By Art Fishman, Department Commander of Michigan

It was a chilly, winter morning when 18 comrades of JWV Michigan assembled at 7:30 AM for our rented bus trip to the Battle Creek Veterans hospital.  The purpose of this trip is to bring a care package with fruit, candy and warm white socks during the holiday. We distribute them to all who are there.  This trip was the 72nd annual trip for the JWV Department of Michigan to the Battle Creek VA.

The Battle Creek VAMC is the hub of mental health care for VA Medical Centers in the lower peninsula of Michigan, and it offers a wide variety of health care services, which includes both inpatient and outpatient care.

After we had lunch and time to visit with veterans at hospital who do not go home for the holiday or have no home to go to, we played BINGO with them. This year, there were about 170 veterans at Battle Creek Hospital.  The prizes we gave out were either donated to JWV or purchased to be given as prizes for winning Bingo games. It was our JWVers job to make sure that no veteran left without prizes that included Sweat shirts, Athletic printed T-shirts, shorts and athletic pants. As the game progressed, choice of prizes went from one gifts to two to the winner and the last game given the the choice of three items as his prize. The rest were donated to hospital for them to use as needed.

Senior Vice Commander Art Fishman with Ted Gittleman 135 Commander handled the arrangements for the day long trip and Jodi Barnes, VA Hospital Staff Director at Battle Creek, coordinated our visit to the hospital.  Snoozing was allowed on our trip back because we went through the worst snow storm of the year, so far.  We all arrived home with no incident though.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By COL Rich Goldenberg, Post 105

ALBANY, N.Y. – More than a dozen members of the JWV Capital District Council
came together on Christmas Eve this year for the annual JWV “Operation
Jingle Bells,” visiting with dozens of patients at the Stratton VA Medical
Center here December 24, 2017.

The event dates back for decades when JWV would visit with patients and
staff at the VA and distribute phone cards for veterans to make
long-distance calls to family over the Christmas holiday, explained Past
Post Commander Dr. Howard Pressman, DDS, the coordinator of the event.

The spread of cell phones made the holiday distribution of phone cards
unnecessary more than 15 years ago, Pressman said. Today, JWV distributes
coupons for patient use at the hospital canteen or exchange, where veterans
can purchase snacks or sundries.

“As times changed, so did JWV,” Pressman said.

Pressman worked full-time at the VA for more than three dozen years, and
annually leads the effort to identify patients unable to be discharged,
meeting with each ward’s nursing staff the day before Christmas Eve to
identify how many patients will still be under the hospital’s care for the
holiday.

“No veteran should be alone for the Christmas holiday,” noted Albany Post
105 Commander Fred Altman. “This is a terrific mitzvah to share our best
wishes with the VA staff and patients of all faiths who are unable to be
home for the holiday.”

Operation Jingle Bells is the high point of JWV efforts during the holiday
season. Support in the veterans’ community ranged from volunteers helping
load Christmas Trees bound for military installations for the annual Trees
for Troops program and the financial donation to place holiday wreaths at
the local national cemetery at veteran headstones for Wreaths Across
America.

Operation Jingle Bells is one of the most satisfying JWV outreach events,
Pressman said, because of the one on one interactions with fellow veterans
in need.

“One year, we were at the hospital and when a patient asked who we were
during the visit, I explained that we were the Jewish War Veterans and
offering our support,” Pressman said. “The veteran took one look at our JWV
caps and said he couldn’t accept our phone cards because he wasn’t Jewish.”

After a brief laugh and explanation about JWV’s commitment to all veterans
of all faiths during the Christmas season, the patient was happy to receive
the gift from JWV, Pressman explained.

The holiday season is all about sharing joy, Altman said, and there’s no
better way to do that than with our fellow veterans who can’t be home for
Christmas.

Back row from left, Post 105 Commander Fred Altman, Joe Weitzman, Howard
Pressman, Bert Isen, Victor Reiner, Linda Woodward Stein, Post 106
Quartermaster Gary Hoffman, Post 106 Commander Paul Zonderman. Front row
from left, Kelly Goldenberg, Alexa Goldenberg, Post 105 Adjutant Rich
Goldenberg, Hatti Wang and Post 105 Quartermaster Lance Wang.  Courtesy
photo.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By Barbara Fischler, Sr. Vice Commander Post 45

Our own Ben Cooper, member of Sgt. John L. Levitow, Jewish War Veterans Post 45, was recently inducted into the 2017 Class of the CT Veterans Hall of Fame.

