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

 

By Harvey Weiner, National Judge Advocate

On November 9, 2017, the Thursday before Veterans Day, the Massachusetts Department of the JWV inaugurated its first “Wills for Veterans Day”, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.  Seven local attorneys who concentrate their practices in estate planning were recruited and volunteered their services for a full day.  National Judge Advocate Harvey Weiner initiated the program and acted as onsite greeter, witness, and gofer.  The event took place in the JFK Federal Building in Boston, which is reached easily by public transportation.  The event was advertised state-wide through the VA, the JWV, and certain other veterans groups and organizations.

Twenty-three veterans and nine spouses had their wills, durable powers of attorneys, and health care proxies drafted and executed on site.  Two veterans required complex estate plans, which two of the volunteer attorneys agreed to draft at a later date.  Two house-bound disabled veterans telephoned and one of the volunteer attorneys agreed to go out to their respective houses to draft their estate plans.  The veterans came from nineteen different cities and towns all over Massachusetts, including from the western part of the state and from Cape Cod.  All seven attorneys volunteered to do it again next year.

If any Department is interested in implementing such a program, I would be glad to speak with its Judge Advocate.

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017

By Beth Agami, JWV Gold Star Mother

Social media is a wonderful thing.  It has helped me to connect or reconnect with so many people over the years – including my son’s, SPC Daniel Agami, brothers in arms, the military community, the Gold Star community and so many more.

However, when I recently opened my Facebook, I came across a post from JWV member Dr. Robert Pickard about the new permanent U.S. base being built in Israel.  I had not heard anything about this new base, and when I mentioned it to family and friends, they too were surprised to hear about it.

I then thought about it – there are a number of military bases and Navy ships around the world being renamed after fallen soldiers and sailors.  Just this year, the Coast Guard announced that they would build a new ship after fallen Jewish coast guardsmen, Nathan Bruckenthal.  I thought how awesome it would be to have the honor in having this new U.S. base in Israel so deservingly named after my son, Army SPC Daniel Agami aka the “Hebrew Hammer”.

In fact, Daniel proudly wore his rifle with the Hebrew Hammer written across it.  He was sometimes the only Jew that people would meet, and he would not shy away from telling people about his Jewish and Israeli heritage.  Moreover, everyone knew where Daniel slept too because he would go to sleep with an Israeli flag and American flag over his cot.

Daniel had very strong ties to Israel, where his father and my husband, Itzhak, was born and raised.  Itzhak proudly served in the IDF, and Daniel would say that he was his inspiration for joining the U.S. Army.  Daniel entered the Army, and he served in the 1/26 Infantry C-Company in Iraq during 2005.  He was killed in action on June 21, 2007 by an IED explosion on his convoy in Adhamiyah, Iraq.

Prior to just leaving for the Army, our family took a trip to Israel where Daniel enjoyed himself immensely, and he always took the time to befriend everyone he met.  I remember distinctly there was an afternoon stroll that we were taking as a family down Allenby Street in Tel Aviv, and Daniel stopped to take a moment to sit on a street bench next to an aged homeless man.  He made him laugh while his arm was wrapped around him, and then, he gave him some Tzedakah.

This was the kind of man my son was, and theses common acts of kindness were also exhibited by Daniel on the battlefield.  His unit was in charge of rebuilding schools, and the guys in his unit would tell me how he would be mentoring the young Iraqi children.  They would often describe how they knew the children looked up to him.

Daniel fought bravely and died for our country, and I thought how wonderful would it be if his legacy could be continued and recognized in Israel with the renaming of the new U.S. Military base in Israel.  You never had to question whether or not Daniel had your back, and I think that he represents an analogy of the U.S. and Israel relationship.  In my mind, there is no one more befitting to name the first U.S. base in Israel after.

I contacted Dr. Pickard and asked what I needed to do to make this happen, and his response was that he would begin working on it immediately (which he did).  With the help of Dr. Pickard and JWV, I pray and look forward to this becoming a reality.

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017

By PNC Maxwell Colon

This Veterans Day, North County Post 385 members, friends and the Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital Commanding Officer assembled at the Chapel of Camp Pendleton’s Naval Hospital in San Diego, California.  Veteran’s Day is unique because we honor past, current and future Veterans, and we truly appreciate the men & women serving in harm’s way.

Post 385 donated the following items to the Naval Hospital – hundreds of DVDs, newborn baby knitted hats, booties, crib blankets, socks, onesies, baby outfits and knitted crutch pads for our wounded warriors.  Many thousands of dollars in supplies were brought to the Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital for distribution to the 55,000 plus Marines & Sailors stationed at this base.

During this presentation PNC Maxwell Colón presented a framed Life Membership certificate to the Command Chaplain, who joined Post 385.  The Hospital Commanding Officer and his staff were present for the donations and the presentation of the Life Membership certificate ceremony to the Command Chaplain.  The Naval Hospital Commander asked that all present gather for a formal picture.  People from all over the State of California attended this presentation.  Post 385 and JWV makes 2 to 3 presentations each year at this hospital.

On the recommendation of PNP Linda & PNC Maxwell Colón, Post 385 adopted this hospital in the year 2000-2001 and to date have raised and contributed in supplies, food gift cards/certificates over $900,000.00.

This year we have added another facility known as Naval Medical Center San Diego where we will be making a similar presentation on November 20, 2017 at 11:00 A.M.  The Commanding Officer of this Naval Hospital has also become a NEW member of Post 385.

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017