By Larry Jasper, National Editor

Thanks to the JWV Disaster Relief Fund, members affected by Hurricane Ian in September were able to get money within days to help with the cleanup.
Hurricane Ian made landfall as a Category 4 storm near Fort Myers, Florida on September 28. It was the deadliest storm to hit Florida since 1935.

All JWV members in the area were okay, but some of their homes were not so lucky.
“All Post 400 members were impacted by this storm. Most were fortunate in that they were able to get back to some degree of normalcy within a few weeks. There are two members, two Patrons, and one member’s widow who were not that fortunate, as their homes were nearly destroyed by Ian,” said Commander of Post 400 Harvey Charter.
As soon as the hurricane left the area, the JWV Disaster Relief Program swung into action to bring some much-needed help to the JWV members.
“Working with the National Commander and National Executive Director, we were able to move quickly and meaningfully in the wake of Hurricane Ian,” said JWV Emergency Relief Fund Chairman Donald Schenk. “The role of the JWV Disaster Relief Program is to help our members when catastrophe strikes.  We are grateful that we can help in times when resources are limited, and despair is high.”

Schenk’s committee allocated funds to the two members and one widow. Patrons of the organization are unable to receive funds from the program but Post 400 stepped in with financial help in those two cases.

Disaster relief in cases like this comes from many places, but few are as quick to act as JWV.
All of those assisted were grateful for the care, concern, and quick action from JWV as they try to rebuild their lives.
Here are some letters we received from the families helped by the fund.

Dear Harvey and Jewish War Veterans of the USA,
From the bottom of my heart, I like to thank you for your generous gift; contribution towards rebuilding my home.
I never thought that at this stage of life, I’ll be rebuilding and restoring my home without the love of my life.
Your gift will certainly help me with the numerous expenses I am faced with.
Thanks again,
Judith Satin

To the Jewish War Veterans of America and Post #400 Commander Harvey Charter,
My wife and I would like to thank you for the generous contribution that your organization made to us to help in the recovery from Hurricane Ian.
At times like the present we feel so lucky to be part of a community and an organization that gives support to those in need.
We are humble being a recipient of your contribution.
Kind regards,
Isaac & Sue Osin

Dear Jewish War Veterans,
Thank you very much for your very generous Hurricane Ian Assistance Check for me.
It will be very helpful due to the very strong impact of this very powerful Hurricane impact on my house. I will put your very kind assistance to good use as I had a lot of damage that needs fixed. My insurance will not cover all of my damage to my house. It really makes me feel good to know that I belong to such a caring organization that helps Jewish Veterans in need.
Thank you again.
All the Best.
Dennis Simon

This is the first time the relief fund has handed out money after a disaster since a wildfire in California in September of 2020.
For more information on this program, visit our website at https://www.jwv.org/veteran-resources/disaster-relief/.

Volume 76. Number 4. 2022

By Mike Rugel, NMAJMH Director of Programs and Content

An area full of dirt and weeds is now a place to sit and reflect. The National Museum of American Jewish Military History (NMAJMH) spent several years discussing the idea of a Memorial Garden outside the front of our building on 18th and R Streets in Washington, D.C. The NMAJMH Board of Directors voted to go ahead with a landscaping plan in August of 2021. By October, the first phase of the work was complete.

The goal of the garden is to provide a place to memorialize and honor those who have served and sacrificed for our country, as well as enhance the building’s curb appeal. It will also provide fundraising opportunities for the museum.

The initial work was completed so quickly thanks to a generous donation from the Department of New York and several other sponsors.
The Remembrance Walk of engraved pavers, which leads to the doors of the building is nearly full. The pavers are filled with inscriptions paying tribute to veterans and those killed in the line of duty. The Memorial Garden provides an opportunity to continue the engraved paver program in a new space next to the walkway. Pavers will lead from the sidewalk to two benches in the garden. We look forward to seeing new messages in the garden honoring and memorializing loved ones.

We’re also planning to install an eternal light and plaque on the main stone in the garden.

