By M. B. Kanis
The creation of cemeteries as a final location is as old as man-kind. The creation of Jewish Cemeteries is unique, as Jewish religious customs require that Jewish burial sites be held in reverence.

Recent documented incidents of desecration, vandalism, and failures to maintain multiple Jewish Cemeteries in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, as well as occurrences in other cemeteries throughout the United States, prompted the following information in the desire to protect the deceased and provide context for the greater good.

What makes a Jewish Cemetery Jewish?
Establishing a cemetery is one of the first priorities for any Jewish community. According to Jewish tradition, Jewish burial grounds are sacred sites and must remain undisturbed in perpetuity.

A Jewish cemetery has physical boundaries that set the cemetery off from its surroundings, marking it holy for Jews. Inner reflection is often observed in a place of calm. A Jewish cemetery is considered consecrated ground where Jewish burial practices and customs are observed.

For Jews, a grave site is permanent and once established should not be violated.

The religious duty of burial is the responsibility of a decedent’s children or spouse. If there are no children or spouse, it is the responsibility of the closest relative. If no relatives, then the community. As time passes, it becomes the responsibility of those alive to respect the dead.

How are Veterans effected?
From the earliest sunrise of birth to the twilight last gleaming, members of the Jewish faith, first as volunteers, then as conscripted, and once again as volunteers, have served to protect and defend the United States. As veterans as well as citizens, the lives of people of the Jewish faith are intertwined with service to family and the community in many forms.

Our respect for our faith honorably distinguishes Jews as a guiding force during life and in repose. Over the millennia, the Jewish religion has codified customs and practices which we strive to live by out of respect for each other, the contributions each person has provided, no matter how small or far reaching. When our time on this earth ends, we as family, friends, or simply as strangers show a common dignity to provide a lasting resting place as a sign of remembrance for life.

According to the Family Research Organization, as of 2018 there were approximately 22,000 known dedicated Jewish Cemeteries, of the more than 145,000 graveyards and marked cemeteries in the United States, Territories and foreign U.S. managed sites.

With the aging population within America, there is also the aging of Jewish Cemeteries. More often in recent years, cemetery owners and operators are facing higher maintenance costs. Grounds appearance and paid perpetual care of individual and community grave sites are not maintained by a small percentage of operators.

Each of us, when visiting a deceased member or observing natural or wanton degradation, lack of maintenance, vandalism, or visible Anti-Semitic acts, have a duty and moral obligation to be vigilant, to say something, and to act to maintain the grounds of fellow Jews for the greater good of the whole community.

What do we look for in a Jewish Cemetery?
Different Jewish groups have different traditions about gravestones. Historically Ashkenazi Jews often have vertical gravestones and Sephardic Jews have horizontal stones. Sephardic stones often have angelic figures and biblical images, while images were not permitted on Ashkenazi stones.
In the modern era, both groups make frequent use of classic Jewish symbols: the Star of David, the Menorah, Tree of Life, the Book of Life, or a candle.

Historically, families that belonged to the priestly class (Kohanim), were forbidden to go inside the gates of a cemetery because that would violate laws of ritual purity. According to Arthur Kurzweil’s “From Generation to Generation,” their gravestones usually bear the symbol of two hands with thumbs touching and fingers spread out in a priestly blessing.

With a request, and at no charge to the applicant, the Department of Veterans Affairs furnishes a government headstone or marker for the grave of any deceased eligible veteran in any cemetery around the world, regardless of their date of death.

When purchasing a grave site, ensure the cemetery owner is bonded or provides proof of operating insurance. Upon research of the grave site to be chosen, look at the overall appearance, and the look of maintained graves and entry.

When purchasing perpetual care, determine if the people in charge of the perpetual fund are bonded or insured, which almost every state requires.
A perpetual fund is a separate bank account and/or lawful saving instrument, that is used as the principal fund for maintaining the property. Owners or operators may and often do use the interest earned from the perpetual fund to operate the overall function and appearance of the entire Jewish Cemetery while maintaining the appearance of individual grave sites paid for that eternity.

Owners may not spend the actual perpetual fund without lawful order.

What to do if you see degraded conditions or other serious lack of maintenance?
Call the cemetery owner, operator, or superintendent and politely voice your concern with specifics. Ask for action and an approximate date when the problem will be resolved. If the date for resolution is longer than a few weeks, and you haven’t seen any action taken, write a brief letter, addressed to the owner or operator confirming your earlier attempts and requesting reasonable action on their part. Anything placed in writing will serve as a dated proof of concern.

If no actions are observed and without a reasonable cause for the delay, your next step is to call your local appointed or elected Consumer Protection Representative, providing your details and documentation. If there is no Consumer Representative, call your local politicians with the same details.
On serious matters of overall neglect, a call or photograph to the local news station, newspaper, or regional Federation may also be useful. Anti-Semitic postings or other vandalism requires a call and or photograph to local law enforcement.

How do you maintain the implied right to review and provide service within Jewish Cemeteries?
Jewish veterans often have standing, which is a legal term indicating members of a local or regional Post have the implied right to maintain the site of the graves of buried veterans and often the related family members. By observing various legal holidays and other publicized events, Post members often can establish a rapport and standing within each Jewish Cemetery.

Often a stone or other veteran memorial erected within the property of the cemetery allows for standing. An act of Congress set aside a date before Memorial Day when individuals can place flags on veterans’ gravesites.

Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day, is set aside as a day to honor living veterans and their families. While not an official act, family members and persons representing families of deceased veterans often place flags upon the grave sites.

MLK Day of Service is a day to provide meaningful actions to improve each community and educate citizens, often utilized to educate children and young adults as to the service provided by veterans. As an option, veteran grave sites are often cleaned or U.S. flags are placed as a sign of respect by the community.

