By Cara Rinkoff, Managing Editor
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Deputy Secretary Donald Remy delivered the keynote address during the opening ceremony of JWV’s 126th Annual National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. Just one week before the convention, the VA decided it would not allow Remy or any other department official to travel because of COVID-19 concerns. Remy still wanted to deliver the keynote speech, so he recorded it for members to see at convention.

Remy discussed the priorities that the Biden administration set for the VA. He said the department wants to “deliver more care, more benefits, and more services to more veterans and future veterans than ever before with advocacy, access, outcomes, and excellence as our guiding principles.”
When it comes to access, Remy told JWV that veterans need to have the opportunity to access VA benefits whether it is at a VA facility or at another location in their community. However, he stressed that the current administration will not privatize the VA. “Privatizing the VA is not the answer,” Remy said. “And that’s not going to happen on our watch.” He said the ultimate goal is to make sure that VA’s direct care system is sustainable for future generations of veterans.

When it comes to treatment in VA facilities, all veterans should feel “safe, free of harassment, and free of discrimination,” Remy said. He added that “we owe world-class healthcare benefits and services to all veterans, including women, veterans of color, survivors of military sexual trauma, and LGBTQ+ veterans.”

Remy also talked about the importance of mental health and said one of the most urgent priorities is preventing veteran suicide. He hopes Congress will approve a budget request for more than half a billion dollars for outreach programs that address suicide risk. He said a new program is being developed to help mentally ill veterans in rural areas. The goal is to create a training program that will attract “top-shelf clinicians to those communities, to keep them in rural areas, and to care for the vets living in those areas.”
Another priority for Remy is making sure all veterans have a home. He said the Biden administration will do whatever it takes to keep veterans in their homes through various means, including the emergency rental assistance program and the extension of the foreclosure and eviction moratorium in place due to the coronavirus.

Remy appeared to understand that some veterans are concerned about the man chosen to lead the VA. He said that while Secretary Denis McDonough may not be a veteran or a doctor, he is a leader and a fighter, and someone who will do the best job possible for all veterans.

The Deputy Secretary also discussed his recent visit to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. Remy spent 45 minutes at JWV headquarters and the NMAJMH on August 5, meeting with National Executive Director Herb Rosenbleeth, and getting a tour of the museum from Mike Rugel.

Remy’s entire speech from the convention’s opening ceremony is available on the Jewish War Veterans YouTube channel.

Volume 75. Number 3. 2021

By Jeffrey Blonder
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. During the JWV Annual National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana last month, members had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Daniel DeBrule, a clinical psychologist, professor, and educator with expertise in anxiety and depression with a concentration in suicide prevention in the veteran community. DeBrule treats many patients in VA clinics.

DeBrule said suicide is unique among the other top ten causes of death in the United States. “We could argue that while there’s a lot of different preventative measures we could take to offset things like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, suicide remains one of the most heavily preventable causes of death in the United States.” He said in the past few years, the suicide rate nationally has decreased – even during the pandemic.

The rate of suicide among both the civilian population and veterans varies based on their location. Those living in the western mountain area of the U.S. are twice as likely to commit suicide as individuals in the Northeast. DeBrule also said men are three and a half times more likely to commit suicide than omen. The method of suicide is also different between men and women. While men are more likely to commit suicide with a firearm, women tend to use firearms, suffocation, or poison – with no apparent preference. DeBrule advised that if there is a loved one of yours that is contemplating suicide it is important that the means to commit suicide be removed. He said the VA now hands out gun locks. “Any veteran who’s going to the VA for care can get gun locks from the VA, but we also have conversations about removing ammunition, giving the firearms to someone else.” DeBrule said locking up or removing guns from the home isn’t about taking away anyone’s second amendment right, it’s about “making sure that if the person is in crisis, or in a window of crisis that we enable them to not have access to those means, to keep them safe, to keep them sound.”
DeBrule also talked about the SAVE program which anyone can use to help a friend or family member in crisis. “These are the tips for SAVE – recognizing the warning signs and risk factors, asking the question, validating their experience, and expediting and encouraging treatment,” DeBrule said. You can find more information about this program at www.mentalhealth.va.gov.