Ben was born in Avon, CT, December 24, 1921. Drafted at age 20, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Serving as a combat medic with the 45th Infantry Division (AKA the “Thunderbird Division”).   The Division originated in Oklahoma, and contained a high percentage of Native Americans. He was in the European Theatre in two battles: The Rhineland Campaign, and the Central Europe Campaign. Ben took part in the liberation of Dachau Concentration Camp with the 45th Division.

For 45 years after he came home from the war in November of 1945, Ben was so traumatized by the tragedies witnessed as a combat medic with a frontline Infantry Platoon, he did not tell his wife, his parents, or his children about his experiences. In 1990, while being interviewed by a history teacher from Torrington High School, Ben was first able to talk about his experiences.

Every year since then, he has been speaking at schools throughout Connecticut. He has dedicated his life to sharing his stories with the hope that by advocating kindness, he can help children and adults put an end to bullying and hatred at any level. Ben has shared his stories with countless people and veterans throughout Connecticut and beyond, and many schools too numerous to mention. He is a captivating and inspirational speaker and brings history to life with his personal stories and memorabilia. He wants people of all ages to realize war is a terrible thing, to understand the realities of war, and to remember the Holocaust. It is an eye opener for them and still a healing process for Ben. He also speaks to civic groups and libraries.

He had a small camera during the war. The photos and artifacts he brought back from the war enhance his presentations. He deeply touches all who he meets and has received countless letters and emails from students and teachers. Ben enjoys meeting and thanking all veterans who have served our country. He has been interviewed on several radio and television programs. He was an Honorary Grand Marshall in the CT Veterans Parade in 2004. He has marched in many Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day parades wearing his Eisenhower jacket.

Ben is an active member of the Sgt. John L. Levitow Post 45, Jewish War Veterans in West Hartford, CT. He was honored among other Liberators at the National Executive Committee of the Jewish War Veterans in Washington, DC in 2015.

He expresses his mottos in all of his talks: “No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted,” “Save humanity,”  “Stop hatred and bullying,” “You can do it,” “Never give up,” and, remember, ”We all belong to the same race, the human race.”

Ben Cooper’s enduring dedication to sharing his message makes him a very special veteran, humanitarian, father, husband, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend to so many.

Life has its mysteries. In 1996, at an annual event to remember the Holocaust, at the State Capitol in Hartford, Ben was wearing his Eisenhower jacket with the Thunderbird emblem on his sleeve. It was noticed by Leo Scheinerman, a survivor of Dachau attending the event. He told Ben he remembered that he and his wife Anna had been liberated by the 45th Infantry Division. They became friends. In 2006, Ben had open-heart surgery and his surgeon’s name was Dr. Jacob Scheinerman, the son of that couple.

After 65 years of marriage, in 2009, Ben lost his beloved wife, Dorothy. In 2010, he met a Holocaust survivor, Henny Simon from Colchester, CT, who wrote an autobiography about how she survived the Holocaust. Henny had been speaking at schools since 1985. Since then, they had been presenting their talks together and made an unforgettable impact. Sadly, Henny was killed in a car accident in 2017.

His philosophy of life, positive attitude, quick wit, sense of humor, and his many acts of kindness are a wonderful role model and guide for his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, as well as everyone he meets.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By Robert Max, Department Commander of the Southeast Region

The 2018 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival was an exciting year for JWV Post 112.  The festival included the Atlanta Premiere of GI Jews – Jewish Americans in World War II, a film about Jewish American military experiences during World War II.   There were five screenings of this fabulous documentary during the Film Festival and each screening was packed.   The film honors the over half a million Jews who defended this country during World War II.

