On July 11th, Representative Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced a modified amendment to Section 632 on the Military Patron Act (HR 2810).  The amendment mandates that the DoD will submit a “cost-benefit analysis” on commissaries in order to reduce the costs of operating the commissaries and exchanges by 2 billion dollars over the next four years, while not raising costs for patrons.

Commissaries and Exchanges provide food and other necessary house hold items that are needed on a day to day basis for service members, their family and veterans.  Commissaries started back in 1825 when Army soldiers could purchase household items from an on-post store at the cost of the item.  Since then, this tradition has lived on – helping our service members provide for themselves and their families.

Commissaries still provide at cost products to our service members today, which is still a much needed provision.  An Army private with a family of four makes less than $2000 a month.  To make those dollars work for them, they rely on services like the Commissaries and Exchanges to provide for their family.

Although the amendment calls for a review of the services and asks for the DoD to make recommendation, the DoD has historically called for dismantling whole institutions as they have done with Military Medical Treatment Facilities and the Base Realignment and Closure Acts.  JWV calls on members of Congress to make sure that our Commissaries and Exchanges remain open to our veterans, service members and their families.

“JWV deplores the lack of support for our service members as demonstrated by the wrangling over Commissary and Exchange operations.  Despite the assertions that we need and must have a strong military we see measures that harm our service members and their families.  Do we again want to see junior enlisted service members applying for food stamps and other government aid for their families,” said National Commander Carl Singer.

When the new administration took office on January 20, 2017, they failed to appoint a special envoy to head the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.  Even after an 86% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the first quarter of 2017 with over 145 bomb threats to Jewish institutions and multiple Jewish cemetery desecrations, the position astonishingly remained unfilled.  As of July 1, 2017, the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism is officially closed, ensuring that no one within the administration of President Donald Trump is specifically working on combating anti-Semitism.

“The State Department’s closing the office is both short-sighted and ill-timed.  Anti-Semitism remains a grim reality in today’s world and must be vigorously addressed.  I’m quite frankly surprised given the positive actions by Ambassador Nikki Haley in fighting anti-Semitism at the United Nations, one finds the State Department’s actions baffling.  I find myself asking if the ghost of John Foster Dulles is in the room,” said JWV National Commander COL Carl Singer.

After the Global Anti-Semitism Act of 2004 was signed into effect by President George W. Bush, the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism has laid out a working definition of anti-Semitism as well as kept a tally of anti-Semitic incidents throughout the globe.  This is particularly important because the new definition of anti-Semitism includes anti-Zionist activities that have crossed the line into anti-Semitism, which we all sadly know far too well can and does happen.

This year, a German court ruled that a 2014 bombing of a German synagogue was not anti-Semitic, but rather, it was anti-Zionist – even though the synagogue was targeted specifically because it was a Jewish institution and not an Israeli consulate.  Because of the definition set by the special envoy to the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, this kind of attack would be considered a hate crime in the United States, not a simple act of arson, and it would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

When questioned in June about the special envoy position, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was non-committal about appointing an envoy and he insinuated that having a special envoy was counterproductive to fighting anti-Semitism.  He explained that people who are responsible for implementing U.S. policy would somehow decide it was not their responsibility to fight anti-Semitism because someone else is already doing it – fighting anti-Semitism is everyone’s responsibility.

After the office was closed on the first, Shoshana Simones, a 29 year old Make-A-Wish “wish manager”, pulled into her home after her Fourth of July vacation to see a swastika and the word “Jew” spray painted in black on her home with her husband and young daughter in the car.  These types of incidents will continue to persist until this administration decides to make fighting anti-Semitism a priority.

Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. urges the administration and Secretary Tillerson to immediately appoint a special envoy of the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and have a working staff actively combating anti-Semitism.  As the philosopher Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” and good men are indeed doing nothing right now.  JWV is committed to fighting this evil as we have always done.  We ask people to write and call their representatives and senators, urging them to tell the administration to appoint a special envoy.  If you need help finding your representatives, please contact JWV National Headquarte

When the new administration took office on January 20, 2017, they failed to appoint a special envoy to head the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Read more

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 (S. 1094) was signed on June 23, 2017 to the great relief of many veterans who have suffered due to negligent VA employees and practices. This bill, nicknamed the “You’re Fired” bill, allows managers to fire employees with less evidence and it shortens the appeals process.

This bill was in response to the 2014 VA Scandal, where veterans died waiting for care at the Phoenix VA medical center. JWV quickly took up action on this issue, and we have been raising awareness on the issue ever since. This year, Carl Singer included this legislation in JWV’s 2017 Legislative Priorities.

Before this bill was passed, the odds of a federal employee being fired were about one to five hundred. VA employees had unfathomable job security due to complicated laws, bureaucracy and well-funded lobbying groups. According to the VA, it used to take up to 275 days to discipline a nurse charged with operating on a veteran drunk – a charge that would immediately get an employee fired in the civilian sector.

“There is nothing more demoralizing than being in an organization, working alongside people that everybody knows no longer shares the values, the morals (and) the ethics of the vast majority of people who go to work every day for the right reasons,” said VA Secretary Shulkin.

“When I was giving testimony in March, I spoke with Congressman Walz about this bill. He said that they were making efforts on this piece of legislation. I am glad that it has come to fruition,” said National Commander COL Carl Singer. JWV welcomes this legislation, and we hope that it brings positive changes for our veterans in need of care.

About Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
Founded in 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is one of oldest active veterans’ organizations 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.