By Dr. Barry Schneider
Ft. Worth Post 755 and past TALO Department Commander
Twenty-two cadets from the Air Force Academy, Virginia Military Academy (VMI), Amherst, Princeton, and Colorado State met for a weekend of comradeship and learning at the annual Jewish Warrior Weekend: Aggieland, which took place from April 14-16, 2017 at Texas A&M University. Three of the four military branches were represented.
The cadets arrived in College Station on Friday and celebrated Shabbat at Hillel with a welcome from Brigadier General Joe Ramirez, the Commandant of the Corps of Cadets. He expressed great appreciation for everything Jewish Military members have done for the country from the beginning at New Amsterdam to the present.
After a lecture and update on Middle East politics from Andrew Ashford of AIPAC, the cadets were treated to a late night showing of “True Honor,” a documentary about Jewish Medal of Honor Recipients created by the JWV Department of California. The cadets were really taken with Tibor Rubin’s story and interview- they loved his quote about praying “to anyone who would listen.” A special thank you to Greg Lee and the Department for making the film available to the cadets.
Shabbat morning services were held at the College Station A&M Chabad house followed by a great (Passover) lunch and learn session with the Rabbi’s wife. Throughout the day there were campus tours, speakers on leadership, and a visit to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. It was clear that the cadets were engaged and attentive; they clearly appreciated opportunity to meet and talk with each other, military personnel, and veterans.
Former Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz shared his thoughts on service and leadership with the cadets, and the importance of making good decisions. Major General David Rubenstein spoke about how the military helped him define his own career path, and the role Jewish cadets play as America’s next leaders. He emphasized that you can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself; don’t let emotions cloud your judgement.
Cadet Daniel Rosenfield commented, “Jewish Warrior Weekend solidified my commitment to the military and the Jewish people. As future Jewish military officers, we must remember that we are defenders of the United States, while ensuring we remain steadfast advocates for our Jewish community. Hearing from active-duty and veteran Jewish military officers rekindled that sense of patriotism and pride.”
The conference ended Sunday morning with a round table discussion featuring Chaplain (Maj) Sarah Schechter, USAF Academy Chaplain, Chaplain (Capt.) Menachem Stern, Ft. Hood Chaplain, and Herschel Sheiness, Commander of San Antonio Post 753. I moderated the panel as they chatted about leading the Jewish people, JWV’s role in helping veterans, personal experiences in the military, and interesting anecdotes from the panel members.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the whole weekend was being able to get to know the cadets individually. We talked about our backgrounds, my deployments, and made both personal and military connections. In addition to sponsoring the event, JWVF purchased kippot for each of the participants and I also gave them lapel pins with the Israeli flag and the Texas state flag- that definitely garnered a few laughs.
Jewish Warrior Weekend is a wonderful opportunity for young cadets to meet other Jewish officers and develop a sense of comradeship; they known they are not alone. JWV’s role for the future is even clearer: we must let cadets and military personnel know that we are available, we will support them.
I am thrilled that the Jewish War Veterans Foundation sponsored this wonderful event. We can’t wait to see what happens next year!
Volume 71. Number 2. Summer 2017