The special screening was followed by a panel discussion with two of our very own Post members who are WW II Veterans.  Jewish War Veterans Atlanta Post 112 provided WWII Veterans to speak on a panel, and I was honored to introduce the Sunday evening screening.  The Sunday evening screening was at the same time as the Super Bowl and the theater was full, which either says a lot about the commitment of our Jewish community to Jewish American Military History or their apathy for our Super Bowl choices.  Either way, it was very exciting to see such an engaged crowd.

Two of Post 112’s members spoke at the panel after the event.  “I saw myself in the film in about six places where I was physically present,” said JWV member Mort Waitzman.

Mort Waitzman was in the first wave of American soldiers who invaded France at Normandy.  He participated in the liberation of concentration camps, including the capture of the headquarters of the notorious Nazi Propaganda Minister, Josef Goebbels. He was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor. He went on to a distinguished career as a professor at Emory.  Mort’s story can be found in full at an exhibit in the Breman Jewish Museum in Atlanta.

Bob Maran served in Europe in the First Army and after the Battle of the Bulge with Patton‘s Third Army. Instead of returning home after victory in Europe, he was loaded onto one of several troopships that set sail to invade Japan. His ship did not turn back and he spent an additional two years In the Army of the Occupation of Japan. Bob turns 94 this month and continues to be one of our most active members with our Post.

The full video of their Q&A can be found on the Atlantic Jewish Film Festival YouTube Page.  If you have some time to look at it, I highly recommend it.  Until then, we will be working hard down here in the South.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By Rochel Hayman, Post Commander 210

Scottsdale Post 210 “enlightened” the Arizona State Veterans Home on Sunday, December 17th, by combining their monthly meeting together with the annual Chanukah Party, attracting literally an overflow crowd to Liberty Hall.  The Jewish residents of the Veteran’s Home – Mickey Dingott, Larry Chesin, and Jay Lowenthal, wholeheartedly welcomed the extra simcha and attention.

While the Post did conduct ‘business as usual,’ there were quite a few special additions as well.  The regular breakfast enjoyed together with every meeting was accentuated by latkes (accompanied by applesauce, of course) and both store bought and homemade sufganiot (yummy donuts).

The Arizona contingent of the Quilts of Valor Foundation were one of the featured guest speakers. Their stated mission is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with a comforting Quilt of Valor. Since 2005 they have gifted over 181,000 custom made quilts nationwide. QOV member Cheryl Vorin beautifully explained the history of the organization as well as how every quilt is handmade for each veteran and gifted with a medal, certificate and beautiful ceremony. She told several stories of some emotional and/or providential happenings when some of the quilts have given in the past.  Mrs. Vorin, together with fellow quilting members Bob & Rebecca Bernal, presented Post 210 Commander Rochel Hayman with a quilt for her service during Desert Storm. (For more information on how your post members, or any veteran, can be gifted with a Quilt of Valor, go to www.qovf.org).

Tina Sheinbein, Executive Director from the Jewish Free Loan of Phoenix, gave a presentation on the plethora of assistance our local JFL provides for our community.  Much of the information was a surprise, as most members were not aware of the plethora of possible options available to them.  In addition, Mrs. Sheinbein alerted the group to a new fund which a local family had recently started within JFL specifically available for Veterans and their families; the family is a new blue-star family, with their son now in the Marine Corps. Mrs. Sheinbein made sure to provide all the participants with a small Chanukah present accompanying the Jewish Free Loan contact information.

The Post’s lit menorah was a beautiful backdrop to the morning’s entertainment, an 18 member boys choir from one of the local Yeshivas, Torah Day School of Phoenix led by Rabbi Gedaliah Goldstein. While it was the group’s debut, they were very polished and they not only sang several Chanukah melodies, but an additional popular song accompanied by a dance routine.

All in all, combining the two events, together with extra publicity, bore fruit with a very well attended and joyful experience for all.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

by Amy Lefkof

During World War II, a bathtub saved Alan Goldberg’s life.  Goldberg served in the infantry — an eighteen-year-old private first class in the 13th Armored Division, 46th Tank Battalion. A bathtub was welded onto the back of his tank when General Patton visited Goldberg’s battalion as they were preparing to cross a bridge somewhere near Simbach, Germany. Patton refused to let Goldberg’s tub-tank go first. When the soldiers were unable to remove the welded bathtub from the tank, the tub-tank moved to third in line. The bridge collapsed under the weight of the first two armored tanks.