There are several sponsorship opportunities still available in the garden.

  • Garden Plaque – $7,500
  • Flagstone – $5,000
  • Trees – $2,500
  • Engraved Pavers –
    • 4×8 – $250
    • 8×8 – $500

If you are interested, contact Michael Rugel at mrugel@nmajmh.org or (202) 265-6280.

Volume 76. Number 4. 2022

By National Commander Nelson L. Mellitz

I have been a member of JWV for more than 30 years, serving in many positions, including numerous Post committee leads, Junior Post Commander and now National Commander. It wasn’t until I became National Vice Commander that I learned of the complexities and capabilities of our national staff. At the JWV headquarters we have wonderful individuals who sometimes work seven days a week in our interest. However, the JWV national staff is made up of just ten paid employees. To compare that with another Veterans Service Organization (VSO), the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) has 84 paid headquarters staff. JWV and MOAA manage many similar programs to support service members and veterans’ issues. In addition, our JWV staff works with me daily to fight against antisemitism and promote the support of Israel.

I don’t want to discourage Departments and Post members from contacting our national staff, but every day headquarters receives requests that could be handled at the Department or Post level. Our national headquarters staff is composed of strong individuals who all contribute to our ever-improving organization and to our outreach and reputation in the military, veteran, and Jewish communities – thank you for working at JWV.

As your National Commander I travelled across much of the United States on almost every weekend of October and November, including trips to Minnesota, West Point Academy, Air Force Academy, Reserve Organization of America’s National Convention, Mikve Israel in Savannah, Post 1 events in New York City, Veterans Day ceremonies in Arlington, Washington, D.C., and Maryland, etc. I have plans to travel in January and February to attend the Departments of Florida and TALO Conventions, The Aleph Institute, The Chapel of Four Chaplains Foundation 54th Annual Banquet, Federation of Jewish Men’s Club, Middle Atlantic Region Dinner, and other events. At these events I talk about what JWV has recently accomplished and what we are planning to accomplish, including improved benefits for service members and veterans, actively fighting antisemitism, and support for Israel. I explain why qualified individuals should join and be active members of JWV. If you would like me to attend one of your events, please contact me through email with the request.

In my travels the most rewarding events have been ones involving young Jewish members of the military. A good example is the recent Jewish Warrior Weekend held at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There were nearly 100 Jewish cadets, midshipmen, ROTC students, and military academy future service members in attendance. The students mobbed me after my presentation with pointed questions about military service, JWV’s mission, and how we at JWV are fighting antisemitism. Wherever I travel, I have found wonderful young Jewish service members and veterans. Jewish women and men serve in the U.S. military – let’s recruit them to serve in the Jewish War Veterans.

Last year and during part of this year the Jewish War Veterans celebrated our great accomplishments over the past 125 years. We must all work together and continue to accomplish our mission to support service members, veterans, fighting antisemitism, and support of Israel. I am here to help you accomplish our JWV mission. Feel free to reach out to me at nationalcmdr@jwv.org.

Volume 76. Number 4. 2022

By PNC Harvey Weiner

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, JWV’s Department of Massachusetts revived its annual Wills for Veterans program on November 10. The Department hosted the event alongside the Massachusetts chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Seven estate planning attorneys from the Boston law office of Day Pitney LLP donated their services to draft wills, trusts, durable powers of attorneys, and/or health care proxies for 13 veterans, members of the Massachusetts National Guard, five spouses, and a Gold Star wife. Among the veterans helped was the lead plaintiff in a landmark case which holds that there should be equal military benefits for spouses regardless of gender. If any departments or posts are interested in a template on how to hold a similar event, you can find it in JWV’s Resource Center under the membership tab on our website.

Volume 76. Number 4. 2022

 

By Cara Rinkoff, Managing Editor

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough delivered the keynote address during the opening ceremony of JWV’s 127th Annual National Convention in Savannah, Georgia. McDonough said he came to the convention to give an update on the latest work the VA is doing as well as to hear some of JWV’s concerns. “I’m here because these are true heroes, patriots, and people that I can learn a great deal from and that’s what we’ve done today,” McDonough said. “I’m thrilled to…make sure that we’re living up to not only the president’s command to me to fight like hell for vets but living up to the high expectations of the Jewish War Veterans, to make sure we’re doing right by them.”

