By Liat Lisha, Shlicha of Northern Virginia

In July 2017, I began my training in Jerusalem in preparation for my role as the Shlicha (Hebrew meaning “Emissary”) at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. As part of my training, I was told that my goal was to engage the Northern Virginia community in learning about Israel and to share my personal story.  It was equally as important that upon returning to Israel, that I take the knowledge gained about American Jewry and share it with my community back home.

For the past few months, I have been producing a documentary that connects bereaved military families from Israel and bereaved military families from the United States (Virginia, Maryland, and Florida). These families lost sons and daughters in the IDF and in the U.S. Military. Filming took place in both countries so I could use the project as a way of bridging the two countries through their shared experiences. While this has been a powerful experience for the families, it has had a tremendous  impact on me. I was fortunate  to meet these amazing people who showed me the true meaning of bravery.

What led me to make this documentary? At the beginning of my shlichut, I developed a list of programs, celebrations, and remembrance days that I wanted to share with my new community. One that I was very interested in sharing was the Israeli Memorial Day that takes place this year on April 17th called Yom Hazikaron (Hebrew meaning “Memorial Day”). A National Remembrance Day observed in Israel for all Israeli military personnel who lost their lives in the struggle that led to the establishment of the State of Israel, and for those who have been killed subsequently while on active duty in Israel’s armed forces. As of Yom Hazikaron in 2017, that number was 23,544 and it includes the fallen soldiers of Israel and victims of terrorism.

Yom Hazikaron is a national day of mourning with flags flying at half-mast, restaurants and stores closed for the day, and most Israelis spending the evening at home listening to somber music played on the radio or watching TV broadcasts. A blaring siren can be heard all over Israel at 8pm and again at 11am the next morning. Every Israeli knows this sound all too well, having learned about and heard it since they were a child in school – a siren that all of us wished we didn’t need.

To provide a better understanding of Yom Hazikaron and relay the importance of this remembrance day in Israel, I wanted to create personal connections between the families by sharing their stories with our community.  Since bringing the families together for filming was challenging and the idea of doing a live chat not being a viable option due to time differences, I decided to make a movie. Having no experience in filmmaking, I reached out to a group of young people in Israel who agreed to volunteer and help me make the movie. Elad Gitelmakher, Shay Nechamia, and Hodaya Shtofblat are three young Israelis who chose to give their time while going to high-school or serving in the IDF.

When I was looking for Jewish military families to be a part of the movie, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there were Jews who served in the military but I didn’t know how to get to them. When I was introduced to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, I was surprised to learn that not only is there an organization focused on Jewish Americans who served in the armed forces, but they are also in touch with bereaved families, creating a sense of community, reminding me of similar types of communities in Israel. After meeting these families and listening to their stories, l was left speechless and even more convinced that these connections between Israeli and American military families needed to be made.

I invite you to join us for Yom Hazikaron on Tuesday, April 17th at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia for the screening of this documentary. The movie will also be screened in Israel, showing that while 5,000 miles separate these families, their stories, shared experiences of grief and bravery are not that far apart. Someone once said – “life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.” These courageous families showed me that life is 100% how you react and the way you deal with adversity is everything.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By PNC David Magidson, Post 243

In 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. (JWV) was founded to refute the lie that Jews did not serve in the military during our Civil War.  We did in significant numbers – for both sides.

Now, 120 years later, the “Big Lie” came from the lips of an unusual source – The Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel, Tzipi Hotovely.  In an interview with 124 News in Israel, the Deputy Foreign Minister said that American Jews “never send their children to fight for their country.

Once JWV and its leadership got over the initial disbelief, shock, and hurt of this statement, we surged into action.  Our National Commander put out a press release denouncing the comment.  He met with personnel of the Israeli Embassy.  Moreover, Embassy staff were invited and did attend a tour of our museum – The National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C.  There they saw proof of the honorable and sometimes heroic service of American Jews to this country.

