews and later classified them as second-class citizens. Hundreds of years later, Jews were massacred in the name of the Crusades. By the 15th century, the Jews had been banished from England, France, and Austria; many of these Jews settled in Eastern Europe.

The Spanish Inquisition of the 15th century and the Reconquest in the 16th century expelled the Jews again, forcing them to either convert or face punishment. In the Italian Papal States, Jews were forced into specific neighborhoods called ghettos and the pogroms of the late 19th century were often backed by the Russian tsars, and continued through the rise of Nazi-Germany. The Jews who had fled to Eastern Europe once again found no escape from persecution.

It is a sad world we live in when we must question whether the vandalism of headstones in a Jewish cemetery was a hate crime, and when our college students are afraid to express their Judaism on campus. Often, anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiment bleed over into anti-Semitism rhetoric, and many on college campuses seem unable to tell the difference.

On September 6, 2016, the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) released its annual report for the 2015-2016 academic year. ICC observed that anti-Israel activists have refocused their efforts on displays of anti-Israel sentiment, heckling, and disruptions of Israel-related events that attempt to frighten and silence guest speakers. Conversely, ICC noted that despite these attempted intimidation tactics, there has been a 151 percent increase in pro-Israel activities and rallies on campus overall.

At the United Nation’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day gathering on January 27, new Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told attendees that “a ‘new normal’ of public discourse is taking hold, in which prejudice is given a free pass and the door is opened to even more extreme hatred” due to the rise of xenophobia.  We must work fervently to reject this trend to the annals of history.

If you, someone you know, or your community experiences anti-Semitism, the ADL has a secure form on its website ( to report the incident. Call the police and filed a detailed report, and be sure to let us know by emailing

Volume 71. Number 1. Spring 2017

Lance Allen Wang, Assoc. Editor

In one of the classic books on the evolution of American warfare, historian Russell Weigley described how conventional American warfare developed into a strategy of “send bullets, not men.”   Indeed, it is a fundamental truism of American warfare that there is a trade-off between large numbers of American casualties and public support for military operations.   This aversion provided the impetus for development of weaponry with longer range, higher capacity and more power, in addition to other technologies which served to reduce casualties among American servicemen and women.   The immediacy of wartime media coverage combined with the willingness of the press to show the human cost of war has helped spur the further leverage of technology to extend our military capabilities

The newest developments are “movers and shooters” which are completely unmanned weapons– indeed, when we look back on the Global War on Terrorism, armed unmanned aerial drones will likely be seen as the most important technology to emerge.


Creating robotic technology was a natural extension of the American strategy to reduce casualties.   As with many explorations of new technology, it had both failures and triumphs in its development.   Perhaps one of the most famous failures was the BQ-8, which was a “robot” B-24 Liberator bomber, used in Operation Aphrodite in 1944.

The concept turned old bombers into “flying torpedoes,” flying by radio into their target and exploding.  The plan called for a pilot and co-pilot to get the bomber off the ground, arm the explosives, and bail out.   Then, under radio control, the bomber would crash into its target.   The target for the mission was Nazi sub pens at Heligoland in the North Sea.   Soon after the explosives were armed, the BQ-8 detonated, killing the two crewmen on board before they could bail out.   One of them was Navy Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., brother of future President John F. Kennedy.   In all, there were 14 missions in Operation Aphrodite during 1944-45.   None of them was successful.


During the Vietnam War, heavily modified target drones, specifically the AQM-34 Ryan Firebee, were turned into unmanned photo and electronic reconnaissance aircraft.    This classified operation called for the Firebee to be launched by C-130 transport aircraft, flying either a preprogrammed path or piloted by a remote operator, then recovered in midair by a specially designed helicopter.   The US military learned a great deal about drones during the Vietnam War, knowledge which would help make unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) commonplace decades later.


Israel’s conflicts and wars have often provided a test bed for technology and doctrine – the Yom Kippur War pointed out the limitations of airpower against surface to air missiles, and the limitations of armor against wire-guided anti-tank missiles while at the same time helping develop combined arms solutions to these challenges.  Israel’s 1982 operations in Lebanon against Syria demonstrated the value of integrating operational (as opposed to experimental) drone aircraft into their manned formations, with drones fulfilling the role of reconnaissance and electronic warfare.  Currently, Israel has a robust and developed drone program.


After limited use in DESERT STORM, the United States increased its development and use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, including for strike targeting during the Kosovo conflict.   Their ability to fly lower because of the absence of pilot risk made them excellent for post-strike assessment also.   By the time of the Global War on Terrorism, the ability to arm drones, as demonstrated on the MQ-1 “Predator” and MQ-9 “Reaper” drones, marked an evolutionary change in warfare – the truest manifestation of “send bullets, not men.”   Numerous high value targets have been attacked by remotely piloted vehicles.   Depending upon the type of strike mission and who is conducting it, pilots are sometimes half a world away, leveraging technology to provide capabilities far beyond what veterans of OPERATION APHRODITE could have ever imagined.

However, robotic warfare is not confined to the air.   The use of robots in explosives ordinance disposal has been very successful, and has been integrated into combat operations as a counter-Improvised Explosive Device (IED) measure; again, reducing personnel risk in extremely hazardous duty.   Current trends in development include autonomous “wingmen” for tanks, with manned armored vehicles flanked by robotic ones, controlled by the primary manned vehicle.   However, unmanned land vehicles have not yet developed the kind of durability and reliability for them to assume some of the load of land-based warfare.


From a technological standpoint, other than the durability issues, the issue of artificial intelligence as an obvious next step for robotic technology raises practical as well as ethical questions.   In the end, who makes the decision to fire a weapon is a decision fraught with risk if it is delegated to a machine.This remains a huge question in strategic nuclear warfare – shall a computer make the decision determining if an attack is real, and should we delegate our retaliation decision to a computer?   Just the same – should a drone determine if a target is the high value one we are seeking, and shall its digital innards make the decision to shoot?

The other challenge we face is the delusion of bloodless warfare which drone warfare seems to promise on the surface.   We may send bullets… and robots…. But we will always have to send men and women with an accompanying cost in blood and treasure.   T.R. Fehrenbach wrote, in his oft-quoted book on the Korean War, “This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness,”

“Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life – but if you desire to defend it, protect it and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men in the mud.”

Volume 71. Number 1. Spring 2017