By Rabbi Levi Welton

Long before I had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force, I was just a boy in Troop 613, the local Jewish Boy Scouts of America chapter in Berkeley, California. It was founded by George Brummer, Lenny Berman, and my childhood Rabbi Ferris. We met regularly on the second floor of the Berkeley Chabad House. This was how I came to know Berman, or Scoutmaster Lenny. Although he hadn’t been a scout as a boy, Scoutmaster Lenny taught our troop to cherish outdoorsmanship and do a good turn daily. He also made all of us get the Ner Tamid Jewish merit badge, telling us we had to be proud Jewish Boy Scouts.

Berman was a disciplined, bristly-bearded software developer who walked over four miles every Shabbos to attend services at the Chabad House (Orthodox Jews don’t use cars on Shabbos because driving is considered a violation of the 39 categories of prohibited melachos or work). Nor did he do it alone. He was accompanied by his wife, daughter, and three sons.

At the crack of dawn on school days, Berman would wake up his children and teach them Torah and Talmud. Then they’d head off to public school. In 2012, when President Obama’s ambassador to Israel toured the largest Yeshiva in the world, the prestigious Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, he was photographed studying Torah with Eitan Berman, my former scout-mate.

I never made it to the rank of Eagle Scout. I spent way too much time having fun at the Scout Camp rifle range. I got a couple of merit badges, like the woodworking one and the leatherwork one, but I did it because I thought it was fun, not because I was competitive about achieving Eagle status. Nevertheless, Berman gave me a solid Boy Scout education. He taught me how to use a compass, which comes in handy as Jews must face Jerusalem when praying three times a day. He also instructed our Troop in the art of pitching a tent, packing a sleeping bag, and safely kindling a fire from scratch. Most of all, he constantly lectured us on what it means to have Scout Honor and do my best to do “my duty to G-d and my country.”
Unfortunately, my best wasn’t always good enough. For example, I failed to get the swimming merit badge. I badly wanted it because that badge allowed a scout to use the kayaks at the camp lake. I might have succeeded had it not been for my lanky chicken legs, pencil-thin arms, and the sharks. Well, not real sharks as I was swimming hundreds of miles inland. But my overactive imagination kept interpreting every oblong shadow underwater as a Great White gleefully zooming towards me to the ominous soundtrack of “Jaws.”

So, after a lot of frenzied splashing, I was told to get out and dry myself off with a towel. Apparently, in my zeal to escape the sharks, I swam in the completely wrong direction and had a second chance to jump back in and try again. I shook my head with a definitive no and made a silent pact with the sharks that I would never again step into their turf as long as they wouldn’t step on mine. To this day, both parties have honored this arrangement.
But I’m getting lost in the brush of my understory and must return to the trailhead of the narrative, Scoutmaster Lenny. I want to tell you how he imprinted upon me the meaning of honor. It happened when our troop was deep in the forest, camping with hundreds of other troops.
One morning, it was our troop’s turn to raise the flag in front of the entire assembly. We had practiced with Berman for an hour the night before. But I was still nervous. A sea of eyes stared at us with laser focus. Eitan and I marched in tandem next to each other, gripping the sides of the flag, and trying to remember all the instructions our scoutmaster had drilled into our brains. My hands trembled as we hoisted the flag.

Suddenly, the bugler, who was also our assigned guide, sputtered. He rushed over to us.

“The flag is upside down,” he whispered in horror. He snatched the halyard from me. I frantically looked up. The great grizzly bear of the California flag lying flat on her back with four paws fluttering awkwardly upside down in the wind for all to see.

Snickers echoed around the grassy meadow. Shame burned on my cheeks and for the next three days, we were the laughingstock of the Boy Scouts. I remember spending most of the time studying the tips of my sneakers and avoiding eye contact with anyone outside my troop.

