By Larry Jasper, Post 373 Commander
Congregation Beth Am (Tampa) hosted about 200 teens from around Florida for the annual Hatikva Kallah on Veteran’s Day weekend. Post 373 was asked to present the colors as the youth group chose to honor veterans during the weekend.
The following morning we were requested to present the colors at Congregation Rodeph Shalom (Tampa) where all veterans were honored on the Bima and asked to briefly speak about their service or the service of a family member. Over 50 congregants came up for this honor. As it was Shabbat, not photos were available.
On Sunday, Veterans Day, the post did our collections in front of 7 stores in the Tampa area. Members of the Alonzo High School JROTC assisted us (see photo below). The funds raised are used to support the disabled veterans at the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa. For those who are ambulatory (all in wheel chairs), the post provides monthly outings to lunch at local restaurants, trips to Tampa Ray’s baseball games, Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey games, and other local events. We provide comfort items and in-house entertainment for those veterans who are confined due to serious spinal injuries.
After our collections we were invited by the Tampa JCC & Federation to once again present the colors, this time during their annual Jewish Book Festival event. We were treated to a presentation by the author, Dick Berman, of his book The Machalniks. This is a story of the birth of the Israeli Air Force. American veteran WWII pilots and philanthropists made it possible to get aircraft, pilots, and armament to Israel and turn the tide of possible annihilation when the neighboring Arab nations attacked the new State of Israel on May 15, 1948.
The following Sunday, November 18th, we had our monthly meeting and after the meeting we went to Congregation Schaarai Zedek (Tampa) where the annual 8 Over 80 event was held. Jewish organizations in the Tampa area are able to nominate individuals who are over 80 and have made significant contributions to the Jewish Community. This event is sponsored by the Weinberg Village, a senior home owned and operated by the Tampa JCC and Federation. They select 8 people from the nominees and this year our own Past Commander, Jack Rudowsky, was chosen to be honored.
A few days later, our post took disabled veterans from the VA hospital to lunch at Sonny’s Bar B Q. (See photos below). We are allowed to take photos of the veterans with their permission but we are prohibited from using their names. During the lunch, one of the WWII vets asked me if I knew about the Ritchie Boys from WWII. I told him I did not but I would check up on the reference. What I found was that there was a secretive group during the war, about 2,200 of whom were Jews who escaped Nazi Germany and volunteered to go back to Europe to spy on, capture, and interrogate the Nazi prisoners. They had an incredible advantage as they knew the culture, language, and terrain. There is a book written about them titled Sons and Soldiers, the untold story of the Jews who escaped the Nazis and returned with the U. S. Army to fight Hitler. An incredible story!
December 6th is Jewish Heritage Night at the Amalie Arena where the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team will play the Boston Bruins. The local Chabad will be doing a Chanukah candle lighting and our Post 373 will present the colors on the ice at the start of the game.
As you can see, for post 373, Veterans Day never ends.