While in Germany, Goldberg went to a USO show held for the 13th Armored Division. A woman in a two-piece swimsuit danced on a makeshift stage —a raised wooden platform in the back of an army truck.  Goldberg shouted to the men in his Company, “That’s my cousin Josephine from Brookline, Massachusetts!”  After the show, Goldberg, trailed by the hundred or so men in his Company, went “backstage,” took off his helmet and asked his cousin, “Jo, do you remember Alan Goldberg from Brookline?”  According to Goldberg, his cousin broke down crying and told the rest of the Company, who had lined up to meet her, to go on home and leave her alone with her cousin Alan.  In a letter to her mom dated May 12, 1945, Josephine Axelrod described her encounter with Goldberg: “I threw my arms around him and kissed him and he was so cute and excited and pleased that he got all choked up.” After commenting on how “this poor kid” was too young to endure army life, she added, “I kissed him goodbye and got lots of lipstick on his cheek and told him to be sure and leave it on till all his buddies saw it.” These and other Goldberg WWII antics are featured in Jewish American Soldiers: Stories from WWII, a documentary that tells the stories of Charlotte-area Jewish American World War II veterans.

After the war, Goldberg returned to the Boston area.  Brandeis University was in its infancy and a birthday party was given for Alan’s uncle who was a University founder.  The student selected to give a speech in honor of Alan’s uncle was a young woman named Ruth Abrams. Goldberg’s mother was in the audience and was so impressed with Ruth that she asked Ruth for her phone number. Goldberg’s mother gave him Ruth’s phone number and said, “This is the girl you should marry.”  With what Goldberg concedes was the worst pick-up line of all times, he dutifully called the number and said to Ruth, “My mother said that I should call you.”  Asked whether it was love at first sight, Goldberg says yes. Ruth says by the third date.  They both say that sixty-four years later they’re still in love.

For seven years, Goldberg has served as photographer for Shalom Park Freedom School, a six-week summer literacy-based program for economically disadvantaged children, mostly Hispanic and African American.  Each summer Goldberg braves sweltering southern heat to document between 50 and 80 children at barbecues, chess boards, swimming pools, and manure-laden horse pastures.

These days Goldberg looks a bit frail as he enters the Levine Jewish Community Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.  As he makes his way through the door carrying a large gym bag his hands shake.  “Parkinson’s,” he says to anyone who asks, and then adds with characteristic gusto: “I just came from a photography class and now I’m on my way to a boxing class — not bad for a 92-year-old.” Goldberg’s boxing class is run by JCC staff trained in the Rock Steady Boxing method that gives people with Parkinson’s disease hope by improving their quality of life through a non-contact boxing-based fitness curriculum.  In this boxing ring, Parkinson’s disease is the opponent. Alan’s wife, Ruth, who parks their car after dropping him off at the curb in front of the JCC, says that boxing keeps Alan moving.  She is on her way to join him.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By Bam Rubinstein, Member of Post 757

On Sunday, 24 September, 2017, I had the opportunity to do a mitzvah, in the place of a different mitzvah.  I joined a group of friends, and we went to an area that was devastated by Hurricane Harvey, to do “Tzedakah.”  Allen has a huge smoke pit on a trailer. David also knows his way around a grill. Thom, Jeffrey, Holly and I were more like window dressing, but we did get the chance to do our part.

We started with about 250 or so pounds of meat. We also had enough buns for all the meat. We had at least 5 or 6 cans of beans, which I saw. And we had enough bags of cabbage, and carrots, and bins full of dressing, to make enough slaw to go around. We also had cases and cases of water, which we continuously added to an iced cooler.

People came up and asked, “How much?” and we got to tell them, “It’s free. How many would you like?”

One lady offered me a monetary donation. I got to tell her that her money was no good; but if she felt that she needed to donate, she should try a charity that her church likes.