But all American Jews and especially those who have served and their families deserve more.  On their behalf, we fought for a retraction and apology, and we received it!  On January 28, 2018, Minister Hotovely sent a letter to JWV where she apologized to Jewish American service members and veterans of all wars. “My words were shortsighted and not reflective of my beliefs, and I deeply apologize,” she said.

Silence and shirking duty are not characteristics of JWV.  In March 1933, two months after Hitler came to power, the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. organized and carried out a protest march in New York City – despite the admonitions of various Jewish groups not to anger the new German Chancellor (a video of the march is on display at our National Museum).

Today, as we have done for over a century, JWV has responded to “The Big Lie.”  Over that period, we have earned respect and prestige in our Capitol and others.  The resultant apology is being communicated to all of you in memory of the 57 Jewish-American brothers and sisters killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Yes, American Jews do send their children to fight for their country, and sometimes their children pay the ultimate price.

If you wish to assist the Jewish War Veterans in carrying out its mission: (a) please consider joining our Posts as a member (if qualified) or a Patron; (b) generously provide an annual donation in support thereof; and/or (c) leave a legacy gift to JWV in your will, trust or life insurance policy.  Please remember that while we care for all Veterans, only JWV specifically speaks to the service and memory of the Jewish-American Veteran, his/her family and friends.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By Anna Selman, Programs and Public Relations Coordinator

A recent study from the Department of Veterans’ Administration (VA) found that the daily number of American veterans who commit suicide has decreased from 22 to 20 a day- a small improvement, but a step in the right direction.  The leading cause of veteran suicide is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a disorder where you have intense and sometimes disturbing thoughts about a traumatic event that can lead to severe psychological suffering.  It can be very common in veterans that have combat experience, and after almost two decades of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have a lot of veterans with combat experience and many with PTSD.

In a shocking discovery, researchers have also found that only 30 percent of PTSD treatments are effective.  With such a low success rate, it might leave you wondering what else we can do for our veterans.

When someone brings up treating veterans with PTSD, it is unlikely that the first thing that comes to mind is to look to the Jewish community for how it helped treat Holocaust survivors.  However, for those of us that come from families of Holocaust survivors, we know that Jews have a long history of treating PTSD even before the term came into use.  In fact, according to some researchers, the prevalence of PTSD in Holocaust survivors is somewhere between 46 and 55 percent, which is really high.  To give some comparison, the prevalence of PTSD in combat veterans in Vietnam is much lower, between 2 and 17 percent, and only 15 to 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans meet the criteria to be diagnosed with PTSD.

As Jews, our long and rich track record in treating PTSD provides us lessons for treating our veterans today.  Jewish scholars found that survivors deal with their PTSD in 3 ways – some victimize themselves, some become defensive, while others numb themselves so that they could feel protected.  These behaviors can be somewhat helpful during the trauma, but they can create problems down the road.

One of the leading scholars in treating survivors during the post-Holocaust period was Viktor Frankl, who famously wrote A Man’s Search for Meaning.  Just by looking at that title, Viktor’s approach to treating traumatic events was to give everything meaning (also called logotherapy) – even their painful trials.  He would often talk to survivors – helping them discover their own reasons to live.

Some survivors also found meaning in telling their stories – making sure that something like the Holocaust never happened again.  They did not tell their stories to their psychologist; they told their story to their family, their friends and their synagogue.  They went to schools and museums.  By telling their experiences, survivors’ experiences became a part of the Jewish experience.  We all have a shared experience of the Holocaust, which, in some way, makes them feel not as alone.

However, some survivors were reluctant to tell their stories, which might be because we did originally not want to hear their stories when they first got to America.  Survivors were told to move on, and they did.  They built families, found careers, and kept their experiences bottled up for a decade or more.    Meanwhile, they often experienced the nightmares and the intense flashbacks associated with PTSD, but once they did finally tell their family and friends, survivors reported a decreased number of symptoms and an increase in quality of life.

So what can be learned from the Jewish treatment of PTSD?  There are many veterans coming home who feel like no one wants to hear about their story, but we know that it is good for veterans to talk about what happened “over there.”  This is not only for our veterans.  We as Americans can bridge the military-civilian divide and make the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a shared American experience.  In some ways, this can make our veterans feel less alone.