It is an honor and mitzvah for veterans to remember each other for the sacrifice and service provided to the general public and to the Nation, that no others experience. Together we served and should be reposed forever in peace.

Volume 74. Number 3. 2020

By Cara Rinkoff
More than 215 members, associate members, and patrons registered for JWV’s 125th annual convention, which also happened to be the first virtual convention for our organization. The five-day convention, originally scheduled to take place in Jacksonville, Florida moved online due the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to the difficulties of holding votes online, the Convention Rules Committee approved a measure moving votes on all but the election of our new National Commander and Vice Commander to the next in-person convention.

The Opening Ceremony on Monday featured a video greeting from Secretary Robert Wilkie of the Department of Veterans Affairs. This is the second time Wilkie has appeared at a JWV National Convention, and he also spoke in-person at NEC in February 2020.

At our first business session, more than 100 members tuned in as the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer joined us for a question and answer session. Dermer spoke about the recent diplomatic breakthrough between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, saying he believes this is only the beginning. He thinks other countries in the Middle East will find it vital to work with Israel in the near future. “I think to the extent that you have leaders in the Arab world who would like to propel their countries forward and to be a force for modernization, then I think working with Israel is very important.”

Dermer also spoke about how Israel is dealing with the current coronavirus pandemic. He and PNC Harvey Weiner made a friendly bet about which country will develop the first vaccine for COVID-19. If Israel develops it first, Weiner owes Dermer dinner, but if any other country has the first vaccine, Dermer will treat Weiner to dinner.

Our second business session featured attorney Amy Van Fossen. She discussed aid and attendance benefits, which is important because it “is tax free and can be used for a variety of purposes… the intent of the benefit is for medical expenses.” Fossen said a common misconception is that you cannot receive Medicaid and the aid and attendance benefit. You can find her slide presentation with more information on VA benefits and Fossen’s contact information in the convention section of our website at www.jwv.org/programs/building-membership/national-convention.

Approximately 100 members also joined our third business session to hear a discussion on anti-Semitism with American Zionist Movement President Richard Heideman and U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr.

Heideman spoke about the rampant anti-Semitism Jews are experiencing around the world and right here in the United States. He said, “We have seen a reemergence of such hatred, such intolerance, such bigotry, such anti-Semitism, anti-Zionist, and Holocaust denial that we must go back and reanalyze where we went wrong. What did we miss in training our young people? What did we miss in sending messages to our community and I mean the community at large… How is it possible that anti-Semitism has become all too acceptable?”

The two men answered several questions from members, and Carr discussed the importance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and the importance of having countries accept the group’s definition of anti-Semitism. But in addition to just defining anti-Semitism, Carr said, “It [IHRA] goes on to provide examples, 11 of them to be precise, with an overarching additional example that provides a window into the contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism.” He added, “One of my top diplomatic asks when I go overseas is that a country that hasn’t adopted it formally, adopt it. And we’ve had great successes as more and more countries are lining up to embrace the IHRA definition.”

Carr also noted that while it’s obvious the internet and social media did not cause today’s anti-Semitism, “It is carrying this contagion further and faster than we’ve ever seen before and it is one of the chief reasons we’re seeing anti-Semitism rise today.”

During the convention members also attended important committee meetings and participated in a leadership workshop. You can find information on what happened at those meetings in the Committee Reports section of this issue.

Finally, on Thursday, JWV elected its new National Commander and first-ever National Vice Commander. NC Jeffrey Sacks and NVC Alan Paley both addressed the more than 100 members who attended the session which included their election. Sacks announced his new appointees for positions including Chief of Staff and National Adjutant.

We hope to welcome all of you to our next convention in-person, which will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana, August 15-20.

Volume 74. Number 3. 2020

By Harvey Weiner
How does one tell the incredible story of a Jewish-American Vietnam War hero so that it is believable?
Melvin “Mel” Lederman was born in Brooklyn, New York and lived in Brookline, Massachusetts at the time of his death in Vietnam.
He served in the U.S. Army from 1946 to 1948 in Alaska, where he contracted a virulent rash, leading to his being on partial disability. After his honorable discharge, he sought education under the G.I. Bill and earned a B.S. and a M.S. in Human Genetics from Michigan, an M.S. in physics from Yale, and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School. After a series of residencies and fellowships, including a chief residency in a VA hospital, he became Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1968, he was offered a surgery partnership in California. He seemed to be every Jewish mother’s dream!

Alas – not every Jewish mother’s dream! He was unmarried. He was a skydiver and a hunter. And, he turned down that job offer in California to join the Navy at age 40 and to volunteer to go to Vietnam.

In one of the letters he wrote from Vietnam, Lederman said, “Someone has to do the job of taking care of the kids, and it is obvious that I am it, so by conscience, I have been doing the best I know.”

Although he already satisfied his military obligation and was too old to be drafted, he joined the hospital ship USS Repose as a Lieutenant Commander. Before deployment he earned his jump winds at Fort Bragg.

While treating the wounded on the ship, Lederman realized the men were returning too late for any effective medical treatment to make a difference. He instead decided the best course of action was to treat the wounded on the battlefield. He started flying with the medivac helicopters and flew more than two dozen missions.

On at least one mission, he fought the enemy with his M-16. He was wounded on several occasions and received four Purple Hearts.
On one mission, he saved a wounded pilot’s life, but did not receive the Air Medal because he was not on flight status. I, along with many others in the Army, did not receive the Combat Infantry Badge because we were not assigned to an infantry position. However, there is now a Combat Action Badge for soldiers who engage in combat, but are not members of an infantry unit. Lederman was attached to HMM-364, known as the Purple Foxes, and he got nickname “Super Doc,” which he affixed to the naval identification tab on his flight jacket. He also went out on missions with the Navy Seals, but these unauthorized missions do not appear on his military record.