McDonough spoke to JWV just two days before President Biden signed the PACT Act into law, which he called the biggest expansion of veteran benefits in history. The Secretary noted that this would not have happened without the hard work and advocacy of JWV.

He said the VA still needs JWV to pass along a few messages about the PACT Act to ensure all veterans get the care and benefits they’ve earned. “First, we at VA want veterans and survivors to apply for their PACT Act benefits right now. Second, we will begin processing the PACT Act benefits for veterans and survivors on the earliest date possible, which is January first. And third, any veteran or survivor can learn more about the PACT Act by visiting www.va.gov/PACT or calling 1-800-MY-VA-411,” McDonough said.

McDonough said another goal he hopes to tackle at the VA is ending veteran homelessness. “Our focus here is on two simple goals: getting vets into homes and preventing them from falling into homelessness in the first place.” McDonough said the VA is currently halfway to its target of finding permanent homes for 38,000 veterans this calendar year. McDonough also hopes to increase the housing supply, make existing housing more affordable for veterans, and then get vets any treatment they may need – for substance abuse or mental health issues – to ensure they can remain in their homes.

While the VA is doubling down on its telehealth capabilities, the Secretary said the department is also investing in infrastructure. “We’re going to modernize our facilities…because vets in the 21st century should not be forced to receive care in early 20th century buildings,” McDonough said. “Instead, we need to build a VA health care system with the right facilities, in the right places, to provide the right care for veterans in every part of the country.”

McDonough said suicide prevention is the top clinical priority of the VA.

The Secretary also talked about the expansion of the caregiver program, saying that in October, the program of comprehensive assistance will be available to every generation of veterans.
McDonough said, “VA don’t serve some vets. We serve all vets.” He said this means that female veterans will get the care they need, that all LGBTQ+ vets will get the service and support they need, and that racial disparities within the VA system will be eliminated. “In this administration no veteran is going to have to fight to get the quality care and benefits they’ve earned—no matter who they are, where they’re from, how they worship, or who they love.”

In short, McDonough used his speech to address the importance of the Jewish War Veterans to his department and veterans in general.
“The partnership between VA and JWV is all about working together to deliver for veterans,” McDonough said.

Volume 76. Number 3. 2022

By Cara Rinkoff, Managing Editor

Father. Friend. Family. Those are the three words that Katie Celiz says in her mind best describe her late husband, Army Ranger Christopher Celiz.

Katie Celiz spoke to JWV members during the National Museum of American Jewish Military History’s event at our National Convention in Savannah on Sunday, August 7.

President Biden posthumously awarded Sergeant First Class Christopher Celiz the Medal of Honor for actions he took on July 12, 2018.

The citation read by the president at the ceremony on December 16, 2021, said in part,
“…Celiz voluntarily exposed himself to intense enemy machine-gun and small-arms fire to retrieve and employ a heavy weapon system, thereby allowing U.S. and partnered forces to regain the initiative, maneuver to a secure location, and begin treatment of a critically wounded partnered force member…. Celiz willingly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire to direct and lead the evacuation. As the casualty moved from a position of cover and out into intense enemy fire, Sergeant First Class Celiz made a conscious effort to ensure his body acted as a physical shield to his team carrying the casualty and the crew of the aircraft. As the casualty was loaded and Sergeant First Class Celiz’s team returned to cover, he alone remained at the aircraft… With his final reposition, Sergeant First Class Celiz placed himself directly between the cockpit and the enemy, ensuring the aircraft was able to depart. As the helicopter lifted off, Sergeant First Class Celiz was hit by enemy fire. Fully aware of his own injury but understanding the peril to the aircraft from the intense enemy machine gun fire, Sergeant First Class Celiz motioned to the aircraft to depart rather than remain behind to load him.”

