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

By Cara Rinkoff

At the time this edition of The Jewish Veteran went to press, more than 500,000 people had died from the coronavirus. So far, there are vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson approved to protect against COVID-19.

A poll taken in February by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that approximately one-third of Americans either definitely or probably will not get the COVID-19 vaccine. Those who did not want to receive the vaccine were concerned about side effects, the overall safety of the vaccine, and others simply don’t trust the government.

To stop the spread of coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimates that between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population will need the vaccine. So far, the numbers of those who would get the vaccine are not high enough.

Due to the hesitancy of some individuals to get the vaccine, JWV member and Director of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System Dr. Steven Braverman spoke to participants at our National Executive Committee meeting in February.

Braverman urged JWV members to get the vaccine as soon as possible. He also wanted to reassure members about some of the myths they might have heard about the vaccine.

The one Braverman hears most often is that the federal government approved the vaccine too quickly to ensure its safety. Braverman said this is untrue. “These are the most scrutinized vaccines of any vaccines in history,” Braverman said. “The reason it happened so quickly was because it was funded by the government and so folks didn’t have to pause in between all of the different phase(s).” Braverman noted that no shortcuts were taken when it came to scientific oversight of the vaccine production.

Some individuals have also expressed concerns about the long-term risk of the vaccine. Braverman said “anybody who tells you they know the long-term risk of these vaccines, they’re lying, because nobody’s had one for more than five months.” However, Braverman said it is extremely unusual for any vaccine to have long-term side effects. The greatest chance for side effects always comes from “the implementation of the vaccine on people’s autoimmune response which in some folks get turned on more than the body should have an autoimmune response turned on.” But Braverman said this is not something that doctors are seeing with this vaccine in a greater proportion than any other vaccine. He also noted that anyone worried about the long-term effects of the vaccine should be more concerned with the unknown long-term effects of the coronavirus itself.

Braverman also contradicted another theory he’s heard about the coronavirus vaccine, saying there are no small microchips or nanochips in them that can allow the government to track the movements of those who get the shot.
Braverman said he participated in the phase three trial for the Moderna vaccine. He said that
he did not experience any severe side effects from either shot, simply a sore arm and mild fever with the second injection.

When it comes to how the Department of Veterans Affairs is handling distribution of the vaccine, Braverman said it depends on where you live. He said most VA facilities are reserving second doses so people can get it in a timely manner. The policies about who can receive a shot at a VA medical center also varies depending on the state. In most cases, you can only get a shot if you are already receiving care from the VA.

Volume 75. Number 1. 2021

By Larry Jasper

During the opening days of World War II in the Pacific Theater, on December 29, 1941, the Japanese lay siege to Corregidor Island in the Philippines. The Japanese bombed the island and destroyed everything they could, including the hospital, barracks, and fuel depot. On that day Corporal Sam Cordova was killed in action.

Cordova enlisted on September 21, 1940, and served with the 60th Coast Artillery Regiment at Fort Mills on Corregidor. Cordova is now buried in Plot D, Row 2, Grave 69, at the Manila American Cemetery, located in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, Metro Manila, within the boundaries of the former Fort William McKinley, along with 17,058 fellow service members.

Cordova received the World War II Victory Medal, Purple Heart, American Campaign Medal, Army Presidential Unit Citation, Army Good Conduct Medal, and Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal.

For 79 years Corporal Cordova had a Latin Cross as his marker. He was Jewish.
Finally, Corporal Cordova has a Star of David as his marker.

This was accomplished thanks to an organization known as Operation Benjamin.

Operation Benjamin began in 2016 as the Normandy Heritage Project and changed its name as the project expanded to other cemeteries managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).

ABMC regulations require any request for changes to headstones come from a relative of the deceased.

Cordova’s brother Harry, now 99, made a request through Operation Benjamin and finally succeeded in getting his brother a Star of David.

The ceremony to change the headstone took place on December 29, 2020, the 79th anniversary of Cordova’s death. In attendance were representatives of the Embassy of Israel, ABMC, the U.S. Embassy, Operation Benjamin, and members of Manila’s Jewish community.

While he could not make it to the ceremony, Cordova’s brother recorded a video message played during the ceremony. In it he said, “I never imagined in my 100th year that I would be able to honor my brother by ensuring that the proper headstone graced his grave. I didn’t know why he was buried under the Latin Cross, but I do know that he belongs for all eternity under the symbol and heritage of his birth, the Star of David.”

“That I could do this for him 79 years after his death, is a wonderful gift,” Harry Cordova added.