On November 29, 1969, shortly before his scheduled return to the U.S., Lederman was killed in action when his helicopter was shot down on a mission. It took 47 years for the Navy to award him a fourth Purple Heart, which they did in 2016. He was the only U.S. Navy doctor and the only Harvard Medical School graduate killed in Vietnam.

Two weeks before his death, Lederman was on a medivac mission in the Qui San mountain range northeast of Danang. A Cobra helicopter had been shot down and, under hostile fire, Lederman’s helicopter landed in an attempt to save the two pilots, who were believed to still be alive. Lederman and two others left their helicopter to search for the Cobra pilots, but found only their dead bodies. He helped bring them back to the helicopter, but then went back alone to the Cobra to retrieve their personal gear. The Cobra disintegrated moments after he left it. Upon his return to base, Lederman immediately counseled and treated one of the two other soldiers on that mission, who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

For that mission, Lederman and the two others were recommended for the Silver Star by the elite Squadron Awards Board. It appears this recommendation never reached the appropriate personnel at the Department of the Navy. As it has done in the past, will the JWV be of help?
Opposite the Massachusetts General Hospital is the Esplanade on the Charles River where the Boston Pops gives its annual Independence Day concert. The playing field there is named Lederman Park, where a monument in his memory is planned. However, more than $400,000 must be raised to fund the monument.

You can read more about Lederman and the memorial project at www.ledermanmemorial.org.

Volume 74. Number 3. 2020

By Larry Jaser
The controversary over 10 military installations in the South being named after Confederate Officers continues to rage. The stories behind the people differ widely. Before the Civil War, most of the officers served valiantly in the U.S. Army and were decorated for bravery.
Some owned slaves and some did not. Read and decide for yourself if they are worthy of having an installation named for them.
In 2015 Brigadier General Malcolm Frost said, “Every Army installation is named for a soldier who holds a place in our military history.” He further explained that the historic names chosen “represent individuals, not causes or ideologies,” and that “it was done in the spirit of reconciliation, not division.”

1. Fort Hood, Texas
The official opening of Camp Hood took place on September 18, 1942. It is named for the commander of the Confederate Texas Brigade, General John Bell Hood. It was renamed Fort Hood in 1950. Today it is the largest Armored Post in the U.S. Army.
Gen. John Bell Hood was a Kentucky native and graduated from West Point in 1853.
In 1855, he served with the Second United States Cavalry in Jefferson Banks, Missouri. Hood received a citation for bravery and promotion to first lieutenant after an injury during a fight with Native Americans.
Hood resigned from the U.S. Army in April 1861 and became a first lieutenant of cavalry in the Confederate Army. He trained cavalry in Virginia before his promotion to Colonel. When his unit in Texas expanded to brigade strength, he received a promotion to brigadier general in 1862.
Hood fought in the Peninsula Campaign, the Second Battle of Bull Run, and after the Battle of Antietam he became the youngest major general in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. His division also played a significant role in the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 where he suffered injuries. Hood eventually rejoined his unit to lead a charge during the Battle of Chickamauga, after which he became a lieutenant general for his bravery.
Despite having his leg amputated, he returned to the battlefield in 1864 to try to stop U.S. General Sherman’s march toward Atlanta. By July, Hood had become commander of the Army of Tennessee and fought Sherman’s forces under a temporary promotion to full general.
Hood was the youngest officer on either side of the Civil War to independently lead an army. He thought of himself as a career military man and did not personally hold slaves but admitted slavery was the main cause of the war.

2. Fort Benning, Georgia
At the request of the Columbus Rotary Club, the Army honored Brig. Gen. Henry Benning when it opened Camp Benning in 1918. It was renamed Fort Benning in 1922. In 2005, Fort Benning became the home of the U.S. Army Armor Center and School.
Benning led troops at the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Antietam, and the Battle of Gettysburg. Prior to the Civil War he practiced law and never served in the military.
Benning served as one of Georgia’s delegates to a convention of nine slaveholding states to determine the South’s course of action if slavery were banned in the western territories. While the resolutions of the convention helped lead to the Compromise of 1850, Benning introduced resolutions in Nashville that strongly defended slavery and supported a state’s right to secede.
At the 1861 secession convention, Benning said, “What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession? This reason may be summed up in one single proposition. It was a conviction, a deep conviction on the part of Georgia, that a separation from the North was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery… If things are allowed to go on as they are, it is certain that slavery is to be abolished. By the time the North shall have attained the power, the black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand for that?”
After the war he returned to Columbus, Georgia, and his law practice.

3. Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Fort Bragg opened in 1918. The local chamber of commerce named the Fort after General Braxton Bragg, the only general from North Carolina during the Civil War. Since the U.S. Army was concerned with mobilizing troops for World War I, they just let locals choose the name. It is now home to the U.S. Army Forces Command, XVIII Airborne Corps, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, 82nd Airborne Division, and many other commands.
Bragg graduated 5th in a class of 50 at West Point in 1837 and served in the U.S. Army until 1856. Bragg was an American army officer during the Second Seminole War and Mexican American War, where his success made him a national hero.
He was also a slave owner before the start of the Civil War and owned a sugar plantation in Louisiana.
He joined the Confederacy and served as a general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
He was not popular with the Confederate troops and ended the war as a military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Historians generally rate Bragg as one of the worst tacticians on either side during the war, and his losses were major contributors to the Confederate States of America’s (CSA) defeat.