So, please invite your local veterans to come speak at your synagogue. Organizations, like the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. or the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, can help connect you with veterans in your area that can come speak to your synagogue, schools and other groups.  We owe it to our veterans to understand where they are coming from and to make them part of our community. Together, we can help them overcome their problems, and they can teach us about what it means to serve something greater than themselves.

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017

By Garland Scott, Post 753

Leo & Faye were involved in JWV activity since the mid 1980s, for over 40 years.

Leo was a Post Commander for 2 years (19xx-19xx) and the designated Rep for VAVS between May 2005 & May 2007.  He continued to actively participate in JWV activities until is passing in May 2015.

Faye was a key developer and Past President of the JWVA Post 753.  Its Charter was issued Sep 1986 with installation of officers in 30 May 1987.  A City Of San Antonio Proclamation, issued by Mayor Cisneros, asserted 21 May 1987 as “Jewish War Veterans Ladies Auxiliary Day”.  Both Faye and daughter, Bonnie Scott, each served 2 years as JWVA President.  JWVA ceased to be active around 1992 as demographics changed.

The Post and Auxiliary did most of the Post activities jointly.  Leo & Faye participated in various VA Hospital activities such as:

Quarterly Bingo- calling numbers and helping patients with cards, Semi Annually baking of cookies, then distributing them and ice cream to patients and staff in the wards for 4th of July and Christmas time.

They had Chanukah parties at Hospital.  JWVA donated a flag pole at a newly commissioned elementary school honoring one of the Post 753 founders – Zavell Smith.  They were also active in fund raising, canning, and acquiring donations from various merchants.  They held social activities at different locations to maintain and increase membership.

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017

By Mel Gervis, Post 440

The Eugene Moore National Stamp Program was started in 1991, and is designed to uplift the spirits of hospitalized veterans and shut-ins.  JWV members and good citizens collect stamps from local businesses and house of worship, which are then sent onto the National Stamp Program Distribution Chairman, Mel Gervis.  He in turn distributes these stamps to over 40 Veteran Affairs Centers and residences of veterans, who otherwise would not get out.

The stamps are sent out each month to our hospitalized brothers and sisters across the US.  They receive a wonderful assortment of stamps that are used in the occupational and physical therapy.  Through your many hours of postage stamps collecting and cutting, we help our disabled veterans increase their dexterity and using their prosthetic limbs.  Veterans can make beautiful vases, collages, sculptures and so much more with the stamps that you collect.  The real reward is the appreciativeness on our veterans faces – that you took the time to think about them and the amount of effort it takes to organize such an endeavor.  Thank you for giving back for those who have served our country and showing our troops, soldiers and veterans we care and they will not be forgotten.

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017

By Michael Corbett, Post 440

There’s a great deal of confusion over the “Veteran ID” cards soon to be issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  For those who have been rated by the VA Health Care system, issuance of the “Veterans’ Health ID card” permits qualified veterans to enter VA clinics and hospitals for the express purpose of obtaining health care.

The President of the USA, in 2015, signed the “Veterans’ Identification Card Act,” to provide a form of identification as a veteran to anyone.  Simply put, this identification card acts much as a driver’s license without the privilege of operating a motor vehicle.  That is, the “Veterans’ ID Card” provides documented evidence the holder is a bona fide veteran who has faithfully and honorably served her or his country.  For the veteran, it will be, when eventually issued, an easy to carry form of identification in order to obtain offered discounts at retail outlets – businesses, restaurants, amusements, etc.

While the Veterans’ ID card will be an officially sanctioned form of identification for the veteran to whom it is assigned, it is up to the business firm to decide on offering a discount in the first place; and, the level discount to provide.  There will not be a Government standard discount!  Businesses that choose to offer a discount may or may not require appropriate identification – the “Veterans ID card” is appropriate for such transactions.

The “Veterans’ ID card” is neither intended to nor shall it be used in place of a DoD Uniform Services or Retiree ID card.  There is just no relation among the cards.  However either of the three may be used as identification, provided the business establishment accepts it as such in order to provide the discount.