However, the thing that made me stop in my tracks, have to turn away from the crowd and catch my breath, was when a woman came over and asked how much the water was.  When she was told that it was free, you could feel the weight in her words, with what she said next.  She looked at one of the guys helping her to her car and said, “The water is free?  You’re giving it away?  We haven’t had water for days.”

I’m pretty sure that the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are meant for doing things like this, and it felt good.

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017

By Steven Troy, Adjutant of Post 212


JWV Scottsdale Post 210 celebrated their 2nd annual Sukkah party on Sunday, October 8th, hosted by Commander Rochel Hayman and her family. This year the invitation was extended to the members of the Department of the Southwest.  The Department of Southwest is composed of 5 Posts covering Arizona and New Mexico.  The three Phoenix Posts were represented; they are Scottsdale Post 210, Valley of the Sun Post 194 and Copper State Post 201.  Upon arrival, guests were given a tour and explanation of the Sukkot holiday, also known as the Feast of the Tabernacles, and of the spacious Sukkah itself by Rabbi Dan Hayman.  Almost everyone took the opportunity to shake the lulav and etrog; a few members very excitedly mentioned it was the first time in their life to have ever done so.  A little history lesson, Sukkot celebrates the gathering of the harvest and commemorates the miraculous protection G-d provided for the children of Israel when they left Egypt.  On this holiday, Jews are commanded to bind together a palm frond, or “lulav” with two other branches called “haddasim” and “arovot”, and holding them together with an “etrog” these “four species” are used in the holiday rituals.  (An etrog is a yellow citron, according to the Torah it is a beautiful fruit). 

 

Members, family members and guests enjoyed a beautiful buffet complete with eggplant parmesan, baked ziti, garlic bread, pumpkin cranberry muffins, a refreshing fruit relish and apple-cranberry-plum cake. While Commander Hayman and Rabbi Hayman both gave Dvar Torah on Sukkot and especially it’s holistic inclusiveness, Department JVC Lenore “Lee” Katz, guest and new member active duty LTC Moshe Bennett, and other JWV members spoke and shared interesting anecdotes of their holiday experiences on active duty and beyond. Frequent L’Chaims were shared as well. 

 

Attending from Post 619 were the Commander Mort Huskey and his family, Evan, Steven, Brigid, Sophie and Lenore.   From Post 194, Lou & Ruth Kelter and Lenore (Lee) Katz.  From Post 210  Commander Rochel Hayman & Rabbi Dan Hayman, Jonathan Sorrell, Rhonna Bolton, Moshe Bennett, Susan Conwisar & Mel  Brody, Steven Troy, Michael & Ahuva Chambersand guest Nathan Brownstein.   The weather and temperature were perfect for enjoying the Sukkah. 

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017

By Rabbi Joseph P. Schonberger

Temple El Emeth members and friends were very pleased to honor 11 veterans at a brunch November 12.  We were privileged to recognize veterans in attendance who served in WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm, in other wars and conflicts in numerous roles.

All attending were moved by the documentary “True Honor” which presents the stories of ten Jewish Medal of honor recipients.  We thank the JWV Museum for allowing us to view the movie.  The stories told were truly heart wrenching and pride evoking.   Then we were privileged to hear from our own Veterans.

Dr Larry Glass responding to the movie told us that he never experienced anti-Semitism in the military.  Rather, he has fond memories of the support he received.

Dr, Bill Gordon spoke about being called up to active duty twice:   before he attended dental school and after dental school graduation.  Apparently, his commanding officer at Camp Lejeune found his dental services constituted immeasurable, much needed service.  For many, he was their first dentist.   Dr. Gordon reflected that the worst mouths he had ever seen were there.  This is a reminder that medical and support personnel are essential yet often unheralded.  Suffice it to say Camp Lejeune did not want their dentist to be reassigned.

Alan Sharapan, expressed gratitude for serving as a guardian for an “Honor Flight” as a gift from his children.  Those who were unfamiliar with the program were pleased and surprised to learn about this very special program.  He offered to pay it forward by being a guardian to one of our member vets who would like to travel to Washington on an Honor Flight.

Veteran Dr.Sheldon Persky mentioned his brother with pride.