Then, on the dawn of the third day, Yossi Ferris, the rabbi’s son, was called up in front of the entire assembly for an honor. He had achieved the highest score at the rifle range and was given the marksmanship award. He marched up – proudly wearing his yarmulke for all to see— and received his accolades and his trophy, a box of chocolate M&M’s. But Yossi wasn’t the only one who held his head high. Our entire troop did. From then on, no one laughed at us. Our dignity was restored.

But what I remember now was how, during those three days after our epic flag-failure, Scoutmaster Lenny made us march to reveille as if we were his children marching to Shul on Shabbos. He didn’t utter a word about our failure and walked among the other Scout Leaders with confidence, as if nothing had occurred. I’m sure he noticed the sneers and smirks of the other kids. But he made us march and made us endure it, one step at a time. In this way, he taught me that honor means you keep marching forward, even when your flag is upside down.

In comic books, heroes are clean-shaven and wear red capes. In real life, heroes need neither a costume nor a cape. They can have a bristly beard and simply show a child it’s ok to make a mistake. On that fateful flag day, Berman showed me that I didn’t need to be an Eagle to fly.

Levi Welton holds degrees in science, education, and film. Currently, he works as a rabbi, physician assistant, and a reserve chaplain in the United States Air Force, attached to the 436th Airlift Wing of Dover Air Force base.

Volume 76. Number 1. 2022

As of today, Thursday, March 10, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is considered an honorary patron of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America (JWV).

“Not only is he Jewish, but the fact that he has taken a stand to protect his people and his country is admirable, and I think he needs to be recognized for that,” said JWV National Commander Alan Paley.

JWV will attempt to convey a letter announcing this honor to Zelensky via the Ukrainian Embassy in the United States.

JWV also wants to condemn the Russian military’s ongoing attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, including recent attacks on maternity and children’s hospitals.

About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
Founded in 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is the oldest active veterans’ organization in America. JWV is dedicated to upholding America’s democratic traditions and fighting bigotry, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination of all kinds. As a national organization, JWV represents the voice of America’s Jewish veterans on issues related to veterans’ benefits, foreign policy, and national security. JWV also commits itself to the assistance of oppressed Jews worldwide.

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The Jewish War Veterans of the United States of American condemns Russia’s missile strike that hit Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial in Kiev on Tuesday. The strike was apparently targeting a nearby TV tower but also hit the memorial.

The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center is built on Europe’s largest mass grave of the Holocaust. Between 1941 and 1943, the Nazis shot between 70,000 and 100,000 people at Babyn Yar.

About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
Founded in 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is the oldest active veterans’ organization in America. JWV is dedicated to upholding America’s democratic traditions and fighting bigotry, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination of all kinds. As a national organization, JWV represents the voice of America’s Jewish veterans on issues related to veterans’ benefits, foreign policy, and national security. JWV also commits itself to the assistance of oppressed Jews worldwide.

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The Jewish War Veterans of the USA, at its recent National Executive Committee meeting, adopted the following resolution in response to a demonstration that occurred outside the home of Jewish veteran Casey Weinstein.
“The Jewish War Veterans of the USA declares its support for Casey and Amanda Weinstein and their family, and unequivocally condemns the anti-Semitic rabble that demonstrated menacingly in front of their Hudson, Ohio, home on January 23, 2022.”

About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
Founded in 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is the oldest active veterans’ organization in America. JWV is dedicated to upholding America’s democratic traditions and fighting bigotry, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination of all kinds. As a national organization, JWV represents the voice of America’s Jewish veterans on issues related to veterans’ benefits, foreign policy, and national security. JWV also commits itself to the assistance of oppressed Jews worldwide.
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The National Executive Director of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., Ken Greenberg, testified at a hearing held on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education.

During the public hearing on the 90/10 loophole, Greenberg called for the strong implementation of the law to close that loophole.  He said the loophole has resulted in the unfair targeting of the veteran community by aggressive and deceptive college salesmen.

You can read his complete statement from the hearing here.