Corporal Cordova is the ninth U.S. Jewish Servicemember whose headstone has been changed to a Star of David due to Operation Benjamin’s research and advocacy. There are five more scheduled for change in 2021, and another 25 in advanced stages of research. Hundreds more cases are still waiting to be examined.

Volume 75. Number 1. 2021

By COL Herb Rosenbleeth, USA (Ret)
National Executive Director

Past National Commander David Hymes was one of my heroes. As a combat veteran in World War II, he received a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in France. Hymes was a member of the Greatest Generation.

According to the U.S. Army Registry, in September of 1941, about three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hymes entered the U.S. Army as a private at Ft. Warren, Wyoming. In January of 1942 he was assigned to Panama, serving there for ten months, and receiving promotions to both Corporal and then Sergeant. After going through a 90-day intensive Officer Candidate School, he received a commission as Second Lieutenant.

He was first assigned to an all-black transportation company in Shelbyville, Illinois, until black officers replaced the white ones. Then Hymes transferred to the Adjutant’s General Corps and traveled to England. Due to his prior civilian experiences, Hymes was assigned as the Postal Finance Officer for Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. Bonded for $500,000 and with nine men assigned to him, he landed at Omaha Beach in neck deep water, where he was strafed by German aircraft waiting to clear the beachhead. He set up operations in a 20-foot by 20-foot steel bar cage with the base post office in Cherbourg, France. While in France, Hymes was promoted to First Lieutenant.

Near the end of February 1945, Hymes was wounded. He was airlifted to England and placed in traction for 30 days. In England he was fitted with a special cast and transported back to the United States where he recuperated at Hines Hospital near Chicago. He was honorably discharged in February 1946.

Hymes was an enthusiastic supporter of JWV. Over the decades, he served in many positions on the local, state, and national levels. He always came to convention and to National Executive Committee meetings. He was always proud of the Department of Illinois and of Post 800 in Chicago. He was very, very proud of our current National Commander Jeff Sacks, who is from Chicago.

Hymes was a devoted, dedicated member of the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. He served on the Board of Directors and continually donated to the museum. He also would offer to match the donations of others, often significant amounts.

I remember going to Chicago some years ago for a meeting with Jewish organizations. Hymes was a wonderful host. He took me around to historical sites to meet with the Department Commander and with members of his post. Once we sat together on a bench in the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. We talked and laughed with each other for a long time while he told me a lot about his family and his life.

Hymes was 103 and it is my understanding that he was in good health. But COVID-19 got him. That awful virus is too much, especially for someone over 100.

Hymes was always a happy person. A generous, kind, wonderful person. As sad as we are that he passed away, we must all remember that he would have wanted us to enjoy this day, to socialize with each other, and to think good thoughts. That is how I most remember David Hymes.

Volume 75. Number 1. 2021

By PNC Harvey Weiner

JWV and other veterans’ organizations were invited to a virtual meeting with the Biden-Harris Defense Transition Agency Review Team on January 11, 2021. The purpose was to share JWV’s top priorities, issues, concerns, and recommendations with the transition team. This is the first time that anyone at JWV National recalled such a request coming from a presidential transition team. Since there would presumably be no equivalent meeting with a veterans transition team, if one existed at all, National decided to focus on veterans’ issues, rather than defense issues. This would be our only chance to have input.

I requested input from various JWV individuals, and ultimately, we decided on two issues. As JWV’s National Liaison Officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs, here is what I presented:

“Good afternoon, everyone, I am Harvey Weiner, a Vietnam War combat veteran, and immediate Past National Commander and National Liaison Officer of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, America’s oldest active veterans’ organization. We, the JWV, will celebrate our 125th anniversary in just over two months – March 15th.

I am going to focus on veterans’, rather than on defense issues, because this seems to be our one chance to say something.

Our first concern is the conduct of the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He must make a public pledge that his primary loyalty will be to veterans and not to the Administration. As you may know, this may not have been true for the present Secretary, because when a female veteran [who was Jewish and a JWV member] was recently sexually harassed at a VA facility, she, and not the sexual harasser, was initially investigated by the Secretary because this female veteran worked for a Democrat. Many of the veterans’ groups you are hearing from today, including some who rarely, if ever, take public positions, called for President Trump to fire the Secretary or for the Secretary to resign.

The proposed new Secretary is neither a veteran nor a healthcare expert, even though he will oversee the largest healthcare network in the United States. He is a lifelong political operative and a bureaucrat. He must make a public pledge that his primary loyalties are with veterans and that he will act accordingly during his stewardship.

