Posts

Member: Aaron Scheinberg

Post: Col. Irving Heymont Post 299

Current Residence: Hedgesville, WV

Military Service: West Point class of ’03 (Mickey Marcus award recipient from JWV), United States Army, Infantry Platoon Leader and Civil Affairs Officer in Iraq (OIF 05-07) with 2-8 Infantry, 4th ID

Member Since Year: 2003

1. What drove you to join the military?

The examples of service from my family and a desire to be part of something bigger than myself. Both my grandfathers served in the Army. My father’s dad, Sam Scheinberg, was a combat engineer in WW2 and helped to liberate France and concentration camps in France and Germany. Both of my parents served in a different way as public educators. I joined the Army through West Point and my younger brother, Joshua, joined the Air Force shortly after 9/11.

2. How did you get introduced to JWV?

I knew of JWV through my grandfather, but really got to know the organization and members as a cadet at West Point. JWV truly helped me get through West Point by building a community at the Jewish Chapel on Post. Members, many who served in WW2, Korea, and Vietnam would sponsor our weekly Shabbat dinners, Sunday bagels, and would always provide mentorship as a group of folks who have been through what we were facing. My wife, Natasha, and I were later married at the West Point Jewish Chapel.

3. What was your most memorable Jewish experience while serving?

Flying from Haswah, Iraq, to Baghdad to meet up with the only Jewish chaplain in Iraq and helping to put on a Passover Seder for Jewish soldiers across theatre. The best part was seeing Jewish West Point graduates who I knew as cadets coming together from bases and outposts all over Iraq.

4. Is there a piece of legislation coming before Congress that you find that will best serve our veterans?

One of the highlights of my career in service is working for Senator Manchin on Veterans legislation. Senator Manchin has been on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee since he was first elected and is very active on veterans issues as West Virginia has one of the highest rates of military service in the country. Right now, a big focus of ours is on economic opportunities for veterans and suicide prevention.

5. What is your favorite movie and does it relate with your experience in the military?

There Will be Blood. I don’t think it relates to my military service, it’s just an awesome movie.

6. Who is your favorite superhero and why?

It’s always been Superman for me. When I was in high school, I won 7 gold medals in the Maccabee Games as a sprinter on the track & field team. I wore a Superman shirt after every event and folks started calling me “The Fastest Jew in America”

7. What is your favorite traditional Jewish food?

Everything bagel, veggie cream cheese, and lox with a side of creamed herring.

By Dr. Marsha Schjolberg, CAPT, MSC, USN (Retired)

In the last issue of The Jewish Veteran, it was reported that suicide prevention and homelessness among veterans are the top two issues that the VA is focused on eliminating. Clearly, these issues are interrelated. We all know that despair and a sense of emptiness hastens the loss of life.

Despite the current climate of economic growth, homelessness among veterans continues to be a growing phenomenon. Although veteran disfranchisement, which plays out as “homelessness” effects every state, the sunbelt states have the largest populations of homeless veterans. It’s hard to be homeless in the winter in North Dakota; not so much on the beaches of Southern California, Florida, and the warm dry climate of Arizona.

As an example, California, which currently represents less than 4% of all enlistees, hosts 24% of all homeless veterans in the United States! According to numerous government studies previously submitted to JWV, 99% of all homeless veterans are enlisted and have served only one enlistment before separating from the service. 98% of all homeless veterans in California are NOT from California. Moreover, the face of the homeless veteran has changed. No longer are we seeing large numbers of Vietnam veterans, but rather young men and a growing number of women with children are sleeping on the streets.
Veterans’ organizations have stepped up to develop post enlistment training centers and homeless shelters. The military has stepped up and enhanced its Transitional Assistance Program (TAP) which helps military forces transition to civilian jobs, and the GI Bill has been enhanced to support both academic universities and technical training programs. Yet the problem grows. Government and support agencies have developed food banks, housing units, training programs as well as psychosocial services, but these agencies often feel like they are swimming against the tide. Why?

An “all volunteer” force attracts a cross section of people. Patriotism with the desire to serve has always been the overriding reason to join the service, but many also join to improve their personal circumstances by leaving undesirable environments and unpleasant family circumstances. The military becomes the new “family.” Once the enlistment ends, the “new family” breaks up. Then what?

