By Larry Jasper
Meet Selina Kanowitz, the current Commander of the Department of New Jersey and a woman of many talents.
Kanowitz joined JWV Post 215 in Philadelphia in 1991. Prior to becoming Department Commander, she served as Junior Vice Commander, Senior Vice Commander, and Commander of Post 126 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and also served in parallel positions at the department level. Her father and her father-in-law were also JWV members.
Kanowitz grew up in Pennsylvania, graduated from Penn State University with a BS in Education and Pre-med and Westchester State University with a degree in Safety Ed. Her husband is an attorney and they have been married for 43 years. She has two children, a son who took two years of Army ROTC while in Penn State University, and a daughter.
Her family has a long history of military service. Her father served as a medic in World War II where he earned a Purple Heart. Also in WWII, one her uncles was a very lucky man. He was wearing a mezuzah around his neck when he was shot and fortunately the bullet hit the mezuzah and saved his life. Two of her uncles served in Korea.
When she took basic training, she was the only Jew in her unit, was dorm chief, and had the nickname Private Benjamin. After basic she served in the Air Force Reserve with the 913th Tactical Clinic, part of the 913 Combat Support Squadron, in radiology, eventually rising to be the NCOIC of the section. She did her annual training at major hospitals around the United States, England, Germany, and Japan, helping in different areas of the hospitals. She also took survival training in Texas. She was activated during Operation Desert Storm but remained stateside at McGuire AFB in New Jersey. 350 members of her unit were deployed worldwide, and all returned safely.
During her career she had a couple of opportunities for a Direct Commission but each time she was bumped for unexplained reasons. She retired in 1998 as an E-7, having served over 21 years.
Kanowitz, in her current JWV position, has goals to bring in more members, especially female veterans, increase the visibility of the command, increase community outreach, reduce antisemitism, and travel the state to meet with the governor and members of the department. She feels that a personal touch is a great way to improve retention, build unit cohesiveness, and give the members a good feeling about the leadership.
Kanowitz has been a figure skater for 30 years, likes horseback riding, a pastime for which she won a blue ribbon in jumping, and loves her 39-year-old red-lored amazon parrot. She also loves languages and travel.
She feels the military gave her opportunities that she would not have had otherwise. Her desire is to educate others so they too can gain those opportunities.
Volume 76. Number 4. 2022