The VA website reports that the “Veterans’ ID card,” which originally was to be available in 2016, should now be ready for issue in 2017 – as of this report in October 2017, VA sources tell us they do not know when the card will be nationally available.  However, we were referred by the VA at their “800” number to go to the website:  https://www.vets.gov   after 1 November to complete the application for the card.  A visit to the site on 19 October revealed no reference to the “Veterans’ ID card.”

As planned, the “Veterans’ ID card” will display the veteran’s branch of military service.  49 states currently provide veteran status on their driver’s license plus, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, by displaying the insignia of the branch of service of the veteran.  The 50th state, Washington is scheduled to roll-out their version by the end of 2017.  Veterans interested in this form of ID should contact their state’s Motor Vehicle department.  Veterans may possess both a valid state driver’s license with the “veterans” designation and the new VA issued “Veterans’ ID card.”

Today, veterans may access a free identification – proof of honorable service – via the joint VA/DoD site, “https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage”  However, when available, the new “Veterans’ ID card” will not be free!  Veterans will apply for the card, as VA provides, for a fee that will be established “in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible while protecting Veterans’ personal information.”  Considering the millions of people whose information has been hacked in very recent memory, veterans are warned to take this message with a grain of salt.  At the time of this article, the fee for the “Veterans’ ID card” has not been determined.

For years we have been admonished not to use our Veterans Health Care ID card for purposes outside the VA.  Now however, the VA website offers that, when veterans want an ID for purposes of obtaining discounts at civilian establishments, they may obtain the ‘Veterans Health Care ID card’ from the VA (see: http://www.va.gov/HEALTHBENEFITS/vhic/index.asp ).  Meanwhile, military retirees have the option of obtaining an ID card from the Department of Defense (see:  https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/rsl/appj/site ).

Veterans are reminded that non-official websites on the internet are purposely made to look like the real VA website – proceed carefully when seeking VA information on-line.  And know too, VA programs such as the “Choice” program permitting qualified veterans to visit civilian medical facilities are rife with problems.  Veterans should insist on written permission to visit civilian medical facilities only after being absolutely certain of their qualification for VA health care.

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017

By Lance Wang, Editor

I had the opportunity to interact with the Veterans’ Administration while in uniform, much more so since retiring from the Army.   As with any large organization I’ve encountered good and bad.   Certainly the good is the dedicated functionaries who I encounter, many of whom are themselves veterans.   I also have been particularly pleased with the service of a nearby VA Community-Based Outreach Clinic which provides responsiveness that I’ve never encountered from a big city VA facility.  They have provided more continuity of care than I encountered in military or the civilian world.    However the “bad” side has certainly made itself known.   I live in a border region of New York, and the ability of Veterans Administration facilities to talk across state lines is still bureaucratically challenged to a very frustrating degree.   For instance, rather than referring 50 miles to the nearest VA Hospital in New York, they have to refer me to three times that distance to a facility in Vermont.   The employees of the VA who I encounter know this limitation of their system, and share my frustration.   I don’t blame them.

Why is it so difficult to bring the problems in the VA to solution stages?   For years the VA has been neither fish nor fowl – it did not have the accountability nor true profit motive that civilian medical agencies have, nor did it have the discipline to which a military agency was subjected.   It was designed to replace a 19th century system which largely put the onus on charitable organizations and local communities to care for veterans.   It was never fully resourced to perform its mission, resulting in fraud and scandals like we saw in Arizona’s VA system several years ago.   Or it resulted in terribly substandard care like revealed in a 1970 Life magazine expose called “Our Forgotten Wounded” regarding what Vietnam Veterans were encountering in VA hospitals, what Life called a “medical slum.”   The complaint of the VA hospital administration in the article – “We’re just not being funded so as to give our services.”