4. Fort Lee, Virginia
General Robert E. Lee was a West Point graduate and the leader of the Confederate Army. The U.S. Army named Camp Lee after him on July 15, 1917 during the mobilization for World War I. In 1950 it was renamed Fort Lee. Today Fort Lee is home to the Combined Arms Support Command.
Lee served the U.S. Army for 32 years, distinguishing himself during the Mexican American War and as Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy.
He was President Abraham Lincoln’s first choice to lead the U.S. in the Civil War.
Instead, Lee joined the Confederacy when his home state, Virginia, seceded from the Union.
Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia in June 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign.
Historians generally agree that Lee was less enthusiastic about the cause than many of his fellow Southerners, but he did take command of the Confederate army. After the defeat, he spoke out in opposition to Confederate monuments, writing in 1869 that it is better, “not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife.”

5. Fort Polk, Louisiana
Camp Polk opened in 1941 and was named for Leonidas Polk, a West Point graduate, planter, slave owner, and Episcopal bishop who began the Civil War as a major general in the Confederate Army. It was renamed Fort Polk in 1955 and is now home to the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center.
Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk was a North Carolina native. He had no previous military experience, other than his West Point education before the war. He died in action during the Battle of Atlanta in 1864.
Shortly after graduating West Point, Polk resigned his commission in the artillery to enter the Virginia Theological Seminary. Polk was the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana when the Civil War started. He resigned that position to become a major general for the Confederacy.
Polk commanded troops in the Battle of Shiloh, the Battle of Perryville, the Battle of Stones River, the Tullahoma Campaign, the Battle of Chickamauga, the Chattanooga Campaign, and the Atlanta Campaign.

6. Fort Gordon, Georgia
Camp Gordon, named for Lt. Gen. John Brown Gordon, a native Georgian, soldier, legislator, and businessman, opened in July 1941 as a World War II training camp for the 4th and 26th Infantry Divisions, and the 10th Armored Division. It became Fort Gordon in 1956. The facility is now home to the U.S. Army Signal Corps and Cyber Corps.
Gordon had zero military experience before the war. He became one of Robert E. Lee’s most trusted generals over the course of the war.
At the start of the war Gordon was elected captain of a company of mountaineers and displayed remarkable capabilities. He quickly climbed to brigadier general in 1862, major general in 1864, and lieutenant general in 1865.
A hero to Georgians at the age of just 33, Gordon returned to his home state and began to practice law. There are rumors that Gordon served as a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, but that was a different Gordon, George Washington Gordon, of Tennessee, who also served in the Confederate Army.
When the United Confederate Veterans organization formed in 1890, Gordon was made commander in chief, a position he occupied until his death. In his memoirs “Reminiscences of the Civil War,” published in 1903, Gordon admits slavery was the true spark that ignited the war.

7. Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia
Fort A.P. Hill is a training center which opened in 1941. All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces train there. It is named for Gen. Ambrose Powell Hill.
Ambrose Powell Hill graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1847. He served with an artillery unit during the Mexican American War as well as the Third Seminole War. In 1851 he was promoted to First Lieutenant. In 1855 he transferred to the U.S. Coastal Survey to work in the D.C. area while still holding a commission.
On March 1, 1861, Hill resigned from the U.S. Army and became the colonel of the 13th Virginia Infantry, commanding a unit at the Battle of First Manassas. On February 26, 1862, Hill received a promotion to brigadier general. Following the promotion, Hill served at the Battle of Williamsburg and during the Peninsula Campaign.
Hill was promoted to major general on May 26, 1862 and took command of the Thirds Corps after a promotion to Lieutenant General.
On April 2, 1865, Hill was killed during the Breakthrough at Petersburg.

8. Camp Beauregard, Louisiana
Camp Beauregard, named for Confederate Brigadier General Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard, opened in 1917 and today serves as a training facility for the Louisiana National Guard.
Beauregard was trained in military and civil engineering at West Point and served with distinction as an engineer officer in the Mexican American War.
Following a brief appointment as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy in 1861, and after Louisiana seceded, he resigned from the United States Army and became the first brigadier general in the Confederate Army.
He is best known for his defense of the industrial city of Petersburg, Virginia from Union troops in June 1864.
Following his military career Beauregard returned to Louisiana. In the early days after the war, Beauregard displayed the same antipathy toward freed slaves that most of his fellow Confederate leaders had embraced, but by 1873 he’d had a change of heart and advocated for black civil and voting rights.
At a meeting between white and black leaders in Louisiana, Beauregard made a rousing speech in support of racial cooperation.

9. Fort Pickett, Virginia
Fort Pickett is a Virginia Army National Guard installation which first opened in 1941 as Camp Pickett and renamed Fort Pickett in 1974.
Maj. Gen. George Pickett was a Virginia native. After studying law in Illinois, he attended West Point, graduating in 1846. Pickett finished last in his class of 59.
He entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and served during the Mexican American War. He returned from the war a hero after raising the American flag over a captured castle during the Battle of Chapultepec. Pickett also served on the Texas frontier, where he was promoted to captain.
Pickett resigned from the army shortly after Virginia seceded from the Union in April 1861 and started his Confederate service as a colonel in command of defenses on the Lower Rappahannock River.
By 1862, Pickett had earned a promotion to a brigade command under General James Longstreet. He served during the Peninsula Campaign until a severe injury forced him to leave the battlefield in June of that year.
After a promotion to major general, Pickett served in the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. He is best known for Pickett’s Charge, a massive frontal assault that ultimately failed.
At the end of the war, upon learning that he was being investigated for war crimes in North Carolina over the hanging of 22 former Confederate soldiers who shifted their allegiance to the Union, Pickett and his family fled to Canada. They returned to Virginia in 1866 after a letter of support from General Grant ended the investigation.