“I have no idea what thoughts crossed his mind when he decided to perform such an act of heroism. However, I do know that Chris followed his heart and his gut,” Katie Celiz said. “He took a brief moment to consider the consequences, and in true Chris fashion, decided to do whatever was most necessary to protect those he cared about.”

Katie Celiz talked about the importance of Jewish faith to both her and Christopher.

“He was proud of our Jewish faith and found it extremely important that our daughter grow up with a strong Judaic education.”

She told members a story about how he created a menorah out of turkey for their congregation, Mickve Israel, when Hannukah fell at the same time as Thanksgiving.

Katie Celiz also talked about how his work family was just as important as she and her daughter were to Christopher.

“Chris not only wanted his work family to succeed, but he did everything in his power to provide them the tools to surpass his personal and professional goals,” Katie Celiz said. “Chris strongly believed that leadership was not simply giving orders, leadership was leading by example, and not asking something of someone that you are not willing to do yourself.”

Katie Celiz said that while she still has no answers as to why Chris took the actions he did, she noted, “I find some comfort in knowing that Chris will never be forgotten by those whose lives he’s touched.” She added her thanks to organizations like the Jewish War Veterans for making sure the memory of her husband stays alive and well.

Volume 76. Number 3. 2022

By National Commander Nelson L. Mellitz, Colonel, USAF, Ret.

In February 2022, National Commander Alan Paley called for an update to JWV’s Constitution and Bylaws, including the numerous amendments proposed in 2020 and 2021. Paley directed Scott Stevens and I to update the documents with the help of committee members PNC David Magidson, PNC Harvey Weiner, PNC Larry Schulman, National Judge Advocate Peter Nickitas, Barry Lischinsky, Larry Jasper, and Kim Queen.

The committee quickly determined that incorporating the amendments into the documents would produce 20th century documents with 21st century amendments. The committee’s mission was revised to completely rewrite both documents. After months of virtual meetings, the amended JWV Constitution and Bylaws were finalized. They are not perfect but incorporate most of the proposed amendments and are easy to read, follow, and use. The new Constitution and Bylaws with amendments will govern us for the next 25 years and beyond.

The committee took great care in eliminating any sexist terminology like chairman and serviceman. We could not change the Preamble because its part of our Congressionally approved charter. We did add a National Advisory Council which will make our organization more democratic in its decision making when the NEC is not in session.

Our new Constitution and Bylaws were approved during our National Convention in August and are now posted on the JWV website. These documents allow for amendments so that they will reflect the JWV membership’s continuously changing needs.

Volume 76. Number 3. 2022

By David Levin, Post 425

It’s no secret that antisemitic and anti-Zionist activity has been on the rise in this country over the last few years. I use the term activity to include things happening online, demonstrations, rhetoric, real-world violence, student intimidation, as well as political posturing. Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. increased by 34% between 2020 and 2021 according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). These incidents are now at their highest level since the ADL started compiling information about antisemitism in 1979.

This is not 1933 Germany. No group is going around pulling you from your home because you are a Jew, look like a Jew, or consort with Jews. But people have been murdered because of Jew hatred, most notably at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018. Antisemitism has been around in various forms for various reasons for thousands of years, and it will likely never be eliminated completely. This essay is written solely to get us thinking, and hopefully acting to make a dent in the problem.

I can’t begin to enumerate the pro-Jewish/Israel organizations who send me snail mail or email in the fight against antisemitism. They are working hard to educate and influence people through podcasts, conferences, literature, and lobbying elected officials. One wonders if they can reach the minds of the troublemakers or those most likely to cause trouble in the future. What can we do besides speak to like-minded people, stay informed, and support some of these wonderful entities financially?

We realize that no racial or ethnic group is homogeneous in their moral, cultural, intellectual, or physical attributes. But the hard-core antisemite lumps all Jews together, usually based on some perceived negative encounter or characteristic. One approach is to support educating gentiles, and sometimes ourselves, by emphasizing Jewish contributions to mankind as well as the Torah values that Judaism represents. The way in which these values have a commonality with other religions and cultures could be a foundation of this educational program.