The workload for the VA has only increased since the editorial was written.   Battlefield mortality has again decreased – some wounds that would have been certain to kill someone during the Vietnam War are now survivable.   However, they are survivable in some cases with considerable follow-up care required, often for life.   In addition, as our Vietnam veterans require geriatric medicine, demands will again rise.   So, as in 1970, are we prepared to pay the costs for the VA to do their job?   Or are we to treat our veterans as out of sight and out of mind, with the VA only commanding attention when its problems come to a head as in Arizona?

Recently, the lack of accountability and discipline was highlighted in a USA Today report.   The report indicated that “In 2014 and 2015, the VA spent nearly $6.7M to secretly settle cases with hundreds of employees who were either fired or forced into retirement due to inadequate performance.”   This included doctors who made mistakes that caused harm to patients.   One VA podiatrist was allowed to resign after harming 88 patients at a hospital in Maine.   Another VA radiologist in Washington was allowed to resign after finding that he misread “dozens of CT scans.”   Because of the nature of their departure from the VA, these individuals’ poor performance does not make it into national registries and databases.

Until the VA is treated as a civilian entity, with the same accountability (and liability) as a civilian hospital, this will continue to happen.   I understand the challenges of hiring medical professionals for government employment – the military branches often face the same challenges.   However, compensating for lower wages with lower accountability is not the answer – it will not provide the health care that our veterans need, nor of the caliber that they deserve.   Further, I’m also well aware of how challenging and cumbersome the civilian personnel system is for the Federal Government.   Supervisors need to be trained to document and evaluate poor performance.   It has been my experience that the reason that the government (and other large organizations) often need to “settle with” as opposed to “firing” an employee is that supervisors often do not do their job when it comes to documenting employee performance.

It seems amazing that we can create a world class military, unmatched in technological advantage, yet still are having a hard time creating a system of medical care that is equally unmatched for our veterans.   Our veterans, and the thousands of outstanding employees of the VA who do go over and above to take

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017

By 2LT Daniel Rosenfield

Who are the people that our Jewish community should look to for leadership?

Clergy? Politicians? Your Bubbe?

Millennial Jews, such as myself, are the ones who should be looked to for leadership. They are ready to take on obstacles and are not afraid to stand up for themselves, their faith, and the Jewish people.

But with the need for committed Jewish leaders in such demand, there must be a shift in the Jewish community. There must be an effort to look past the stereotypes, what we see on television, and understand why it is imperative for the Jewish youth to be a part of JWV programs and the greater community.

We want to take responsibility.

We are invested, and want to have the opportunity to create initiatives and programs that will impact our community. We are willing to learn about what it means to take responsibility – no matter how much that may be – and do more than talk about what needs to be done.

People listen to us.

With so many methods of communication at our fingertips, we know how to not just be heard – but listened to. We know the avenues where people are tuned in, and have a desire to make our message loud and clear! Even better, we do not rely on typical media. Social media runs our organizations, and Jewish organizations for youth are plugged into one another. When one idea, issue, or cause catches on within an organization, the entire Jewish community can be on board within hours.

We want a challenge.

We do not want it easy. We want to live up to the expectations of others, and more importantly, those we set for ourselves. Amongst Jewish youth groups, there is constant competition for how much can be raised for philanthropy. At Hillels across the nation, young Jews challenge one another for how many students they can engage and bring into Jewish programming. There is a hunger for success that you will not find amongst any other group.

We want to improve.

Millennials, no matter how brilliant we are, are always seeking ways to get better. We are hungry for educational trips, such as Birthright Israel, or personalized learning, such as Chabad’s Sinai Scholars. Young Jews are effective because we know that we must constantly sharpen our skills and knowledge base to compete and provide an edge that is needed in our world.

As I begin my first assignment as an Air Force Public Affairs Officer, I cherish the memories made and the lessons learned as a growing leader of my Jewish community. From fundraising to writing to program planning and more, so much of my leadership experience was because members of the Jewish community invested in me. They saw the potential in younger Jews and provided unmatched opportunities. They made a place for young Jews and created a path for their success.

At your next Post gathering, I urge you to spend a few minutes discussing how you can engage young Jews – especially those planning on wearing the same uniform that you so bravely wore. By passing on your lessons and laying the foundation for us, together we can strengthen the Jewish people.