About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
Founded in 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is the oldest active veterans’ organization in America. JWV is dedicated to upholding America’s democratic traditions and fighting bigotry, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination of all kinds. As a national organization, JWV represents the voice of America’s Jewish veterans on issues related to veterans’ benefits, foreign policy, and national security. JWV also commits itself to the assistance of oppressed Jews worldwide.

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JWV Supports Prostate Cancer Treatment Research 

As part of the Toxic Exposures in the American Military (TEAM) Coalition, the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. has announced its support for the Veterans’ Prostate Cancer Treatment and Research Act (S.2720 and H.R.4880).

JWV signed on to letters from the TEAM Coalition to the sponsors of this Act, including Congressmen Neal Dunn, Elissa Slotkin, and Senators Jon Tester and Jerry Moran.  Tester is Chairman and Moran is the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The goal of the bipartisan legislation is to establish a Prostate Clinical Pathway and expand research efforts of the Veterans Health Administration related to screening, diagnosis, and treatment options.  Click here for the full letters.

Letter to Senators

Letter to Congressmen


About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
Founded in 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is the oldest active veterans’ organization in America. JWV is dedicated to upholding America’s democratic traditions and fighting bigotry, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination of all kinds. As a national organization, JWV represents the voice of America’s Jewish veterans on issues related to veterans’ benefits, foreign policy, and national security. JWV also commits itself to the assistance of oppressed Jews worldwide.

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The Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. welcomes Mr. Kenneth Greenberg as its National Executive Director (NED).

Mr. Greenberg had a distinguished 33-year career at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Prior to joining JWV, he served one year as Policy Director for VetsFirst, and two years as Director of Veterans and Military Policy at The Retired Enlisted Association (TREA).

Ken has a proven history of achievements and strategic communications expertise. He received the Secretary’s Distinguished Career Award in January 2013, for significant and outstanding contributions during his VA career. His eight plus years of experience as Director of Operations, Executive Secretariat, Office of the Secretary (OSVA) at the Department and as a Director for five years in VA’s Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs (OCLA) and ten years in the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) underscores his exhaustive knowledge of Congress, the legislative process, regulations, and the intersection of public and private constituencies.

Additional responsibilities included serving on the Veterans Health and Veterans Benefits Administrations SES Performance Review Boards and serving as a Keynote Speaker at Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonial events. Ken’s tenure also included positions in VHA’s Office of Facilities and Office of General Counsel.

Ken and his wife, Janet live in the Washington DC area with their dog Chloe, a six pound Maltese.

 

About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
Founded in 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is the oldest active veterans’ organization in America. JWV is dedicated to upholding America’s democratic traditions and fighting bigotry, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination of all kinds. As a national organization, JWV represents the voice of America’s Jewish veterans on issues related to veterans’ benefits, foreign policy, and national security. JWV also commits itself to the assistance of oppressed Jews worldwide.

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The Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. (JWV) is pleased to announce it has elected Alan Paley National Commander and Nelson Mellitz National Vice Commander during its 126th National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 19, 2021.

Paley enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1966 and served as a Weapons Specialist on Phantom F-4D fighter aircraft at bases in West Germany, Italy, and Libya. He joined New Jersey JWV Post 651 in 1968 as an in-service member. Following his honorable discharge in 1970 he became active in JWV and rose through the ranks of his post becoming one of the youngest Post Commanders in JWV. In 1979 he was elected Bergen County, New Jersey Council Commander. He relocated to Florida in the early 1980s and later transferred to Florida Post 606, serving as Post Commander from 1996 to 2016. While serving as Post Commander, he was elected Commander of Broward, Palm Beach County Council in 1999. In 2015 he was elected the Commander of the Department of Florida and served in that capacity until 2019. Since 2016 he has been the National Budget Chairman and in 2019 was also appointed as the National Adjutant. In 2020, Alan was elected to the newly created position of National Vice Commander. He is a life member of both JWV and NMAJMH and has over 51 years of continuous service to JWV. In civilian life, Alan is the Chief Financial Officer of Overseas Cargo, Inc., a third-party logistics and warehouse service provider specializing in the handling, storage, and exportation of perishable goods. He has three children and one grandchild.

