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

While attending the Maryland JWV District meeting in June 2017, COL Erwin Burtnick, USA (retired) District Commander, introduced me to Rabbi Chesky Tenenbaum. As the newly appointed Chaplain of the JWV Post 167 in Owings Mills, Maryland, I was interested in any advice I could receive from the Rabbi. It turned out that the Rabbi was thinking of joining the National Guard and a meeting was set up to meet later in the month.

During my follow-up meeting with Rabbi Tenenbaum, we discussed the Air and Army National Guard Chaplaincy program. Prior to our meeting I contacted Chaplain (COL) Wm Sean Lee, Joint Force Headquarters, Maryland National Guard, Chaplain to ask if Chaplain Lee know of any openings in the Chaplain Corps and he confirmed yes. As a retired 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (AES) Commander, West Virginia Air National Guard (ANG) and a Flight Nurse, I discussed how important the Chaplains are for the deployed as well as wounded Service Members. My experience in Bosnia (Tazar, Hungary) and Iraq (Baghdad) the Chaplains worked synergistically with the Mobile Aeromedical Staging Facility (MASF) personnel in treating the wounded, mentally, physically, and spiritually. A MASF is a passenger terminal for the wounded and ill Service Members, foreigners, and civilians awaiting transportation to tertiary care (from the battlefield to Kuwait, Germany, or directly to the United States). I will save that story for another time.…

I found out that Rabbi Tenenbaum is a Volunteer Chaplain (Major) in the Maryland Defense Force (MDDF). The MDDF is a volunteer military organization parallel to the Maryland National Guard and is designed to augment the National Guard during stateside emergencies.

I also found out that Rabbi Tenenbaum is the founder and Director of the Jewish Uniformed Service Association of Maryland (JUSA). JUSA provides current and retired Jewish Military, Police, Fire and Public Safety Members of the state of Maryland with religious educational and social support and activities, in connection with the observance of Jewish tradition. To find out more information, contact www.JewishUSAMD.org.

…and that leads to the attached picture, Rabbi Tenenbaum asked if I ever wore Tefillin, and as a Reform Jew growing up in New Jersey I had not. He invited me to wear Tefillin and pray together. I could not pass up this new experience.

This was my second Bar Mitzvah, the wearing of Tefillin. Tefillin is a Mitzvot (precept) of the Torah. “It is mentioned in Deuteronomy 6:8 ‘And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for ornaments between your eyes.’ Tefillin consists of two small leather boxes attached to leather straps. The two boxes each contain four sections of the Torah inscribed on parchment. These passages cite:

  1. The Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) – pronouncing the Unity of The One G-d.
  2. Vehaya (Deut. 11:13-21) – expressing G-d’s assurance to us of reward that will follow our observance of the Torah’s precepts, and warning of retribution for disobedience to them.
  3. Kadesh (Exodus 13:1-10) – the duty of the Jewish people to always remember the redemption from Egyptian bondage.
  4. Vehayah (Exodus13:11-16) – the obligation of every Jew to inform his children on these matters.

One of the boxes (the ‘hand Tefillin’) is placed upon the left arm so as to rest against the heart – the seat of the emotions, and the suspended leather strap is wound around the left arm, and around the middle finger of that hand. The other box (the ‘Head Tefillin’) is placed upon the head, above the forehead, so as to rest upon the cerebrum. In this manner our attention is directed to the head, heart and hand. It teaches us to dedicate ourselves to the service of G-d in all that we think, feel and do. It is also to teach us not to be governed solely by the impulse of the heart, lest that lead us into error and transgression. Nor are we to be governed by reason alone, for that may lead to harsh materialism.

You are never to old to learn new things.

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017

By Zelle Rettman

To honor Memorial Day this year, seniors at the Northwest Yeshiva High School (NYHS) went to the Sephardic Brotherhood Cemetery on Friday, May 26th, and placed flags on the gravestones of Jewish veterans. The program was led by Bob Shay, a member of the Jewish community who volunteered in the Navy from 1964-1970. He is currently a Committee Chair for Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), as well as a Post Commander for Jewish War Veterans of the United States (JWV).

Bob Shay explained that the JWV is the longest active US veterans organization, and the Seattle branch is the second largest flag project under the JWV umbrella across the country. When Bob Shay began the Seattle program in 1996, he had 58 names. Today he has over 850.

While placing flags at the cemetery, NYHS students learned about the Seattle Jewish community’s connection to the American armed forces. Students asked questions about the history of Jews serving in the US armed forces, the burial process, headstones and cemetery maintenance. They were especially moved when placing a flag by the gravestone belonging to a name they recognized, which happened far more frequently than any of them anticipated.