Your Bubbe would be proud.

Second Lieutenant Daniel Rosenfield will be a public affairs officer stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. He is an in-service member of Jewish War Veterans Post #256 out of Dallas, Texas.

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017

By Joel Michaels

Gladys L. Lonstein-Gaman, a member of our country’s “greatest generation,” recently passed away, just two weeks shy of her 100th birthday. She served in the United States Army Nurse Corps during World War II (1943 -1946), where she was assigned to the 121st Station Hospital in Braintree, England. After the War, she lived most of her life in Peabody, Massachusetts where she raised her family. Her two sons, Steven and Philip, survive her. I am Gladys’ nephew.

Gladys came from a modest background in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she lived with her two sisters and younger brother. She was an unassuming woman who did not seek recognition for her military service.  During an interview in 2004 by the Veterans History Project, her first inclination was to diminish the extent of her contributions to the War effort. When asked why she enlisted as a nurse at age 24, she said “I had to be a part of it in some small way” and nursing was the only way she could make a contribution. She went on to say that “my involvement seemed so small to me” as she compared it to the many young men who saw combat and thought it was “hardly worth mentioning.”

Like many American Jews who served in World War II, Gladys gave two reasons for her service. The first was the protection of America, as she concluded that if “England had been taken over by the Nazis, we would have been next.” The second was to “help my people who were being persecuted in the concentration camps.” Supporting American soldiers in the field was how Gladys perceived she could best provide some outreach to her fellow Jews who were victims of the Holocaust.  Her remarks provide context for why a young Jewish girl from Worcester left for New York alone to enlist and go on to England to face an uncertain future during a most troubled time.

Although Gladys saw her contributions as a member of the Army Nurse Corps as small, not all saw it that way.  One night, while on duty at the hospital in England, Gladys experienced the impact of a German warplane’s bomb. After she emerged from the rubble and from under the desk she used for cover, she saw the significant damage surrounding her. Gladys immediately directed her attention to ensuring the safety and health of the patients in the ward. Her response and actions that day were the subject of a Major’s letter of commendation, which affirmed that “under extremely hazardous conditions, Second Lieutenant Lonstein did calmly and efficiently carry out the necessary work of attending to the patients in the ward.”  Gladys explained her reactions that night by saying that she probably was “too dumb to be scared” and “all I knew was that I had to get the patients to a safe place.”

Since World War II, the role of women in the American military continues to evolve. Some of this change can be attributed to the actions of many women, including my aunt, who served in the Army Nurse Corps. Like their male counterparts, they too were fearless in ensuring that our country would not fail in defending its security and freedom for its citizens, while restoring peace throughout the world. To this day I remain in awe of the contributions they made.

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017

By Sam Greenberg

Marty was born in Wilks-Barre, PA, and he was one of three brothers.  They grew up in a small town with around 4,000 Jews in the town, which was a large Jewish population for Wilkes-Barre’s size.  He was a Boy Scout, and he always wanted to serve his country and to follow in the footsteps of his brother Sam.

His chance came when he was drafted at the beginning of the Korean War.  His brother Sam dropped him off at his local train station to go to basic training.  Sam told him, “Don’t forget to duck,” and he laughed and continued to smile as he got on the train.

He trained at Fort Sam Houston to become a combat medic, and he joined the First Armored Division at Fort Hood, where they deployed to Korea.  He worked a lot in the field – dragging and caring for other soldiers.  He always said, “War was hell,” and that’s pretty much all he would say about it.  He was wounded three times during the battle of Pork Chop Hill, and he received a bronze star and a silver star for performing his duties.

He spent 10 months in Walter Reed recovering before going home to Pennsylvania.  He decided he would become a watchmaker and diamond setter, which he really enjoyed quite a bit – he did it the rest of his life.  There, he met Sondra, and they had three sons – Mark, Allan and Kevin.

Marty was a dedicated member of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., and spent more than 40 years giving back to other veterans.  Marty passed away earlier this year, but we will always remember him, still smiling.

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017