A second concern is for this new Administration to do nothing, directly or indirectly, to privatize and emasculate VA healthcare, but rather to act to reinvigorate it. The VA healthcare system has the expertise and experience to treat veterans, a unique group of patients, whereas private healthcare does not. If you read Dr. David Shulkin’s book, “It Shouldn’t be this Hard to Serve Your Country,” you will learn from a former Secretary of Veterans Affairs that the prior Administration had a not-so-secret plan to privatize VA healthcare and to weaken it. It did so solely for ideological reasons and not to help veterans. We insist that the present trend towards privatization, some of which is under the guise of so-called consolidation be reversed and that the present public VA healthcare system be strengthened [veterans are not the waste of war to be sacrificed on the alter of politics and ideology.]

Thank you very much for this opportunity and stay safe. I would be glad to answer any questions.”

There were no questions from the transition team, but I did receive a call to ask if JWV had any other issues it wanted to raise. I mentioned the removal of the remaining Nazi gravestone in Utah and the hope that the new President would reinstitute the prior practice of hosting a breakfast on Veterans Day in the White House with the National Commanders of the various veterans’ organizations.

Volume 75. Number 1. 2021

 

By Nona Safra

As a child of Philadelphia’s Jewish community in the 1950s, I was surrounded by Jewish World War II veterans, Holocaust survivors, and immigrants from all over Europe. These people were survivors, had ‘shell shock,’ and needed jobs and opportunities.

My Dad, Meyer Safra, served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps and became a member of JWV’s Milton Kelkey Post #575. As treasurer of the local credit union, evenings in our home were filled with post members coming over for loans, payments, etc. I listened intently to their stories about the war, their lives, and sometimes their struggles following WWII and Korea. What I didn’t realize was the impact those heroes would have on my life some six decades later when I retired to Alaska and found myself as the Jewish godmother to a group of amazing veterans living in the Last Frontier.

My love for Alaska began when I was eight. I was always excited to get the third grade’s “My Weekly Reader” in school and the January 1959 issue had a story about the 49th state, Alaska. I came home and suggested that we move to Alaska. My father was appalled and cried out, “what would we do there? There are not Jews there! Are you crazy!” That was that – or was it?

Jews had lived in Alaska for 200 years and the largest groups were merchants and men who arrived due to military service. On October 1, 1867, the day of the formal transfer of Alaska to the United States, the American soldier who is credited with lowering the Russian flag and raising the first American flag in Sitka was a Jew named Benjamin Levy.
Among the many furriers who moved to Alaska was David Green, a man who helped Anchorage survive the Great Depression and WWII by making muskrat liners and parkas for U.S. service members who were monitoring the Aleutian Islands for Japanese activity. The hundreds of Jews who came to Anchorage during the war were welcomed by both the Green family and the rest of the Jewish community.

Green’s son, Perry, came of age during World War II. His father’s work making military parkas helped Perry understand support for our troops and he served in the U.S. Army for three years. Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan honored Perry Green’s enduring patriotism in 2020 saying, “I would say that Perry Green is the most patriotic American I know, and we have a lot of patriots in Alaska!”

The military bases in Alaska saw the arrival of hundreds of Jewish GI’s. Families, like the Greens in Anchorage and the Bloom family in Fairbanks, joined others in the Jewish community to host activities and organize Jewish holiday celebrations.

Among those Jewish GI’s was Private Joseph Sharp of Philadelphia. He was the first American killed in action on the North American continent in World War II. He died manning an anti-aircraft gun during an attack at Dutch Harbor in 1942 and posthumously received the Purple Heart for “meritorious acts.”

Another Jewish veteran who served in Alaska during WWII was Monroe B. Goldberg who was stationed in Alaska at Fort Richardson and Adak from 1943 to 1945. His archives comprise the Monroe B. Goldberg Collection at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage.

It is reported that from the 1940s through the 1970s, Jewish military personnel outnumbered Jewish civilians in Alaska.

Jewish Chaplains at Elmendorf Air Base near Anchorage rotated every two years between Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox leaders, and often ended up serving the entire Jewish community throughout Alaska. They would travel for bar mitzvahs and offered other learning opportunities. The Fairbanks Chaplain, Seymour Gitin, inspired the community to organize a Jewish Sunday school. In 2016, Captain Michael Bram became the first Jewish chaplain at Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson in 25 years.

This was the Alaska that called out to me. I am the daughter of a veteran, married two men who served our country, and had a daughter who graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. My parents even named me after my father’s best friend who died during the Battle of the Bulge. So, in 2011, I retired to Alaska and a new chapter of my life began. I became honorary Godmother to the greatest group of veterans – the ones who are part of a transition program called VIPER.