As a career Medical Service Corps officer of 28 years with a background in public health, and a doctorate in at risk education/ educational leadership, the issues seems clear. Disenfranchisement is the big nut. In the military each person is part of a team, a family, with a specifically defined role and set of expectations. We are “all in this together.” As a civilian, that same level of support often does not exist.

Moreover, homelessness not only affects that individual veteran and his/her family, but has a major impact on the VA medical system and the veterans living in the area. VAMC’s in sunbelt states are often overwhelmed with long waits to access care, where other states with fewer veterans are not as severely impacted and may have services that are underutilized.
For 25 years I have been volunteering at STAND DOWN, which is part of a national movement to help homeless veterans. Each year, several thousand homeless veterans and their families (kids under 16) gather in cities up and down the coast of California as well as other states.

Veterans spend four days living in a tent city being assisted by physicians, dentists, psychologists, clergy, counselors, and veterans court services. Additionally, they are able to obtain new clothes, job counseling, hair cuts, showers, food, housing information, VA benefit information and even the opportunity to obtain a “free ticket” back home. Last year, I befriended a homeless veteran and his teenage girls at STAND DOWN. He was a former Marine. We talked for a long time. He was part of the unit who brought down Manuel Noriega. He left the service in the 90’s and has been homeless ever since. He thought he could “make it” in San Diego but had no skills beyond being an infantryman and just couldn’t get it together. “Suddenly, I had no one to tell me what to do,” he said. I asked him if he wanted free plane tickets for his family so that he could go home to Kansas City. He declined. He told his parents and friends back home that he was successful and felt that he couldn’t go home a failure. Sadly, his story is not unique. In fact, it is all too common.

However, distance and time change people. We mature and grow. The importance of psycho/social network cannot be overstated. The veteran has a network of high school friends and family to help guide them, provide them with a couch if necessary, and the local veterans groups would be welcoming. Familiarity and a sense of belonging is paramount. It’s a win- win.

So what to do? In 2017, Jewish War Veterans of the United States passed a resolution that would require one time enlistees to be discharged at their place of entry unless they had unique circumstances that would demonstrate a need to stay in their current state. Those circumstances included being married to a working spouse, being accepted to college or trade school in the area, having a post enlistment job offer, or having a medical condition that could only be handled locally. What have we done with that resolution? To my knowledge, nothing!

Fellow veterans, talk is cheap. Let’s be bold and mindful of the end game: the elimination of suicide and homelessness among our fellow veterans. And let’s move forward with our resolution.

Volume 73. Number 2. 2019

By Herb Rosenbleeth

The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia will be turning 50 next year. The League’s sole mission, fully supported for decades by JWV, is “to obtain the release of all prisoners, the fullest possible accounting for the missing and repatriation of all recoverable remains of those who died serving our nation during the Vietnam War.”

JWV has been and is a supporter of the National League of Families in every way we can. Our national commander almost always speaks of the POW-MIA issue during our presentation to a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees each year. JWV flies the POW-MIA flag at every meeting of our national convention and at every meeting of our National Executive Committee. I personally participate at the League’s annual national meeting each June. Our departments and posts keep those who are MIA in their minds.

The National League of Families was founded in the late 1960’s. The US government’s policy was to keep a low profile on the POW/MIA issue and urged families not to publicly discuss the issue. Realizing that this approach was not working, the first POW/MIA story was published in October 1968. Because of that publicity, the families began reaching out to each other and the group began to grow. Some POW/MIA family member groups were able to meet in Paris with the North Vietnamese representatives. Also, thousands of Americans sent telegraphic inquiries concerning the prisoners and the missing, marking the beginning of the issue becoming more widely known.

In May 1970, the League’s charter and by-laws were adopted in a meeting at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. Since that time, a seven-member board of directors has provided guidance and management of the organization.
The League’s national office is in Falls Church, Virginia. It operates under the direction of the Chairman of the Board and is staffed by two full-time employees and two part-time archival document specialists. Ann Mills-Griffiths, MIA sister, is the Chairman of the Board and the principal spokesperson of the League. Ann has been the League’s mainstay since the late 1970’s. Another mainstay of the National League of Families is Richard Childress, who served in Vietnam with JWV’s National Judge Advocate, Harvey Weiner.