Before leaving the cemetery, Bob Shay gave each student a small red booklet containing the United States of America’s founding documents. He explained that these documents are among the oldest and most long-standing documents of any country to allow Jews to live and practice their faith freely. He thanked the students for their time, impressing upon them how appreciative veterans are of the recognition.

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017

By Martin C. Hochhauser

On a cold but clear day on January 30, 2017 dignitaries came to Hyde Park, NY to commemorate the birth of our 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Born on January 30, 1882, this year we celebrated FDR’s 135th birthday. It was a beautiful ceremony as The Long Gray Line of West Point cadets came marching into the Rose Garden to the beat of a solemn drummer. Following this majestic entrance came over a dozen dignitaries who presented wreaths to honor President Roosevelt. The local community was on the periphery of the Rose Garden to witness this annual event.

Among the twelve groups presenting wreaths, one group was the Jewish War Veterans of the United States, Pvt. Herman Siegel Post #625 of Poughkeepsie, NY. Representing the Post was Past Commander Ralph Schwartz and Chief of Staff Martin Hochhauser.

Our Post was named after a local resident, Herman Siegel, who was born and bred on May Street in the City of Poughkeepsie. Born in 1925, he graduated Poughkeepsie High School in June 1943 and joined the Army. Eleven months later, on May 18, 1944, at age 19, Pvt. Herman Siegel was killed in action in Anzio, Italy. He was the first member of the local Jewish community to die in World War II.

In addition to Commander Schwartz presenting the JWV wreath, Chief of Staff Hochhauser placed a stone on FDR’s tombstone in the Jewish tradition to indicate that a visitor has come to show respect, that the deceased has not been forgotten and to rekindle the memories of the past.

An additional wreath and flowers were presented by the family of FDR and finally the Presidential wreath was presented by Brigadier General Cindy R. Jebb, Dean of the Academic Board, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY.

The formal event was concluded with salutary volleys of an Army firing squad followed by the sounding of Taps. The Long Gray Line marched out of the Rose Garden once again to the sound of a drummer.

Finally, everyone was invited back to the Visitors’ Center to partake in two huge birthday cakes and hot beverages.

By Judge Sol Gothard

The Jewish community of New Orleans has a special Memorial Day Tradition.  Every year, the Ben Katz Post 580 and Congregation Beth Israel come together to remember our departed veterans in a uniquely Jewish way.  An indispensable tenet of the Jewish faith is remembering and honoring our deceased loved ones by saying the Kaddish prayers for them every year on the anniversary of their death as well as three times during the year – Passover, Sukkot and Shavout.

This year, 580’s Memorial Day Remembrance was spread out over the three day weekend.  After usual Friday services, the congregants each lit memorial candles for their deceased veterans as Major Carl Berman USAR called out their names.  Judge Gothard, commander of Post 580, lit candles for his three brothers that served in World War II – Abe, Jack and Gerald.  Abe was a combat engineer, and he was part of the D-Day assault on Omaha Beach.  He fought throughout the war until he was seriously wounded at the Battle of the Bulge, and he was awarded the Purple Heart for his service during the battle.

On Shabbat morning, a special memorial service was held, and you could see members of JWV dressed in uniform and wearing their JWV caps.  MAJ Berman gave the sermon – “the fundamental question for this speech is ‘How does one who was raised in a Black Baptist family and went to a Jesuit Catholic college, end up marrying into an Orthodox Jewish family and want to become a Jew?”  She spoke about her love of the Jewish faith and her experiences in Afghanistan in 2008.  “Even though I had not been to the mikvah yet, I have always adhered to the Jewish faith to the point where my dog tags say ‘Jewish’.”  She was advised by one of her senior officers to bury her dog tags if something bad happened.  “I decided that my dogs would not be buried in the desert; they will hang around my neck,” said Berman.

On Memorial Day, members of JWV and the clergy staff of the synagogue held a graveside memorial service.  The Rabbis recited our ancient memorial prays on behalf of those veterans who served and of those who gave their lives fighting.  Gothard spoke at the ceremony, stating that Jewish veterans of any branch of the military are eligible for membership at the New Orleans Post.  He was very proud that Post 580 is one of the most diverse chapters in America.  He stated that patrons from other faiths joined because of the humanitarian work that we do on behalf of veterans.  “Anyone can join as a Patron member; you do not have to be a veteran or Jewish,” said Gothard.  Post 580 is currently doing a membership drive for 2017 to 2018, where the post will provide the dues for new members and give them a free service cap.  For more information, please contact Judge Gothard at judgesol@cox.net.