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the Power Point used in DeBrule’s presentation, please contact Programs and Public Relations Director Cara Rinkoff at crinkoff@jwv.org. You can also watch the presentation on the Jewish War Veterans YouTube channel.

If you or someone you love is in crisis, please call the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.

Volume 75. Number 3. 2021

By Nelson L Mellitz, National Vice Commander
I planned to write my first article as your National Vice Commander about the ever-increasing anti-Semitism in the U.S. However, recent events in Afghanistan have grabbed the attention of the world, as well as the Jewish military and veteran’s community, so I changed the subject of my article.
This month, we think back to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon, and Flight 93 where passengers revolted against the terrorists who intended to crash the plane into the White House or Capitol in Washington, D.C. The plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all 44 people on board.

Where were you on September 11, 2001 when you heard about the terrorist attacks on the United States? I was a few blocks away from the World Trade Center buildings in downtown New York City.

Did you know anyone on those planes or killed during the attacks? Debbie and I had Major LeRoy Homer, Jr., the First Officer of United Airlines Flight 93, over our house for dinner a few weeks before the attacks. LeRoy was an Air Force Academy graduate and my U.S. Air Force Academy Liaison Officer trainee. I also knew three others who worked in the World Trade Towers that took the same 5:45 a.m. bus I did to New York City, who did not survive the attacks.

The events 20 years ago shocked Americans and changed the course of our lives as well as the country’s military positioning and the government’s world view. In December 2001, the U.S. became entangled in a 20-year long war in Afghanistan to depose the Taliban-led government which harbored the terrorist groups that attacked us on 9/11. On May 2, 2011, Seal Team 6 killed Osama bin Laden, the planner of the 9/11 attacks, who was hiding in Pakistan.

President Obama declared the end of our combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, however thousands of U.S. and allied uniform members and U.S. civilian advisors and contractors remained in Afghanistan to train and support Afghan troops. According to the Defense Department, more than 2.7 million U.S. service members served in the Afghanistan and Iraq war zones since 2001.
Fast Forward – The U.S. military leaves no one behind

The U.S. military services made a sacred commitment to leave no one behind on the battlefield. This ethos is even embedded in the military service creeds. Since World War I this ethos has applied to not only uniformed members but to U.S. citizens, allies, and others in danger.
It’s been 20 years since September 11 and President Biden declared that all U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan by August 31, 2021. We have all seen on the news tens of thousands of people (Americans, Afghans, and others) rushing to the Hamid Karzai Airport to get on U.S. military planes that will carry them to freedom. We have to ask ourselves how many U.S. citizens, green card holders, Afghans that worked the U.S., and women and girls in danger were left behind. Could we have gotten everybody out of Afghanistan – leaving no one behind? What should we have left behind – military equipment, supplies, food, shelter, etc.?

The fog of war has raised its ugly head in what we currently hear from politicians and news outlets. There is often different and sometimes conflicting stories of what happened. A bipartisan congressional investigation is needed to determine what went right and wrong in the past 20 years and in the Afghanistan withdrawal.

G-d bless the United States of America and the families of those Killed in Action and Wounded in Action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Volume 75. Number 3. 2021

By Ben Kane, Programs Assistant
At the 2021 JWV National Convention’s first business session, attendees heard from Marina Jackman, the President and CEO of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to “honor the service and sacrifice of all who served in the Global War on Terrorism.” One of the ways this mission will be carried out is through the construction of the Global War on Terrorism memorial. Jackman referred to the proposed memorial as a “functional piece of art adorning the National Mall,” and said, “the memorial will be the first for men and women who have died fighting, continue to fight, and who are just joining the fight against terrorism.” The memorial will be a testament to the strength of all who fought and continue to fight in the war that has presently lasted for decades. The memorial will be a permanent “reminder of collective strength and willingness to stand in the face of terrorism and the threats to our very way of life, and a place of healing, reflection, empowerment, unity, and knowledge.”

Jackman pointed out that generational responsibility is a large component of Jewish tradition, and the memorial should be appreciated and approved by the Jewish military community, as it is intended to aid with educating future generations about the struggles and sacrifices of the presently ongoing international conflict. Congressman Mike Gallagher, a public supporter of the memorial, was quoted by Jackman as saying, “if we’re going to continue passing the torch of democracy from one generation to the next, then we need to build this memorial so that future generations never forget their duty to do the same.”