10. Fort Rucker, Alabama
Fort Rucker, named for Col. Edmund Rucker, opened in 1942, and serves as the primary training base for Army Aviation. He is the only Confederate below the rank of general officer with an Army facility named after him.
After a basic education Rucker moved to Nashville in 1853, working as railroad surveyor before becoming an engineer. He was the city engineer of Memphis during the late 1850s.
When the Civil War broke out Rucker enlisted in the Confederate States Army as a private in Pickett’s Tennessee Company of Sappers and Miners. Sent to Kentucky, he was promoted to lieutenant. On May 10, 1862 he was transferred and promoted to captain of Company C, 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery.
Rucker was transferred to the cavalry with the rank of major and assigned to enforce conscription laws in East Tennessee.
In early 1863 Rucker was promoted to colonel and given command of the newly created 1st East Tennessee Legion.
In November Rucker was appointed acting brigadier general, but his commission was never confirmed by the Confederate Congress.
Rucker became far better known after the war as an Alabama industrialist who helped build the state’s substantial coal and steel industries.

Volume 74. Number 3. 2020

By Rabbi Irwin Wiener
In 1965, sitting in front of my television, a newsflash appeared listing the death toll in Vietnam. In those days, it was a daily occurrence. The intensity of the conflict was beginning to show signs of terrible days and years ahead.

What caught my eye at that time was a name I had not seen, nor uttered, for many years, Major Alan Pasco. He was a childhood friend growing up in the Bronx, New York. We hung out, played basketball, went to the same playground, and just enjoyed life. He was one of the first casualties.
These thoughts came to mind when I recently viewed a movie, “The Last Full Measure.” This period in our history still brings back horrific images of maimed bodies, lost limbs, lost lives, and lost opportunities. The men who sacrificed so much for so little have no future, no love to warm their hearts, no families to watch as they join for holidays and other celebrations.

These men and women will never have families of their own, no children to shower with affection, no stories of growing old while enjoying the fruits of their labors. There are no tomorrows, only yesterdays. In the ten years of the Vietnam War there were 58,220 casualties.
I watched this film, tears rolling down my cheeks, not truly understanding the purpose of the sacrifices. My mind wandered to the early 1970s, when our country showed its disdain for the war by shunning our men and women in uniform. At that time, America showed its anger and frustration by insulting and criticizing the actions of these brave souls.

The one thing we did not do is focus our contempt on the people who brought us to the brink of disgust in anything and everything our country was now involved in. From the Secretary of Defense, to the Secretary of State, to the Generals, and of course, to the President of the United States, we neglected to remind them their obligations rested with the care and safety of those we send into battle. Time and again we read and witnessed the lack of fortitude in determining the value of this so-called undeclared war.

Over, and over, I watched as the pain of their involvement became too much to bear. The wounded, the dead, all giving the last full measure in an attempt to survive and fulfill their obligations as patriots. Young and old joined together to help each other in the madness they encountered. Medics tried to piece together the broken and shattered remnants of what was once whole.

None of us can truly understand the torment, the agony, the despair felt as fellow soldiers fell at the feet of their comrades. Can we ever focus on the blood soaked ground and not feel ashamed at the senseless slaughter of our brothers, our fathers, our sons, and our future?
Perhaps only eyes washed by tears can see clearly the futility of war. Perhaps the tragedies we encounter are less significant than what happens within us. This, to me, is the reality of death and destruction perpetrated on ourselves as we try to justify this madness.

Airman First Class William Pitsenbarger, to me, is a symbol of both what is right with our service men and women and at the same time, what is wrong with the way we treat them as they display the heroism expected. The depression, homelessness, and lack of proper medical treatment are all indications of our neglect for the sanctity of life and gratitude for their service.

People like Airman First Class Pitsenbarger and all who have served and continue to serve are owed a debt of gratitude. He represented all that is good in us. He represented the sacrifices we are willing to make to protect who we are. He represented, and still represents, the millions who serve, who give of themselves so that we can enjoy the beauty of freedom and the values established by the few for so many.

Have we learned anything from this travesty? Have we learned anything from the lack of respect we display by ignoring the traumas of these dedicated individuals? Will we ever stand up and demonstrate our concern for all those we are responsible for?

Yes, my dear friend Major Alan Pasco gave his life in defense of his country. Yes, 58,220 other men sacrificed so much for so little in return. Yes, Airman First Class William Pitsenbarger comforted the wounded, attempted to offer comfort in an atmosphere of despair, and taught us how the power of one person can make a difference. Yes, Vietnam is in the past, but it should not be forgotten.

And yes, the stark memorial dedicated to their memories should remind us we owe so much that can never truly be repaid, but we should never stop trying.

Volume 74. Number 2. 2020

By Falk Kantor
During JWV’s 27th Annual Mission to Israel, I participated in a tour of the Armor Corps Museum at Latrun. Our tour guide, retired Brig. Gen. Zvi Kan-Tor asked if anyone knew Maurice Rose. No one raised their hand. That’s when I vowed to learn all I could about Rose.
U.S. Army Major General Maurice Rose died during World War II while leading the 3rd Armored Division into Germany. At the time of his death, Rose was the highest ranking Jewish officer in the U.S. Army and the highest ranking American killed by enemy fire in the European Theater.
Maurice Rose’s grandfather, a Rabbi, lead one of Poland’s premier centers of Jewish learning. Rose’s father Samuel, served as the Rabbi for a congregation in Denver, Colorado for more than 40 years.

After graduating high school in 1916, Rose lied about his age in order to enlist in the Colorado National Guard. When superiors found out about his real age six weeks later, they discharged him. Once the United States entered World War I, Rose re-enlisted, and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 89th Infantry Division.

The 89th Division fought at St. Mihiel where Lt Rose was wounded by shrapnel and hospitalized. After three weeks, he left the hospital without authorization to rejoin his unit. However, while in the hospital, Rose listed his religion as Protestant, and maintained that affiliation throughout his Army career. There is no record he formally converted.

In the first American offensive of World War II, Rose served as chief of staff for the 2nd Armored Division in North Africa where he received his first Silver Star. Rose received a promotion to Brigadier General and took command of the 2nd Armored Division. Rose led his troops in combat across Sicily and then into France shortly after D-Day.