Mellitz continues an over 80-year family legacy of serving in the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America. Nelson served 32 years in the United States Air Force. He has been based at more than 13 different locations within the U.S. and overseas during five major wars and other combat operations. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1970 as an E-1 and was assigned to a Civil Engineering Unit as a Site Development Specialist. Over the next nine and half years he was promoted to Master Sergeant (E-7). He was awarded a direct commission to 2nd Lieutenant in 1980 and assigned to the Acquisition Career field with a specialty in U.S. Government Contracting. Nelson was promoted to full Colonel in 1998. He has received over 20 military awards and decorations including the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Meritorious Citation. Nelson has held many leadership positions in JWV including National Quartermaster, National Chief of Staff, Commander of Post 126, Council Commander, and Department of NJ Commander, among others. Nelson is Vice President of World Wide Business Operations for Land Sea Air Security, LLC. LSA Security markets proven military defensive equipment. He has been married to Debbie Markowitz Mellitz for 41 years and they have two daughters.

We wish Paley and Mellitz a successful year!

 

About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
Founded in 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is the oldest active veterans’ organization in America. JWV is dedicated to upholding America’s democratic traditions and fighting bigotry, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination of all kinds. As a national organization, JWV represents the voice of America’s Jewish veterans on issues related to veterans’ benefits, foreign policy, and national security. JWV also commits itself to the assistance of oppressed Jews worldwide.

WASHINGTON, DC – The Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. (JWV) is proud to announce New Orleans, LA as the site of its 126th Annual National Convention from August 15-20, 2021.  Our convention is where Jewish members of the uniformed services and veterans come together to solve issues within their community.  From fighting anti-Semitism in the military, to speaking with Jewish youth about the merits of military service, JWV is the only place where these important matters are being addressed.

JWV members from across the country will congregate at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel to participate in several annual business sessions and hear from some great guest speakers.

Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Donald Remy will address the members of JWV and the JWVA (Ladies Auxiliary) during our opening ceremony at 11:30am CDT on Monday.

Our opening session will take place at 4:00pm CDT on Monday, August 16, and will feature the President and CEO of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, Marina Jackman.

On Wednesday, at 2:30pm CDT, our members will hear about preventing veteran suicide from Dr. Daniel DeBrule.

The convention will conclude on Thursday, August 19, with a banquet honoring National Commander Jeffrey Sacks, and the installation of the 2021 National Commander, who will be elected during the week.  We want to thank Louisiana for its warm hospitality, and we cannot wait to see you there!

For more information or a complete schedule of events, please contact JWV National Programs and Public Relations Director Cara Rinkoff at (202) 265-6285.

About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
Founded in 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is the oldest active veterans’ organization in America. JWV is dedicated to upholding America’s democratic traditions and fighting bigotry, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination of all kinds. As a national organization, JWV represents the voice of America’s Jewish veterans on issues related to veterans’ benefits, foreign policy, and national security. JWV also commits itself to the assistance of oppressed Jews worldwide.

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The Jewish War Veterans urges the Biden administration to quickly determine the fate of Afghan translators who worked for the United States.

Although the administration has said it is working on a plan, the longer it takes, the more dangerous it will become for those interpreters as the U.S. continues pulling troops out of the country.

President Biden must make arrangements for all of the translators to leave Afghanistan on or before August 31, which is the date all U.S. troops are expected to be out of the country.

Real Americans don’t leave their allies behind.

 

About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
Founded in 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is the oldest active veterans’ organization in America. JWV is dedicated to upholding America’s democratic traditions and fighting bigotry, prejudice, injustice, and discrimination of all kinds. As a national organization, JWV represents the voice of America’s Jewish veterans on issues related to veterans’ benefits, foreign policy, and national security. JWV also commits itself to the assistance of oppressed Jews worldwide.

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