It’s rare for monuments to conflicts to be constructed around the same time as the conflict itself. Jackson lamented this, saying most monuments are built “too late to have the kind of impact that they could have, and certainly far too late for most of those who fought to share those experiences with their families.” But this memorial, due to it being pursued speedily, would avoid the educational hinderances that come with building monuments too late.

While plans are currently in motion, construction of any kind in D.C. takes a long time. The 24-step process is arduous, and the memorial is, at the time of writing, on steps 9 through 12 which are the site selection steps. Congress closed the desired spot for the memorial in 2003. The foundation is now asking Congress to pass legislation to make an exception for this memorial. JWV has signed on to letters supporting this effort. Because of the difficulties that come with construction of this kind, the project is not expected to be completed for another four or five years. The Global War on Terrorism Foundation’s website  and social media pages are excellent resources to use to be kept up to date on the development of the memorial, or to donate to the foundation.

Volume 75. Number 3. 2021

By Mel Eichelbaum
In the article, “Anti-Semitism Did Not End with the Second World War,” published in the November of 2020 issue of The Jewish Veteran, National Vice Commander Nelson Mellitz wrote of his concerns about the increased tide of antisemitism. He cited the American Jewish Committee (AJC) “State of Antisemitism in America” report, which indicated 88% of American Jews felt that anti-Semitism remained a significant problem; whereas there existed a disturbing lack of awareness among the general public about the severity of antisemitism, with 21% stating that they had never heard of the term, nor did they know what it meant. Mellitz continued by stating that anti-Semitism is a present and growing threat. He urged JWV members to take an active role in educating the public about it, to identify incidents of it when it happens, and to take positive steps to stop it.

Clearly, I was aware of the continued existence of this sickening hatred bubbling beneath the surface in Texas, but I honestly thought that things had improved since the early 1950s when my family and I first moved to the Lone Star State. But in 2015 and 2016 it seemed like things began to change. That was the last year when my wife and I taught Religious School at Temple Beth-El. During our lesson covering Yom HaShoah, I asked how many of the students had experienced some form of anti-Semitism. I was surprised when over two-thirds of the class raised their hands. These were second graders who went to good schools, and yet at this young age a significant number had faced this evil experience.

I reached out to my contacts at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In the Spring of 2015, my wife and I had taken a civil rights trip through the South. This was the 50th anniversary of the march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery. While in Montgomery, we visited the SPLC Civil Rights Museum and we were treated to a tour of their office headquarters. There we met our Docent, Esther Labovitz, were introduced to Joseph Levin, Jr., Co-Founder of the SPLC, and spoke with many of its dedicated workers. While I knew the organization was involved in fighting hatred and pursuing equal justice, I was pleased to learn that they had a whole section dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism.

Between 2015 and 2020, SPLC reported an exponential increase of incidents inspired by hate groups. These not only included the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis, but also a whole host of White Nationalist and White Supremacist groups having a distinct anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and of course, an anti-Semitic agenda. Texas ranked third in the nation, showing a marked increase in the growth of hate incidents, right behind the states of California and Florida. Add in potent relative newcomers, such as the Boogaloo Bois, Oath Keepers, and Proud Boys, and this resulting mixture of hate groups had become more emboldened and energetic in acting out their hatred. The Anti-Defamation League in their 2020 report confirmed these findings, indicating that the Jewish Community experienced the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents since tracking began back in 1979. The Director of the FBI has characterized these hate groups as a “national threat priority,” and that not only has this become a threat to American democracy, but also, the danger is on-going and unrelenting.

I suppose his words came to fruition, when I along with many others witnessed the storming, invasion, and ransacking of our Capitol by a riotous mob in an attempt to delay or stop the peaceful transition of power as a result of the election. Five people died, 140 were injured, and damages were estimated at $1.5 million. The mob contained many members from a variety of these hate groups, some of whom came from Texas.