General Rose became the commander of the 3rd Armored Division during combat in France in August 1944. Shortly thereafter, Rose received a promotion to Major General. Under Rose’s leadership, the 3rd Armored Division led an advance across northern France and Belgium. On September 12, Rose’s division became the first armored unit to enter Germany and the first to breech the Siegfried Line.

During the winter of 1944-45, Rose’s division helped stem the German advance in the Battle of the Bulge. They captured Cologne on March 7. On March 29, the Division made the longest one-day advance through enemy territory by any Allied division during the war, more than 100 miles, stopping just south of the German city of Paderborn.

When the 3rd Division started advancing towards Paderborn the next day, Rose took his usual place up front with his forward echelon. During the fighting a German tank got in the way of the jeep. The tank’s hatch opened and a German with a machine pistol began shouting at the jeep’s three occupants as they stood with raised hands in front of the tank in the fading daylight. As General Rose reached for his holster to surrender his pistol, several bursts of machine gun fire struck the General. The General’s aide and driver fled the area and made it back to the U.S. lines.

When 45-year-old Rose was buried in Margraten in the Netherlands, the military placed a Star of David above his grave. After a review of his records, the Army replaced the star with a cross after finding that he had listed Protestant as his religious affiliation.

While there may be questions about Rose’s religion and the symbol marking his grave, he remains the son and grandson of rabbis.

Volume 74. Number 2. 2020

By Gershon Katz
It’s widely known that Jewish members of the U.S. Armed Forces have served on many lands, fighting to protect America’s national interests or helping other nations break free from the yoke of tyranny. Our service men and women have deployed to some of the world’s most inhospitable places. A soldier, sailor, or airman may have briefly enjoyed leave in one of the world’s most beautiful places, but would probably relegate the experience to memory. With this in mind, you may take it for granted that after serving our country overseas, veterans have headed back to America.
You won’t find JWV posts in swampy Guadalcanal, frigid Chosin, or beautiful Paris. However, many of our brother and sister Jewish veterans and their families have made their home in the land of milk and honey, the land of Israel. Not only are we surviving and thriving here, but we’re organized, too. We’re proud to assemble for fellowship and service under the banner of Jewish War Veterans Post 180, headquartered in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel and the Jewish people. At one time, four JWV posts existed in Israel. They were in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Netanya.

As a result of attrition and consolidation, JWV Post 180 is now the only post operating in the Jewish state. Although small in number, we are a vibrant post whose members meet several times a year for camaraderie, good food, and enlightening entertaining appearances by a range of guest speakers. Post 180 not only provides its members with good times, but also contributes to the well being of Israel and its people by supporting various causes in the community.
Our members, who represent a cross section of American-Israeli society, are proud of their service to the United States. We have relocated to Israel to live a more spiritual life. Unflinching in our love for the United States and our admiration for those who currently serve in her armed forces, we are also proud citizens of Israel and supporters of the Israel Defense Forces. Included among our members are parents and grandparents of English speaking veterans of the IDF. We avail ourselves of many opportunities to show support for the defenders of our second homeland. We make financial contributions to IDF and veterans’ support organizations, and we cheer for our soldiers at ceremonies and events. We’ve also devised a way to show support in a personal manner – many of our members carry small cards which they present to soldiers wherever they meet them. The cards bear an expression of gratitude and a wish for the soldier’s safety, in both Hebrew and English.

Our Post Commander, Abraham Kriss, has lived in Israel for 18 years. He’s been a JWV Post 180 member for all of that time. He currently lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Sarah. He served in the U.S. Army between the Korean and Vietnam Wars, spending 18 months in Korea. One of his three children lives in Israel with his wife and seven children, and three of his grandsons have completed service in the Israel Defense Force. His fourth grandson currently serves in an IDF combat unit.

Rabbi Yaakov Iskowitz is the chaplain of JWV Post 180. He served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army for 20 years, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was stationed in Missouri, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Korea, and in both Stuttgart and Frankfurt, Germany. His career included five years on the staff of the U.S. Army Chaplains’ School. Born in Pittsburgh, Rabbi Iskowitz made aliyah to Israel in 1988. He is married with seven children, plus grand- and great-grandchildren.

Rabbi Alan Greenspan, who served as a U.S. Army chaplain, retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. He and his wife, Gaila, live in Efrat, south of Jerusalem. Rabbi Greenspan served from 1962 to 1987, including a stint in Vietnam, where he led Passover Seders under very trying conditions. A memorable posting for Rabbi and Mrs. Greenspan was their three-year tour of duty in the Panama Canal Zone, where they served military personnel and Jewish canal workers. The Greenspans came to Israel on aliyah in 1989.

Our leaders and members include several other career service members, and a number of other veterans who served in war and peacetime in various locations. We have quite a few associate members, whose family members served in the U.S. armed forces.
Our group has met with several interesting people in the past few years.

In 2018, we heard from Tom Sawicki, Director of Programming in Israel for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee/American Israel Education Foundation. Sawicki coordinates visits to the region by members of the U.S. Congress and other politically influential individuals. A journalist by profession, he keeps AIPAC’s national office up to date on developments in Israel and the Middle East, and is in frequent contact with political, media, and academic leaders in Israel.
In early 2019, we heard from Ziva Mekonen-Degu, who at the time served as Executive Director of the Association of Ethiopian Jews (AEJ), Ethiopian Jewry’s flagship organization in Israel. Mekonen-Degu made aliyah to Israel from Ethiopia in 1984 at the age of 11. Accomplished academically and professionally, she has served and advocated on behalf of the Ethiopian Israeli community and other populations in need.