As of February, there were still 1,589 American missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. I remember when the number was around 2,500, and I recall going to meetings where live sightings were reported. I also vividly recall when the POW/MIA flag, with the words, “You are not forgotten,” first appeared. The League’s POW/MIA flag is the only flag, other than “Old Glory,” to ever fly over the White House. On March 9, 1989, a POW/MIA flag that had previously flown over the White House was permanently installed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. On August 10, 1990, the 101st Congress passed U.S. Public Law 101-355, which recognized the League’s POW/MIA flag and designated it “as the symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia…” The Department of Veterans Affairs displays the POW/MIA flag 24/7. The National Vietnam Veterans, Korean War Veterans, and World War II Memorials also display the POW/MIA flag daily.

I still have a vivid recollection from my childhood of a POW/MIA case. My mother’s close friend, Mrs. Birnbaum, had a son who was a navigator on bombing missions over Germany. His name was Sanford Birnbaum. Sanford was last seen bailing out of his shot-up plane and was never seen or heard from again. After the war, Mr. and Mrs. Birnbaum traveled to civilian hospitals in Germany to see if they could find him. A missing, unaccounted for individual is a tragedy.
As long as one person remains unaccounted for, JWV will be a supporter of the League.

Volume 73. Number 2. 2019

Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert Wilkie, met with PNC Norman Rosenshein at JWV Headquarters on Friday, June 14, and spoke about his views on serving veterans. Secretary Wilkie and PNC Rosenshein were joined by National Executive Director Herb Rosenbleeth and Veterans Treatment Court judge, Halee Weinstein. Judge Weinstein is a long-time friend of Secretary Wilkie and joined him on a tour of the National Museum of American Jewish Military History.

Secretary Wilkie’s grandfather and father were combat veterans, his father being an Army Lieutenant Colonel. The Secretary himself is an Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Colonel. He is a graduate of the College of Naval Command and Staff, the Air Command and Staff College, the United States War College, and the Joint Forces Staff College. Secretary Wilkie’s extensive military background and experience make him uniquely qualified to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Secretary Wilkie is committed to changing the culture within the VA to make it more accountable and responsive to the needs of veterans. In the past, some senior leaders have exhibited a pattern of mismanagement and lack of integrity. Issues such as falsified waiting time reports, dirty and missing medical equipment and supplies, and other problems that compromised patient safety are now being addressed.

Secretary Wilkie has brought many military people to the VA. His Chief of Staff is a former Air Force Colonel. He appointed a Senior Enlisted Advisor, which the VA has not had since the days of Omar Bradley. These military personnel will help fix the culture at the VA. Leadership will improve.

The newly passed VA Mission Act was the next issue to be discussed. The Mission Act improves the ability of the VA to provide the healthcare veterans need, when and where they need it. It gives veterans the option to seek care in their communities. “It will also put veterans at the center of their care, and offer options, including expanded tele-help and urgent care, so they can find the balance in the system that’s right for them,” said Secretary Wilkie. The Secretary pointed out that there has been a decline in the number of veterans asking to go outside of the VA for their treatment.

Secretary Wilkie is committed to establishing an electronic medical record for all veterans. He sees the creation of a combined DoD/VA medical records as one of his major goals. This record would be available at all physicians appointments.
The Secretary said the greatest problem affecting veterans are mental health issues. Poor mental health is attributable to suicide and addiction. Vietnam veterans are the largest contingent of those needing mental health care. We need a real deep national conversation on mental health.

Right now, veteran suicides occur at the rate of over 20 deaths a day. Secretary Wilkie said his approach is to take the stigma away from getting needed care for mental health issues. Military personnel are often reluctant to seek this type of care for fear that doing so will negatively impact their military career.

Another issue that affects military and veterans is loneliness. Technology and social media give people the illusion of social connectivity, but many people report feelings of isolation. People today often view other people as text messages, not as people. Military personnel lack sufficient contact with others, often because they have become used to texting. Face to face communication, or at least speaking directly to someone would ease some of the feelings of loneliness.