But before this crescendo event, the warning signs were there. Between 2016 and 2020 in San Antonio, Texas, two synagogues, Agudas Achim and Rodfei Shalom were vandalized, Jewish graves at the Ft. Sam Houston cemetery were desecrated, and Neo-Nazi hate and recruitment propaganda was widely distributed in three suburban neighborhoods.

This increase in anti-Semitism was not limited to San Antonio. In August of 2018, at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, a group carrying torches and weapons marched in front of a synagogue shouting, “Jews will not replace us.” On October 27, 2018, a white supremacist walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania carried out a mass shooting which left 11 dead and others injured. On August 3, 2019, a white supremacist entered a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 23 Mexican-Americans and injuring many others.

He specifically targeted Mexican-Americans because of a belief and fear that immigration was destroying the White Race and culture. What did this event have to do with anti-Semitism? Investigation into his internet communications indicated a common white supremacist radicalization, and it was clear that he was motivated by the Christchurch shooter, who had targeted and slaughtered Muslims. All these killers had been indoctrinated with the same poisonous white supremacist, anti-immigrant insidious mythology, and they all had an intense hatred toward non-whites and non-Christians, be they Muslims or Jews. As pointed out by Mellitz in his article, the connection is that hate and anti-Semitism harms not just the Jewish people but all people everywhere.

What can we do to fight this evil? First, we can support the groups actively involved in fighting anti-Semitism, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Anti-Defamation League. Second, we can become involved in our city’s Jewish Community Relations Council, Holocaust Museum, or other organizations that can spread the word and help educate the public. Third, we need to speak up politically. Sometimes major advancements can be achieved even against the greatest of odds.

Several years ago, four San Antonio women set out to accomplish what most considered to be impossible in the State of Texas. Lisa Barry was an elementary school teacher who included Holocaust studies in her students’ lessons as a way to counter hate and bullying. She got together with Sharon Scharff Greenwald, Varda Ratner, and Ginny Wind, who are members of the San Antonio Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Woman (NCJW). The four of them lobbied to make Holocaust education mandatory in all Texas public schools. After a lot of hard work and their untiring efforts, SB 1828, which established Holocaust Remembrance Week in Texas public schools became law in 2019. Holocaust museums in Texas are actively working with teachers throughout the state and the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission in helping to create the educational material for this designated week. It is imperative that we teach this history, for as espoused in the epigraph from Santayana quoted in William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.

Volume 75. Number 3. 2021

by Jonathan Goldman

Pharmacist Mate Robert Goldman

On March 12, the U.S. Coast Guard commissioned a ship in honor of former JWV member and Post 45 Commander Robert Goldman. The USCGC Robert Goldman is one of six Sentinel Class Cutters that will be stationed in Bahrain as part of the Coast Guard’s Patrol Forces Southwest Asia.

I attended the commissioning ceremony in Key West, Florida along with my wife Eleanor and sister-in-law Gail Fresia, who were the ship’s sponsors, as well as my brothers Yale and Scott, and my three sons.

The ship’s motto, which appears on its blazon is “Beyond the call of duty.” That is a quote from one of my father’s shipmates and appears in the recommendation for the Bronze Star he received for his actions on November 12, 1944.

I consider my father a hero, but he didn’t like to talk about himself. When asked about his involvement in World War II, he simply said he received injuries when an enemy plane hit his ship. However, thanks to a JWV-sponsored initiative to honor under-recognized minority veterans, we recently learned about my father’s actions, which led to having a ship named after him.

Robert Goldman grew up on a farm in rural Woodstock, Connecticut, and went to a one-room schoolhouse. Because the town was too small to have their own secondary school, high school students were sent to Woodstock Academy, a private high school. Depression times were tough, and in-town students were moved along, so Goldman graduated when he was 16. He thought he’d pluck chickens and pump gas for the rest of his life. A gas station customer, a retired professor, saw that this young man was capable of more. He told Goldman to get into his car and then drove him to the University of Connecticut and helped him register for classes as an agriculture major. Goldman put himself through school by working in the chicken coops. His school was near the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Goldman thought if he ever joined the military, he’d want to wear the Coast Guard uniform.