The Holocaust Museum and Center for Tolerance and Education located at Rockland Community College (RCC) in Suffern, New York, led by Executive Director Andrea Winograd, has been working hard with student groups and community visitors in this area for many years, and is now in a new and expanded milieu. Besides the education efforts, promoting the concept of tolerance along with the baton of love and mutual respect to all we encounter will go far to achieve our goal. After all, how else can we legitimately call ourselves the light for all nations?

I recently saw the movie “Shared Legacies” at RCC, along with Jews, Blacks, elected officials, and other interested community members. It was a survey of the Civil Rights alliance between Blacks and Jews, with a focus on the close relationship between the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. When these two giants of their time passed on, in 1968 and 1972 respectively, the alliance, bereft of these leaders, began to wither away.

The point to be made is that a vigorous and successful response to antisemitism is unlikely without strong leaders and engaged followers who can overlook their differences and unite behind these leaders. In my opinion, both the lack of courageous and charismatic leadership as well as the lack of unanimity and common resolve among the followers has impeded the effort. Policy makers, interfaith clergy, leaders of educational institutions, businesses, and media, must all realize that intolerance and disrespect of the “other” has the potential to weaken our nation and is a threat to common humanity.

The late Lubavitcher Rebbe surmised that the avowed antisemite has a void in their life that they try to fill with Jew hatred because they were not exposed to Torah. For sure, unless explained by intellectual or mental deficiency, what logic could deny or distort the Holocaust, see Jews as a threat to white people, or rationalize the isolation or intimidation of Jewish college students based on their cultural beliefs?

Interestingly, the Rebbe felt that a possible strategy was to engage with leaders of some antisemitic groups in a quiet and diplomatic manner as an attempt to educate and possibly find some mutual understanding. So, what may be necessary are education, engagement, and a united effort to be an upstander rather than a bystander on this issue. That doesn’t mean risking an emotional or physical confrontation, but it does require a moral commitment, and sharing the love we all have within us.

Volume 76. Number 3. 2022

By Cara Rinkoff, Managing Editor and
Alana Stolnitz, NMAJMH Intern

On May 5, more than 75 people gathered at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History (NMAJMH) to honor those who served in the Vietnam War with a new exhibit, Jewish Americans in Military Service During Vietnam.

After discussions for at least a decade, museum staff and the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. (JWV) Vietnam Veterans Committee started working on the exhibit in the fall of 2020.

“We just talked about it and batted it around, but nothing happened until a few years ago when we finally said it’s the time,” said Bob Jacobs, Chairman of the JWV Vietnam Veterans Committee.
This is the first time the museum has worked directly with a JWV committee on an exhibit.

“We’ve done exhibits where I’ve done them all in house and we’ve done exhibits where we’ve worked with exhibit companies. But this one, the Vietnam Veterans Committee kind of curated it,” said Pam Elbe, NMAJMH Director of Collections, Archives, and Exhibitions. “Just figuring out who does what and gathering all the info and letting them tell their own story but still doing it in a professional way.”

“We were raising money for it but then, and then because of the book… which became a serious part of the exhibit, even before there was an exhibit, we had the book,” said Gerald Alperstein.

Gerald Alperstein peers into the new exhibit before it’s official opening

Alperstein served as the editor for a book on disc that features stories from JWV members who served in Vietnam. In one area of the museum’s exhibit, you can use computers to read those stories. The disc is also available for purchase from both the museum and Amazon.com. “As we gathered items, and we had to come up with a theme for the exhibit, we had to create what ended up being a 56-page outline of the exhibit,” said Jacobs.

There are several other sections of the new exhibit including items brought back from Vietnam by service members, several uniforms, and numerous medals. The items represent individuals who served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. The exhibit highlights more than just those who served in combat in Vietnam, but those who served in supporting roles around the world and back in the U.S.