Secretary Wilkie said, “We have lost the ability to be civil.” In the past, opposing politicians would meet informally with each other and have a civil, even friendly conversation, about a divisive issue. Genuine friendships existed between those on opposite sides of an issue. Politicians could talk with each other, but not today.
“I just presented to the Congress a $220 billion budget,” said the Secretary. That is the largest budget in the history of the Department. It will enable the VA to provide many of the services that veterans need.

JWV appreciates that Secretary Wilkie demonstrate the leadership skills needed to accomplish the VA’s important agenda. We enjoyed his visit to our headquarters and we look forward to working with the Secretary and his staff.

Volume 73. Number 2. 2019

NC Barry Schneider testifies before Congress

National Commander Barry Schneider presented JWV’s 2019 legislative priorities before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees on March 12. In his testimony, he focused on the need to increase funding for veteran suicide prevention programs and protect student veterans from predatory for-profit colleges.

NC Schneider urged the committee to make veteran suicide prevention one of its highest priorities. Current research shows that 20 veteran suicides occur every day, and veterans are one and a half times more likely to commit suicide than non-veterans. “Suicide affects everyone—families, friends, and communities,” NC Schneider said. “JWV urges full mental health screening, using all available assessment tools, and full access to veterans facilities for all individuals exiting the military.”

Another top priority presented by NC Schneider were the challenges faced by student veterans. While he praised the Post 9/11 GI Bill and asked Congress to continue its commitment to veterans’ education benefits, he noted that predatory for-profit colleges and training programs have sprung up to take advantage of veterans seeking to use these benefits. These institutions “engage in misleading recruiting practices on military installations, and often fail to disclose meaningful information, preventing potential students to determine if a college has a good record of educating and positioning students for success in the work force.”

NC Schneider informed the committee that, during his travels as national commander, he has seen colleges that excel at supporting veterans. The University of Colorado at Boulder, for example, has established an office of Veteran and Military Affairs (VMA). The VMA is staffed by veterans and provides support to its student veterans during their transition from military to civilian and academic life.

“The Jewish War Veterans,” said NC Schneider, “asks the Department of Veterans Affairs and Congress to establish a ratings system to ensure that all education institutions that receive government funding meet at least minimum requirements and standards of accountability to ensure that our veterans can select, with confidence, a program which will meet their needs.”
Other priorities presented to the committee included reducing veteran homelessness, providing benefits to veterans suffering negative health effects due to burn pit exposure, and caring for Blue Water Navy veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

Volume 73. Number 1. 2019

COL Nelson L Mellitz, USAF, Ret.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference 2019 took place March 24-26, 2019 in Washington, D.C. The AIPAC Conference is the largest gathering of American’s pro-Israel community. Through keynote speeches by American and Israeli leaders and educational sessions, Policy Conference delegates participate in the full scale of pro-Israel activism (reference AIPAC Dashboard: March 28, 2019).

The Jewish War Veterans was there, as AIPAC implemented a U.S. military veteran’s outreach component with breakout sessions, special sessions, and receptions directed to and for U.S. military veterans. Sessions included: Veterans in Politics, Veterans Outreach Welcome Reception, On the Front Lines: Veterans Fighting for a Strong U.S.-Israel Relationship; Veteran Freshman: From One Front Line to Another, etc. There were over 18,000 participants at AIPAC and at each one of these veterans’ related sessions the room was full to overflowing with 100 plus veterans in attendance.

When I asked the AIPAC veterans outreach coordinator how many conference participants are U.S. military veterans he didn’t know, but the number is estimated to be in the thousands. AIPAC leaders are now developing a method to have the veterans self-identify when they register. At the veteran receptions the majority of attendees are under 40 years old and very few are members of JWV.

I attended all of the veterans’ related sessions and had an opportunity to talk with many veterans that served in Afghanistan and Iraq during the last 18 years of war and counting. There were a couple of reasons why they attend AIPAC including support of Israel from generation to generation (grandparents and parents to veteran) and because AIPAC has sent U.S. veterans (Jewish and non-Jewish) to Israel using AIPAC Foundation funding. These veterans interact with Israel Defense Force that have similar combat experiences and post-war recovery treatments, some said that as a result of increased Anti-Semitism in the U.S. it’s time for Jewish veterans to stand up and talk about our unique reasons for serving and what actions we think should be taken to combat Anti-Semitism. In addition, another important reason veterans attend AIPAC is because it’s an opportunity for them to talk to each other about being Jewish while fighting in a war.