In October of 1942, Goldman enlisted in the Coast Guard. He received medical training at the Columbia University’s School of Pharmacy to become a pharmacist mate (medical corpsman). In July of 1944, he reported for duty on the United States Coast Guard (USCG) LST-66, headed for the Philippines. The LST (landing ship tank) was a naval workhorse, designed for transporting machinery and men, and able to approach and unload on shallow beachheads.

On November 12, 1944, the LST-66 was at Leyte Island. At 5:00 p.m., a Japanese Zero flew over the horizon and intentionally headed for the LST-66.

Vice Admiral Scott Buschman presents a commemorative plaque to the ship’s sponsor, Eleanor Goldman

Four people were killed and seven were wounded. My father was on deck when the crash occurred. The man standing next to him died instantly. Although he suffered shrapnel wounds and severe burns to his back, my father’s priorities were clear. Despite the flames surrounding him, he jumped into a gun turret to administer morphine to a suffering shipmate. At the same time, he saw leaking aviation fuel and live ammunition near his feet. He was the last on his ship to get medical attention. He refused to even sit down to be examined until all the wounded were treated.

In 2016, Coast Guard historian Dr. William Thiesen began looking into Goldman’s service record. Thiesen’s research ultimately resulted in the ship named after Goldman.

To all those who serve in uniform, especially the officers and crew of the USCGC Robert Goldman, thank you for all you do in protecting our way of life. Your sacrifices do not go unnoticed. I was told that the crew of the Robert Goldman is the finest and most experienced crew, on the most technologically advanced cutter ever built, and I believe it. We will be forever grateful to the Coast Guard for the honor given to my father.

Volume 75. Number 2. 2021

By Richard Goldenberg

New York Army National Guard Soldiers associated with the Jewish War Veterans joined local Jewish leaders to recognize the first Jew to receive the Medal of Honor.

The short ceremony at Cypress Hill Cemetery in Brooklyn on May 21 honored Private Benjamin Levy, who was recognized for his heroic actions in combat on June 30, 1862.

New York Army National Guard Col. Richard Goldenberg, assigned to the state headquarters, Chaplain (Maj.) Raziel Amar, chaplain for the 501st Ordnance Battalion, and New York Guard Capt. Mark Getman, part of the state defense force, helped render honors to Levy.

Levy, who was a 17-year-old drummer boy, picked up the flag of the 1st New York Volunteer Infantry under a hail of enemy fire and rallied his regiment, preventing a retreat. He received the Medal of Honor in March 1865 and died at age 76 in July 1921.

Rabbi Irv Elson and Col. Richard Goldenberg

The Jewish Community Centers Association of North America and the Jewish Welfare Board Jewish Chaplains Council sponsored this commemoration.

“With Memorial Day coming upon us, we wanted to gather here at the site of one of New York’s earliest Medal of Honor recipients, to recognize his bravery and the sacrifice of so many other American service members that followed,” said Vice President and Director of the Jewish Welfare Board Jewish Chaplains Council, retired U.S. Navy Chaplain (Capt.) Rabbi Irv Elson.

President and CEO of the JCC Association of North America Doron Krakow said Levy influenced future generations.

“Firsts matter a great deal, as without them we can never know those that follow,” Krakow said. “Our presence today, here at the gravesite of Benjamin Levy, is an opportunity to remember all of the members of our community who have given heir lives in the service of our country.”
A color guard from the New York Army National Guard’s 107th Military Police Company also volunteered to take part in the ceremony.

Levy’s actions were significant because during the Civil War a regimental flag, or colors, had tactical as well as ceremonial significance. The flag marked the regiment’s line in battle. Soldiers looked for the colors to see where they should be. The most senior sergeant had the job of protecting the flag. The enemy concentrated its fire on the sergeant holding the flag. If he went down and the colors fell, it could cause troops to retreat.

Levy picked up the flag that day, after 15 members of the color guard were killed or wounded.

Levy, born in 1845 in New York City, enlisted in the Union Army in October 1861. Only 16 at the time, Levy and his younger brother, Robert, volunteered to serve as drummers, Benjamin with the 1st New York Volunteer Infantry and Robert with the 7th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

“Levy was the child of immigrants,” Goldenberg said, “and like so many New Yorkers of his time and now ours, he volunteered to serve his family’s adopted country in a time of crisis.”