At our next meeting, we met with Uri Ehrenfeld, a retired member of Israel’s security forces. Ehrenfeld was a POW during the Yom Kippur War. He is fortunate to have survived not only the battle, but cruel treatment at the hands of his Egyptian captors. Still suffering from the effects of this ordeal, Ehrenfeld came to us as a representative of the Zahal (Israel Defense Forces) Disabled Veterans’ Organization. Ehrenfeld is active on many fronts on behalf of veterans, especially those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His energy and knowledge in veterans’ affairs is matched by his Positive Mental Attitude (PMA).

Our captivating speakers are not only drawn from the ranks of Israeli society or American supporters of Israel. At our most recent meeting, we were graced with the presence of His Excellency Mario Bucaro Flores, Guatemala’s ambassador to Israel. Shortly after the U.S. embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Guatemala followed suit. This is not the Central American nation’s first presence in our capital. The Guatemalan embassy was located in Jerusalem from 1956 to 1980. Ambassador Bucaro, a veteran of Guatemala’s air force, is a warm, engaging individual. He is an eloquent representative of his country. He expressed his country’s official position that Israel is the natural, historic homeland of the Jewish people. He also expressed his personal joy at serving in a place where he feels appreciated and at home.

As this piece is being written, in person meetings of JWV Post 180 and other groups throughout the country have been on hiatus for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic. While the virus’ effect on the health of people throughout the world is severe, people’s solidarity with their fellow human beings has grown. This was expressed directly in our post leadership’s recent virtual meeting with National Commander Harvey Weiner, Chief of Staff Barry Lischinsky, and staff member Christy Turner. We haven’t started online JWV meetings in Israel yet. In the meantime, let’s express our support for one another in a spiritual way, via prayer and mitzvot.

Our post especially enjoys meeting with the JWV-USA mission to Israel each spring. This year, the trip unfortunately did not take place. Hopefully the coronavirus crisis will be abated soon by scientific advances and concerted public health efforts. We look forward to greeting the 2021 JWV-USA contingent in Israel, with joyous shouts of “This year in Jerusalem!”

Volume 74. Number 2. 2020

By Jeffrey Blonder
May 20, 2020 marked the 11th anniversary of the death of U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Roslyn Schulte. A roadside bomb killed Schulte while traveling to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. She was only 25-years-old and the first female graduate of the Air Force Academy to die in combat. I met her briefly the day before she died and did not know her name until after she died.

In 2008 I served at Camp Mike Spann in Mazār-i-Sharīf, Afghanistan for 15 months. I was assigned to the base as a Naval Reservist and my mission was to be a Combat Advisor to the Afghanistan National Army. I was also the Senior Enlisted Leader for the naval element on base. At the time of my deployment, Camp Mike Spann was a small Forward Operating Base in Northern Afghanistan. One of my jobs was to assign personnel to augment the base security forces when it needed to leave the base for missions. Due to my position and seniority I was not required to go out on missions.

However, I decided it would not be right to assign others to tasks I would not do myself. I routinely assigned myself to the three types of duties in a convoy, which are the driver, gunner, and truck commander. On May 19, 2009 the security forces of the base had a mission to convoy to the nearby German Air Base in Mazār-i-Sharīf and return. This mission was critical as it was the way we got supplies and provided air transportation. I decided to put my name in as Truck Commander. The Truck Commander is the eyes and ears for the driver. This individual is also responsible for operating all the electronic gear. Although I served as a gunner on a recent mission, I chose to go out again for a personal reason. My wedding anniversary was May 20, and the German Air Base had a nice exchange so I thought I could get a gift for my wife, Cindy. The process of a convoy is fairly simple. You show up at a designated spot on base and are briefed on threat assessments and proper procedures in the event of an emergency. Since my base was small and due to my position, I knew most of the personnel on the base. When I got to the staging point, I noticed three unfamiliar faces. I was curious about why they were on my base so I went over and started a conversation with them. One of the people was Schulte. Our conversation was brief and I don’t think I got her name. The next day, a civilian contractor who I worked with reported that a contactor from his company and an Air Force person died due to a roadside bomb on a road I had traveled on several times. He did not know any other details. Two days later I was watching CNN, saw Schulte’s face, and immediately recognized her as being on my convoy two days earlier. I found out she was visiting my base’s Intel Department so I went to one of my roommates. He told me he had dinner with her the day before she was killed. This hit me hard so I started to research her life. Schulte was from St. Louis, Missouri and raised Jewish. She graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2006. This chance meeting with her reminded me how precious life is and we should cherish every encounter we have with people as important.

JWV’s online Post 77 is named after Schulte and Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal who died in Iraq on April 24, 2004.

Volume 74. Number 2. 2020

By Cara Rinkoff

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is stronger than ever before, and is working hard for all veterans. This is just one part of the message delivered by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie when he addressed members of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. during its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on February 14 in Arlington, Virginia.

Wilkie told JWV that ensuring the strength of his department is how he can thank veterans for their service and sacrifice to the country. “We have the highest patient satisfaction rates in our history. 90 percent of our veterans are completly satisfied with the services they get at VA. It is our eternal promise that the promise given to Americans veterans by Mr. Lincoln be kept. That we shall care for those who have borne the battle,” Wilkie added.
The Secretary also talked about privatization concerns. He noted that, “only in Washington, D.C., would a $240 billion budget be cause for concern about privatization.” This budget is the second largest of any agency in the federal government, second only to the Department of Defense.

Norman Rosenshein, Secretary Wilkie, Harvey Weiner (Photograph by Lou Michaels)

Wilkie said the new Mission Act will allow veterans to receive services from the private sector without the need to privatize the VA. He said another benefit of the new law is that veterans are eligible for coverage of their urgent care visits.