Lieutenant Colonel Donald N. Persky, USMC (Ret.) was honored to be invited to the White House on October 23rd. where retired Army Captain Gary M. Rose was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry during an operation over 47 years ago during the Vietnam war. Rose, an Army medic, repeatedly risked his own life while treating dozens of fellow soldiers over a four day period of intense fighting against a numerically superior hostile force deep in enemy-controlled territory. Persky, then a lieutenant, was the command helicopter pilot that rescued Rose along with 39 other soldiers before being shot down. Persky has been credited with saving the lives of forty soldiers and his crew of five, and was previously awarded the the Silver Star and Purple Heart for gallantry and superb airmanship during that operation.

We were touched by the humility and character of all the veterans.

It was heart wrenching to hear Sam Fine recall his D Day experiences.  Looking at him today, those of us who didn’t know him as a young man were extremely impressed that he was one of the brave  82nd Airborne.  He talked about flying into enemy lines in a glider with no protection on D Day.  It is amazing thinking about what he did and survived.  His humble account of what he experienced truly elevated his stature to everyone present.  As an aside, we learned that the parachute he landed in was taken by the townspeople and transformed into a wedding gown. When he visited the village at a later date he attended the wedding and was gifted a special scarf that was fashioned from his parachute.  He still has that scarf.

All in attendance appreciated being able to hear friends’ stories.  We cherish these opportunities when we can share and hear from one another about the encounters that changed and shaped many lives.

Friends, relatives and community members in attendance voiced profound appreciation and respect for our veterans and their service.  They underscored that while we give the greatest accolades to those who made the greatest sacrifice we owe a huge debt of gratitude to all who served in any capacity.  We definitely need to have more time together. It uplifts us all.

God Bless our Veterans and our Country.

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017

By Jerry Alperstein, Post 1

In 2006 shortly after Representative John Boehner became Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, he met with leaders from the major veterans service organizations.  When a leader of the Jewish War Veterans introduced himself, Boehner said that he did not know there was a Jewish War Veterans.   Most of the other veterans’ leaders – as though on cue – said in unison, quote It’s the oldest veterans organization; unquote.

Boehner’s lack of knowledge of the Jewish War Veterans and of Jews in this country’s armed services was not unexpected.  While the participation and importance of Jews in our country’s armed services is well known and recognized within the veterans community, it is largely unknown and unrecognized within this country’s population at large – including within its Jewish Community.

The truth is that Jews have been a part of this land’s military history since 1654, the year after they first arrived in our corner of the New World.  When in the New Amsterdam colony, the Jews were charged an additional tax because they were barred from serving in the local militia, four Jews led by Asser Levy successfully appealed to the owner of the colony, the Dutch East India Company.  They were allowed to serve; and Jews have been serving and giving their lives to our country ever since.

In the 1890s, a number of prominent Americans were falsely claiming that Jews were not patriotic because they did not fight in the Civil War.  This prompted seven Jewish veterans of the Civil War to organize a meeting in Manhattan of other Jewish Civil War Veterans on March 15, 1896.  They organized the Hebrew Union Veterans Association which later became the Jewish War Veterans; today the oldest veterans service organization in the United States.

Unfortunately, one aspect of the Jewish legacy in the United States armed services that has continued since the days of Uriah Levy is anti-Semitism; but while it once was institutional – like when Levy was court martialed six times – it now is relegated to the acts of individuals.

In recent years, three Jewish soldiers finally became Medal of Honor recipients decades after their service because of anti-Semitism.  They were World War I veteran William Shemin and Korean War veterans Leonard Kravitz and Tibor Rubin.  On two different occasions Rubin was recommended for the medal; but an anti-Semitic sergeant both times neglected to fill out the required paperwork.  After lengthy legal battles by JWV, all of these heroic individuals were able to receive their Medal of Honor.

I have been asked whether I experienced any anti-Semitism during my two years in the Navy.  My answer has been that I do not know.  There are members of the armed services who pull rank on others of lower rank.  One usually does not know why.

To sum this up, over the last 363 years, Jews like all other Americans, have served in the armed services of our country, including many who served with distinction.  This record should not be a secret – especially within the Jewish community.  Let’s spread the good word.

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017