“It’s fitting that today we honor Levy with a color guard, the symbol of service that he selflessly braved Confederate fire to save from capture and use to rally his regiment,” Goldenberg said.

In June of 1862, Levy’s regiment arrived to reinforce the Army of the Potomac just after the Battle of Fair Oaks, which was fought May 31 to June 1, 1862. On the morning of June 30, while the regiment formed for muster, the Confederates attacked. The 1st New York ran to the action. Levy, whose drum was broken, grabbed the musket of his ill tent mate, Jacob Turnbull, and joined the fight.

Passing through dense woods, the regiment moved to ambush the flank of approaching Confederate forces. However, the enemy moved on the New York Volunteers from another direction and the Battle of Glendale began around 3 p.m.

In less than ten minutes, four color sergeants and eleven corporals comprising the color guard all fell to intense fire. Only one escaped, the remainder killed or wounded in less than ten minutes.

Levy saw his color bearer, Charley Mahorn, fall from a bullet wound. Levy charged ahead and picked up the unit colors to rally his regiment in defense until relieved by other Union forces.

At the end of the fight, 230 1st New York Soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing; a quarter of the men who went into action.

The citation says Levy exhibited “extraordinary heroism …. and when the Color Bearers were shot down, carried the colors and saved them from capture.”

After his initial two-year service, Levy reenlisted in January 1864 and was severely wounded in the thigh during the Battle of the Wilderness, receiving a discharge due to disability in May 1865.

Rabbi Amar provided traditional Hebrew memorial prayers and the group then placed stones on the gravesite.

“We thought the stones, as a more traditional act in the Jewish faith, were more appropriate than a wreath,” Elson said.

Sgt. Letty Luiz, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the color guard, then provided a rendition of taps.

“It was really fun participating in this,” Luiz said. “Our company just held a uniform inspection this past weekend for drill, so we were able to come up with the volunteers and I’m glad we did.”

To end the ceremony, Krakow intoned the traditional Hebrew message for mourners: “Baruch Dayan Emet” which means “Blessed is the True Judge” and acknowledges “God’s plan for all.”

Then, he added, “And God Bless America.”

Volume 75. Number 2. 2021

By Colonel Nelson L. Mellitz, USAF, Retired

The number of military members and veterans in the United States is made up of approximately 18 million men and women or 0.055% of the total U.S. population of 330 million. Estimates indicate there are 270,000 living Jewish men and women who are serving or have served in a U.S. military uniformed service since 1941. These are estimated numbers because military and veterans do not have to identify their religion to perform their duty or get services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

While the current U.S. military population is roughly 84% male, the gender mix is quickly changing. According to recent U.S. Census Bureau information, the number of women in the military and female veterans will likely double in the next two decades. The Jewish military and veteran community are expected to follow this same growth pattern – just look at the JWV Gulf War and Post-9/11 committees’ demographics, which have increasing numbers of Jewish women as members. All military members and veterans have shared needs and individual challenges that must be considered in making future JWV policy and program decisions.

Throughout the 125-year history of JWV, we have endorsed initiatives designed to improve the lives of millions of Jewish and non-Jewish military members and veterans. For example, we have initiated and supported programs and legislation to improve the quality of healthcare for military members, veterans, and their families, addressed the challenges of homelessness and veterans’ suicide, as well as veterans’ exposure to toxins (i.e. Agent Orange, Burn Pits, radiation, contaminated drinking water).

Over many decades JWV members have originated, endorsed, and implemented a substantial number of initiatives that have improved the lives and families of Jewish and non-Jewish military members and veterans. In 2020, JWV started the process to modernize and update its commitment to the military and veteran communities by drafting a strategic plan for the future of JWV. This plan will serve as a comprehensive blueprint to strengthen support of all who have put on the U.S. military uniform and their families. As part of the strategic plan, we have committed to a number of initiatives that will make measurable contributions and improvements to our members and the organization’s effectiveness. The strategic plan is a living document which we hope to present to members at our National Convention in August.

