By Greg Byrne
The Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. held its 124th National Convention in Richmond, Virginia, while the JWV Ladies Auxiliary met for their 91st National Convention. Delegates from around the country gathered from August 18-23 to hear from speakers, participate in workshops, and conduct the business of the organization.
Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Byrne gave the keynote address and updated members on current initiatives at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He spoke about a period of transformation happening at the VA with four priorities set by Secretary Robert Wilkie. The priorities include improving customer service, implementing the VA Mission Act, systems modernization, and collaborating with the Department of Defense (DOD) to implement an electronic medical records system. Secretary Byrne said the Mission Act has offered veterans choice in their healthcare decisions by allowing them to seek care in their communities when their nearest VA facility is too far away or doesn’t offer a service. He also highlighted the importance of the collaboration between the VA and DOD to give caregivers a complete view of a patient’s medical history, beginning with their initial exam in boot camp.
Retired Navy Rear Adm. Paul Becker reflected on his 30 years of service as a Naval Intelligence Officer. A member of Commodore Levy Post 380 in Annapolis, Maryland, Becker spoke about leadership and how his Jewish faith inspired him to serve.
Rabbi Irv Elson, Director of the Jewish Welfare Board Jewish Chaplains Council (JWB), spoke to the convention about an exciting new collaboration between the JWB and JWV. The Jews in Green Weekend will bring together Jewish military personnel for fellowship, to share resources, and to build a community, so that when these Jews leave the military, we’ll be able to connect them with their local JWV post or JCC.
Major General Baruch Levy, formerly of Tzevet, the Israel Defense Forces veterans’ organization, gave a briefing on the current situation in Israel and outlined some of his country’s many achievements. Israel is at the center of advancements in medicine and technology, and ranks among the happiest nations in the world. He noted that Jewish Americans should take pride in Israel’s achievements because the unity between the State of Israel and the Jewish American community has been of great importance to Israel’s success.
The Military Coalition President Jack DuTeil continued the discussion on Israel by talking about his experience on this year’s Allied Veterans Mission to Israel. He described the Mission as “the trip of a lifetime.” The trip left him with a lasting appreciation for the people of Israel and the importance of the Israeli/American alliance in the region.
In addition to hearing from speakers, delegates participated in workshops where they could learn skills to help lead their posts and departments when they returned home. Past Department Commander Alan Paley of the Department of Florida and Post Commander Steven Krant of Post 256 in Dallas led a session on leadership, where they discussed best practices for department and post management. The workshop was well-received, and plans are in place for a follow-up session at NEC in February.
A fundraising session led by Lauren Gross of Global Impact provided attendees with fundraising strategies to help support their echelons’ programs. More information on this session can be found in the Membership section of this issue.
The Resolutions Committee met several times to consider proposed resolutions to bring to the convention floor for a vote. Twenty of these proposals were approved at the convention and will be part of JWV’s legislative priorities for the coming year. A complete list of the resolutions passed at convention can be found on our website.
Delegates also considered several proposed amendments to the National Constitution and Bylaws. After a review by the Constitution and Bylaws Committee, the convention approved two constitutional amendments and one amendment to the bylaws. Further explanation of these changes can be found in National Commander Harvey Weiner’s article in this issue.
The final event of the convention was the National Commander’s Banquet honoring outgoing National Commander Barry Schneider. During his term, Schneider travelled more than 71,000 miles and visited members in 22 state. The evening concluded with the installation of the new National Commander, Harvey Weiner of the Department of Massachusetts.
Thank you to all who participated in this year’s convention, and we hope to see you next August in Jacksonville, Florida.
Volume 73. Number 3. 2019