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017

By PNC Lawrence Schulman

On May 24, 2017, Gary Ginsburg and I visited West Point for their annual Baccalaureate Service for the class of 2017.  Our post, David J Kauffman Post 41, has sponsored the refreshments at the Baccalaureate Service in the West Point Jewish Chapel for over 30 years.

This year, the Jewish graduating class consisted of 15 cadets – 1 woman and 14 men.  The cadets come from all over the United States, including New York State as well as the State of Washington.  Their first assignments range from Elgin Air Force Base to the Graduate School at MIT.

The ceremony opened with a Wall Dedication Ceremony, where the graduates’ names are added to the Wall of Names in the chapel.  If you remember our history with West Point, one half of the first class of graduates were Jewish – that class graduated with two officers and one was Jewish!

This year, a new Jewish chaplain was appointed – Captain David Ruderman.  They rotate Jewish chaplains every three or four years.

The service consist of a welcome to those in attendance, invocation by the chaplain, music by the Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir and a keynote address by an alumni of West Point.

This year’s speaker was BG Cindy Jebb, USMA Class of 1982.  BG Jebb serves as the 14th Dean of the Academic Board.  She has served in many positions in the Army – starting a s a military intelligence officer to service as a member on the Foreign Relations Council.

After his keynote address, LTC (R) Walter Stern and Bernard Stotch from the JWV Department of New York presented Kiddush cups to the men and candlestick holders to the female graduate and copies of Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Telushkin.

Department of New York was sponsored the Friday night Onegs at West Point for over fifty years.  Many posts and other departments join in to make this possible.  If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Post 41 for more information.

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017

By Mort Millinger

At the 86th JWV Department of New Jersey Annual Convention, the Leo A. Seigel – Dr. Philip Shapiro Education Grants were awarded to three deserving recipients – Austin Grant, Joshua Schuman and Eric Schneider.  All are direct descendants of JWV members, and we could not be prouder of their education, athletic and community accomplishments that contributed them to getting these awards.

The JWV NJ Education Grant program awards these grants annually to graduating seniors from public or private high schools in the state of New Jersey.  All applicants must be a direct descendent of a member, living or deceased, of a Jewish War Veterans Post in New Jersey for a minimum of three years.

This year’s recipients are a prestigious group of young adults, and we know that they will go on to do great things for our community as well as the United States. Austin Grant of Verona, NJ, will be attending Duke University. Joshua Schuman of West Orange, NJ will be attending the University of Delaware.  Lastly, Eric Schneider of Livingston, NJ will be attending the University of Maryland.  Congratulations Austin, Joshua and Eric!  Now, go make us proud!

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017

Oceanfest, in Long Branch NJ, “Down the Jersey Shore,”   is a 27-year old July 4th celebration organized by the Greater Long Branch Chamber of Commerce. July 4th festivities there have resurged with vigor since the revitalization of the beachfront promenade following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Under perfect skies this year, the holiday crowd was estimated at more than one hundred thousand for the day-long event and evening fireworks display.

Participating at Oceanfest again this year, as it has done over the past decade (except for Saturday occurrences of Independence Day), JWV Jersey Shore Post 125 set up its public service booth in an ideally situated assigned location and staffed it with a hard-working cadre of volunteers to raise funds for veterans’ support services in the state and to interact with the public in increasing awareness of JWV activities on behalf of veterans’ affairs. Post 125’s contingent, led by Post Commander Dr. Allan Solden, was joined by visits from Dept. of NJ Commander Al Adler and PDC Bob Jacobs. A sudden change in travel plans prevented a scheduled visit by National Commander Carl Singer who, a decade earlier, as Department of New Jersey Commander, was instrumental in launching JWV participation in the Long Branch event.

Post 125’s Oceanfest event organizer and Honorary Dept. Commander, Gerald Levine, in summarizing the success of the day’s activities this year, observed that the stream of friendly visitors at the booth was unabated, even into the late afternoon moments as the team was closing down. Those who visited the booth represented a full spectrum of American society. Post 125’s team felt especially gratified by the seemingly endless stream of greetings that included, “Thank you for your service.” It was clear that these words flowed from the hearts of individuals, family groups, the young, their parents, and the young-at-heart, who stopped by to say hello, to contribute, and to express their gratitude to America’s community of veterans. JWV Jersey Shore Post 125 was proud to represent that community at Oceanfest.

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017