We trace our roots back to 1896 when Jewish Civil War veterans met in New York City to form an organization to fight the anti-Semitic false and statement that Jews do not serve. In developing the strategic plan, we recognize that JWV must continuously adapt to better serve the changing needs of our communities. JWV leadership knows that our next 125 years are not guaranteed. If we unite to meet the challenges of the men and women who have and are serving, we will continue to prosper as the leading Jewish military and veteran service organization. All Jewish men and women who have served and sacrificed to preserve our freedom and way of life have earned our continued support. Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Jack Jacobs titled his book “If Not Now When?” Perhaps JWV can also say if we don’t change now, when?

Volume 75. Number 2. 2021

By PNC Dr. Barry J. Schneider

I want to share with you an unfortunate situation concerning a fellow JWV member, Norm Wiener of Philadelphia. He lived alone in a Jewish Federation senior living unit and had no family or close friends. He was an active member of his post and had served as Post Commander. Some of you may remember him from when he joined us on the Israel trip during my time as National Commander. Dr. Michael Kapin of Fort Worth also went on that trip, and developed an ongoing friendship with Wiener which lasted until his death. The two communicated almost weekly, but that stopped abruptly after the first of the year. In the weeks leading up to Wiener’s death, Kapin and I tried to find out why Wiener was not answering calls and then his phone was disconnected. We enlisted JWV members from Philadelphia to assist in figuring out what was wrong. His housing unit, due to the privacy act, refused to provide any information. Lapin contacted the Philadelphia police and asked them to do a health and welfare check. This yielded no information. It turned out Wiener died alone on February 13. No one claimed his body and he was buried on March 29. This is unacceptable within JWV and the larger Jewish community. We have a responsibility to support our fellow veterans. I am asking you not to let this happen again. Let’s all reach out to our fellow post members. To our Post Officers, I ask you to develop a call tree, not just for meetings, but to ensure our members are not forgotten in their time of need. It is our moral obligation to care for one another. To our active-duty members, I ask you every now and then, or at least once a year, send an email or call a post officer and let them know where you are.

May Wiener’s memory be for a blessing and a reminder that we are Kol Israel, one people!

Volume 75. Number 2. 2021

By Larry Jasper

About 11 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida in the Gulf of Mexico sits 12, six-foot-high concrete depictions of our military. Each represents a different war, a different role, and a different hero. Each weigh 1,200 pounds, assuring it will stay where intended. It is called the Circle of Heroes (The Circle).

Dedicated on August 5, 2019, The Circle is the first underwater military memorial in the U.S. While it serves as a recreational dive site with a depth of 40 – 45 feet, the vision is to use the site for adaptive sports therapy programs for disabled veteran divers. This would provide physical and mental health therapy for veterans who participate in scuba diving rehabilitation.

The statues are placed in a circle with a center monument of five bronze emblems representing each of the U.S. Armed Forces.
At the 2019 convention in Richmond, Virginia, the idea to dive The Circle first came up in conversation between myself and Director of the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) Chaplains Council, Rabbi Irv Elson, who is also a retired Navy Captain with service in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The dive plan also included Elson’s longtime friend and Gulf War Veteran, Rabbi Ammos Chorny from Naples, Florida. All three of us have over 45 years of diving experience.

While planning this dive, Elson said he was, “always in search of new and meaningful ways to honor our Veterans and remember those who have paid the ultimate price in defense of our country.” He felt a dive to this most sacred place would be a unique opportunity.

After two unsuccessful attempts due to storms, we were finally able to dive on May 6, 2021. During the dive, a wreath of shells and JWB coin were placed at the foot of one of the statues.

A simple scuba dive helped cement a relationship between two organizations.

The JWB, which is 104-years-old, considers itself to be JWV’s younger sibling. Elson has worked to grow and strengthen the bonds between the two organizations by promoting joint ceremonies, combined advocacy on issues, and joint programming.

“While JWB Jewish Chaplains Council works with our Jewish service members, we proudly hand them off to JWV as they transition to civilian lives, officially becoming veterans,” said Elson.

We hope to make this dive an annual event. If you are a certified diver and interested in participating in the future, please contact Larry Jasper at lmjasper@reagan.com. For more information about the memorial, visit https://brighterfutureflorida.org.

Volume 75. Number 2. 2021