Wilkie said he thinks electronic health records will be online in late spring or summer. He hopes these records will keep track of medical history “the minute that young American walks into the military processing station to the minute that American is handed over to the VA.”

By the end of March, Wilkie hopes the VA will present a report to the country about veteran suicide. He said it is time for a national conversation to begin about this important topic. “The United States Army started taking statistics on veteran suicide, on Army suicide, during the administration of Benjamin Harrison in 1892. And yet, we have never had a national conversation about what it means when warriors come back,” Wilkie noted. He added that until there is a national conversation, all investigations of veteran suicide will amount to are more federal reports that no one will read.
Wilkie said he also wanted to bring JWV a message from President Donald Trump in regards to anti-Semitism. Wilkie said Trump is the most forceful opponent of anti-Semitism and added, “I stand with him in standing up for the rights of those of you in this audience, but more importantly for the human rights that we as Americans have to defend every day.”

Wilkie concluded his 20 minute speech by telling JWV, “As long as I am in this office you all have what the British would say, first dibs on me, whatever you need.”

While Wilkie had to leave early to attend a meeting at the White House and did not have time to answer questions from members after his speech, he arrived early in order to greet members individually and take time to pose for pictures.

Volume 74. Number 1. 2020

By Cara Rinkoff

The Jewish War Veterans National Commander Harvey Weiner testified before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees on February 26. Weiner decided to deviate from the typical testimony given by our organization’s commander, and instead submitted our legislative priorities in a written document.

For his oral testimony before the committees, Weiner decided to discuss courage. He urged the members of the House and Senate to show courage by standing up for veterans and members of the military. “On behalf of all veterans, past and present, and all service personnel, past and present, I am asking each and every one of you to show courage by doing your job and by doing right, regardless of the political consequences, including the possibility, or even the probability, that you will lose your job by being voted out of office,” Weiner said.

In his testimony Weiner addressed two main areas where legislators must show courage. The first is to make sure military funding is not used to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. The other is for Congress to “take back the war powers that the framers of the Constitution and your own 1973 War Powers Resolution gave you.”

Here is the entirety of Weiner’s oral testimony:
Chairman Moran and Chairman Takano, Ranking Members Tester and Roe, I am Harvey Weiner, a Vietnam War combat veteran and the National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., America’s oldest active continuous veterans’ association. We will be celebrating our 125th anniversary next year. American Jews have fought in all of America’s wars in a proportion greater than their proportion in the general population.
I want to speak to you this afternoon about courage. Members of the armed services will risk his or her life on the battlefield to serve this great nation and to do the job assigned. Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers have given their lives and millions of American soldiers and their families have made other sacrifices in this regard. They had the right stuff and displayed great courage. They took enormous risks because their country called and because it was the right thing to do. On behalf of all veterans, past and present, and all service personnel, past and present, I am asking each and every one of you to show courage by doing your job and by doing right, regardless of the political consequences, including the possibility, or even the probability, that you will lose your job by being voted out of office.

When you, who, implicitly or explicitly, sent us off to war and asked us to do the right thing at the risk of our lives, it is a shanda if you are unwilling to take that risk to do right yourselves, rather than what is politically expedient. Shanda is Yiddish for “shameful.” The risk of losing your job pales in comparison to the risk we take of losing our lives. I was reviewing the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage winners of the award that is the nation’s preeminent award for elected officials and public servants. For them and for you, it is the Nobel Prize, the Oscar, the Lasker, the Pulitzer. I give you these examples.

Carl Elliott was a Congressman from Alabama for eight consecutive terms from 1949 to 1965. He was a Democrat, but he authored and voted for the National Education Defense Act, which he knew would lead to his removal as a Congressman in 1964. He was right, but he did what was right.
Charles Weltner, also a Democrat, was a Congressman from Georgia who dropped out of his race for a third term rather than seek reelection and be bound by a party loyalty oath to support the candidacy of segregationist Lester Maddox.

Bob Inglis, whom many of you know, is a Republican and was a Congressman from South Carolina. He reversed himself on the issue of climate change because he felt it was the right thing to do. He knew that it would probably mean the demise of his political career and it did.

We, who died, who were wounded, who survived, or who risked our lives in the military to do the right thing because America asked us to, are asking you to do the right thing, merely at risk of losing your jobs.

Do not take funds away from the military, including from their daycare and schools, to build a border wall, because it is politically expedient for you to do so.

In addition, the Constitution, which you swore under oath to uphold, vests the power to declare war solely in the hands of Congress and not in the President, who is solely the Commander in Chief. However, since World War II, Congress, as a practical matter, has ceded its Constitutional responsibility to the President in the semantic guise of so-called “emergencies” and “police actions.” War is too important to be in the hands of one person, and since World War II, the usurping of the war power by both Democratic and Republican presidents has led this nation into disaster after disaster and caused the unnecessary deaths of over a hundred thousand of my comrades-in-arms, my brothers and my sisters. An after-the-fact toothless Congressional resolution is not enough. Take back the war power that the framers of the Constitution and your own 1973 War Powers Resolution gave you.

When Abraham Lincoln was in the Congress, he wrote the following:
“The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us.”

As a cantankerous football coach in my neck of the woods is fond of saying, “Do your job!” Risk your jobs to do the right thing! In the long run, it is not just your constituents that you must face. You must face your children, your grandchildren, your descendants, and history. Also, you must face yourself and your conscience. Become a candidate for the Profiles in Courage award.

We, the veterans of America, do not just ask you to do the right thing despite the political consequences. We demand it, and we are entitled to do so. Thank you.

The written testimony submitted to the committee included JWV priorities of opposition to the privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as the passage of legislation to reduce the number of veteran suicides, assist homeless veterans, and expand the current eligibility period for those who wish to become members of JWV.

You can find a link to the document Weiner submitted to the committees on our website.

Volume 74. Number 1. 2020