“The reason I donated is it’s important for people to know, who visited the museum, that Jews served in Vietnam, and by looking at the different items that I have donated, I believe people will be able to say that not only did Jews serve, they served in Vietnam, and they served in combat situations,” said JWV Past National Commander Harvey Weiner.

Some of the items donated by Weiner are related to his work in Operation Phoenix. He served as an intelligence advisor to the Vietnamese.

“The Vietnam vets are getting quite old, so we need to get their stories before they’re gone,” said Elbe. “And we have this museum and we have so much of their stuff and they’re willing to loan us some of their stuff that maybe they don’t want to part with, so it was a great opportunity to do that.”

Jacobs added, “When we’re gone, who’s going to say that Jews served in Vietnam?”

Volume 76. Number 2. 2022

By Ronald Rutherford, Lead Whole Health Outreach
and Andrea Young, Health System & Communications Specialist

What matters to you — not, what is the matter with you — is the focus of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) model of Whole Health. Your whole health team will get to know you as a person to develop a personalized health plan based on your values, needs, and goals to best support your full health and well-being.

Why Whole Health?
Health outcomes in our country are poor. The U.S. is now ranked 46th in life expectancy, despite spending far more on health care than any other country. VA recognized it was time to create a health system, rather than a disease care system; one that empowers and equips Veterans to discover a new path to health and well-being. VA is a national leader in Whole Health.

How is this different?
Whole Health puts you in control of your care, focusing on self-care, skill building, and support. These services are not diagnosis or disease-based but support the personal health plan of each veteran. Stress reduction, yoga, tai chi, mindfulness, nutrition, acupuncture, and health coaching are available. You don’t have to wait until something is wrong to improve your well-being. You can set goals based on what is important to you and work toward those goals with your health care team.

Will Whole Health help me?
Studies show veterans who use Whole Health services report being able to manage stress better and note care they receive as more patient centered. Veterans with chronic pain who used Whole Health services had a threefold reduction in opioid use compared to those who did not. Since focusing on the eight self-care areas of the Circle of Health, veterans report pain management is not the only benefit of using Whole Health services. They are having success with weight loss, improved mental health as well as improvements in vital signs and diagnostic test results.

Whole Health in Action

Scot Moon

Marine Reservist, Scot Moon struggled with chronic neck pain since High School. Moon, a VA employee in Long Beach California, found a 11-minute acupressure routine on VA’s #LiveWholeHealth Blog series instructed by registered nurse LaurieAnne Nabinger with the Seattle VA Medical Center. He practiced it several times a day and within a week his pain was gone. Before that, Moon saw a massage therapist weekly at $80 per visit. “I didn’t look forward to that because it was so intense,” he said. “I always had knots in the muscles between my shoulder blades that had to be worked out. They are no longer there.” Moon now enjoys swimming, cycling and indoor rock climbing, which he cruises through without any of the pain he lived with for years.

Richard Fratelli

At 77 years old, Marine Corps veteran Richard Fratarelli has made huge strides in his personal fitness and health with help from a Whole Health Coach. Fratarelli lost 70 pounds in less than a year with the support of his Whole Health Coach Lindsey Higdon at the Port Charlotte VA Outpatient Clinic in Florida. Besides sticking to a healthy diet, exercise was key to meeting his health goals. Fratarelli noted that when he started in June 2021, “I could barely make it across the room.” Now he walks four miles most days — even walking a 5K Turkey Trot last November with a walker.
A Vietnam-era combat veteran, Fratelli said health care providers had been telling him for several years he needed to lose weight, and he had put it off. But he decided he couldn’t put it off any longer after his A1c level (a three-month average blood sugar level) spiked, forcing him to start taking diabetes medication. His VA primary care provider encouraged him to work with a Whole Health Coach to lose weight.

How can I start?
VA Whole Health information, tools, and resources including the Whole Health App are available and easily accessible through our website
www.va.gov/wholehealth. Whole Health services are available through your VA health care facility. Stop in and ask to speak to your VA facility’s Whole Health staff.

Volume 76. Number 2. 2022