VIPER provides a seamless transition into the civilian workforce and meaningful long-term employment opportunities for exiting active-duty service members and their spouses. VIPER approaches an end to veteran suicide by tackling its primary causes of veteran underemployment, unemployment, and homelessness.

I must confess I have a favorite Godson among my VIPER veterans, Kyle Kaiser. While listening to him one morning, I thought about how I could help and what I could do. I remembered Rabbi Hillel’s saying that “he who saves one life saves the world.” And, the teaching of my great-grandfather, a Rebbe, that the only mitzvah greater than celebrating Shabbat is to save a life. I thought of my Dad and his cousins who had served in WWII and all of those men of the Milton Kelkey Post who I heard tell their stories. It all came together. VIPER was a fit!

As Alaskans, we know all good plans involve the outdoors. VIPER has outreach programs that create quality connections between participants and mentors in their Operation Combat Pike program. These mentors assess and clearly understand participants’ career goals while providing an opportunity to answer questions and concerns they may have about the transition from the military.

Alaska has more veterans per capita than any other state, a connection with a long-standing military history, and an understanding that Alaska stands ready around the clock as the United States’ arctic defense. With a focus on Alaska’s unique military history, VIPER has a division aptly named the Alaska Military Heritage Museum. This division’s objective is to identify, collect, preserve, and interpret Alaska’s rich military history from the remote Aleutians to interior locations in Alaska.

I am also involved with the Alaska Jewish Museum. It is an amazing place to learn about the role of Alaska during WWII, the Jews who wanted to leave Europe, and former Army Air Corps members who were part of Operation Magic Carpet which brought Yemini Jews to Israel. The Museum is collecting stories of veterans and their families who were stationed in Alaska. If you, your relatives, or friends have lived in Alaska, were stationed in Alaska, or were involved with military projects that affected the state, we invite you to submit your written stories directly by email or contact us to record your oral histories.

You can contact the Alaska Jewish Museum at www.alaskajewishmuseum.com.

Volume 75. Number 1. 2021

By Colonel Nelson L Mellitz, USAF, Ret.

This is the second in a continuing series of articles in “The Jewish Veteran” on the ever-increasing anti-Semitism in the United States and overseas.

The U.S. State Department has joined with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), a 31-member nation-state organization which met in Bucharest during 2016, and adopted a non-legally binding “working definition” of anti-Semitism:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individual(s) and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Examples of anti-Semitism given in the 2016 IHRA Plenary meeting notes include:

  • The targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.
  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective….
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters….
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.

Will having a definition for anti-Semitism stop anti-Semitism?

Anti-Semitism is an ancient hatred of our people. In the 21st century, the internet is used to communicate lies and falsehoods about Jewish people at the speed of light. In the past, that would have taken weeks or even months. We already know the possible consequences of allowing anti-Semitism to spread unimpeded.

There are two major battlegrounds in the fight against anti-Semitism: social media and college campuses.
The far left, far right, and Muslim extremist groups have formed an alliance to spread their anti-Semitic lies and falsehoods. These groups use social media and the internet to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to exist. An example of this approach is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement with the help of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). SJP uses the internet to push lies and falsehoods against not only Israel but the Jewish people. SJP states that anyone who supports Israel is against justice for all minorities. A study published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets from three million unique handles in 2017, and the number is increasing. That means on average there were 81,400 anti-Semitic tweets per week in 2017.

College campuses have become a major communications hub for hate groups. These hate groups use the campus internet and in-person platforms to promote anti-Semitism to impressionable young people – both Jewish and non-Jewish. The organization StandWithUs is a leading pro-Israel organization that investigates anti-Semitism and other types of discrimination on college campuses. StandWithUs says freedom of speech for Jewish students who support Israel is often violated on campuses. The group claims that at major U.S. colleges, Jewish students are branded as either supporting or not supporting Israel. If the student is a supporter of Israel, they have been physically and verbally attacked as a person that opposes social justice. Jewish and non-Jewish students that support Israel are continuously excluded from campus councils and social organizations.

Anti-Semitism is growing in the United States and throughout the world. The Jewish War Veterans has joined a coalition of over 145 major Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, and we have jointly endorsed a recent publication “The New Antisemites: How the Delegitimization Campaign Against Israel Drives Hatred and Violence in America.” JWV has responded to anti-Semitism with a renewed commitment to battle and counter anti-Semitism wherever it shows its ugly head. In the 1930s, Jewish War Veterans who served in World War I marched in the streets of New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and elsewhere with our partner Veterans Service Organizations against Hitler’s fascism and hatred of Jews. The Jewish War Veterans still has that commitment against anti-Semitism. Perhaps we need marches in 2021 to prove to the world we are still actively fighting anti-Semitism.

JWV was formed in 1896 to counter anti-Semitism statements that we did not fight for the United States during the Civil War. Now in our 125th year, we are still fighting against anti-Semitism, perhaps a different form, but still anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism is increasing throughout the United States with hate speech and actions on college campuses, in government, and in social organizations. Join with your fellow JWV’ers to increase our efforts to fight this hatred and secure the future of the Jewish people in the United States, in Israel, and around the world.

Volume 75. Number 1. 2021

By Larry Jasper

On February 6, Murray Zolkower turned 100-years-old. Two months ahead of the celebration, his daughter Francine decided to see if she could get people to send 100 birthday cards to him as a surprise. Between the efforts of National and the Department of Florida, as well as many Department and Post members, Zolkower received more than 500 cards. He also got letters from former President George W. Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, and two former U.S. Surgeons General.

At Mission BBQ in Tampa, Murray Zolkower shows off the Centenarian Certificate from the JWV presented by the Department of Florida Commander Larry Jasper along with Jim Marenus and Jack Rudowsky of Post 373 in Tampa, FL

Mission BBQ, Zolkower’s favorite restaurant, hosted a surprise lunch for their special customer, as well as his children, friends, and three members of JWV. Two active-duty Army recruiters also made a surprise appearance along with a bag of goodies. During lunch, Department of Florida Commander Larry Jasper, assisted by Post 373 members Jack Rudowsky and Jim Marenus presented him with a JWV Centenarian Certificate.

On his actual birthday, February 6, Suncoast Region Veterans Village USA organized a parade in front of his home in Dunedin, Florida. The parade included restored military vehicles, a vehicle from Mission Barbecue, and other cars and trucks displaying congratulatory signs and American flags. The Dunedin Fire Department, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Honor Flight of West Central Florida, and a retired Air Force Colonel who serves as an aide to Congressman Bilirakis also participated in the parade.

Zolkower joined JWV in 1946 when he returned home from World War II and is still co-commander of Post 409. He is one of the longest serving volunteers at Bay Pines VA Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Zolkower was surprised so many people came out and sent things to him for his birthday. He said it was the “greatest moment of my life.”

While attending Columbia College of Pharmacy in New York in 1938, a recruiter for the New York National Guard came on campus. He promised $15 a month for anyone who signed up and attended twice a month. That was a lot of money at the time, so Zolkower signed up. One year later, he was surprised when he had to report for active duty and disrupt his studies for one year. He spent that year at Camp Dix (now Fort Dix) in New Jersey. After being released he returned to Columbia only to have his studies again disrupted in 1943 when the Army called him back to active duty.

The Army had no need for a pharmacist, so they sent him to Colorado to train as a dental tech. Later the military sent him to Texas to train as a medic.

Zolkower found himself on Omaha Beach six weeks after D-Day. He said the beach was all cleaned up and very busy with supplies and personnel coming in. He was sent to an area near St. Lo, France, assigned to the 7th Convalescent Hospital, where they used large tents to treat troops who could return to duty.

In August 1944 he was in Paris assigned to a clearing company of the 45th Division as a Dental Tech, where he was evaluating soldiers with facial injuries.

Zolkower then moved to Etampes, France, where the Division set up in a captured German Hospital. The Army decided they did not need a Dental Tech there, so he became a medic assigned to the 92nd Mechanized Cavalry, 14th Division, sent to look for trouble close to the front.

Zolkower then got assigned to the 120th Medical Battalion in the 45th Infantry Division.

His unit fought their way through Nuremburg and Munich where they were billeted in a former SS barrack.

Col. Gerry Custin, aide to Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Murray Zolkower, Francine Wolf, and two friends.

On April 29, 1945, his unit was ordered to liberate Dachau. Zolkower said he didn’t want to go with the unit and see his fellow Jews dead or dying but was not given a choice. Zolkower said, “it was the worst thing I ever saw in my life.” He added that nice homes, like those in suburban Long Island, were lining the street leading to the front gate of the camp. He felt there was no way those living in those homes did not know the horrors taking place in the camp.

The war ended nine days later, but Zolkower could not return home right away. He remained with the military in Gars, Germany, where he helped set up a clinic to treat farmers who had sustained injuries. After two months, he returned to the United States.

Zolkower’s girlfriend, Lillian, wrote him every other day during his deployment. They were married in 1946 until her death in 2014. Zolkower returned to school and became a pharmacist in 1948. He still works as a pharmacist part-time.

Volume 75. Number 1. 2021