AIPAC had fantastic speakers: The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel; Ambassador David Friedman, United States Ambassador to Israel; The Honorable Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States; Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Majority Leader; and many other Democrats, Republicans, and foreign government leaders.

Whenever possible I spoke to the veterans about the benefits to joining JWV and how we can provide similar opportunities to AIPAC. The response was not always positive because some of the veterans had tried to participate at Post levels and were turned off by the bureaucracy and the stagnant leadership. However, I think that all of the reasons given to attend AIPAC can be met by JWV at all echelons, by our Afghanistan and Iraq Committee, internet Post, and Jewish Warriors Post #4.

The mission of AIPAC is to support Israel and they have a vision of using veterans unique outlook to accomplish this mission. I strongly recommend that the Jewish War Veteran leadership send several members to AIPAC 2020 and throughout the year join AIPAC in their outreach to U.S. military veterans. This JWV-AIPAC effort could be a major source for JWV membership and accomplishing our mission of support to Israel, the U.S. military, and veterans.

Volume 73. Number 1. 2019

By Ben Kane

The date was February 20, 1939. It was George Washington’s birthday, and the occasion was being celebrated at a Madison Square Garden event in a way that the event planners thought President Washington would approve of. 20,000 attendees packed the building and eagerly awaited the event’s music, the marching, the flags, and the message of the “Pro American Rally.” Behind the stand where the speech was to be made hung a colossal depiction of Washington. Four American flags of equal size flanked him, but in between these flags, there was no empty space.

In between them were flags featuring a prominent swastika emerging from the letters “AV”, an abbreviation of Amerikadeutscher Volksbund–the German American Bund. A Night at the Garden, the Oscar-nominated short video directed by Marshall Curry, depicts a Nazi rally in America. This “Pro-American Rally” was a celebration of Nazi Germany, of Fascism, and of the wanton destruction of innocent lives. Hiding violent, misplaced hatred behind the thin veneer of patriotism, a Fascist tradition, Bund leader and native German Fritz Kuhn spoke following the Pledge of Allegiance. Several noteworthy lines from his speech are shown in the video:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow Americans, American patriots… You all have heard of me through the Jewish controlled press as a creature with horns, a cloven hoof, and a long tail… We, with American ideals, demand that our government shall be returned to the American people who founded it… if you ask what we are actively fighting for under our charter: first, a socially just, white, Gentile ruled United States; second: Gentile-controlled labor unions, free from Jewish Moscow-directed domination.”
Then, a pause, followed by shouts and fists. A plumber from Brooklyn named Isadore Greenbaum rushes the stage to attack Kuhn but is stopped before reaching him by a group of American Nazis who beat and restrain Greenbaum until the police arrive to take him away. Greenbaum, like a true American patriot, joined the Navy to fight against the forces of evil when Germany declared war on the U.S.

The beating of Greenbaum took place in front of the youths assembled on the stage behind Kuhn, the impressionable teenagers, children, who The camera zooms in on the youths as Greenbaum is taken away, and one of the children dances with glee at the violent spectacle. The parents taught their children to hate through these rallies and through youth camps like the Hitler Youth summer camps in Germany, who then likely taught that hatred to their children, and so on and so forth.

A Night at the Garden demonstrates the depth of depravity that unbridled jingoism and xenophobia invariably lead to. It is worth noting that airtime for a 30 second advertisement for the video was requested during a commercial break on Sean Hannity’s show on the FOX News channel, and the request was denied because the content of A Night at the Garden was considered inappropriate for their audience. There are several positive aspects of the film like the high production quality, the tasteful, unobtrusive music and text, and its historical significance, that warrant a positive review. However, it being scorned by FOX News is reason enough to recommend this to anyone interested in learning of the efforts of Fascists to gain traction and power in America once before.

Volume 73. Number 1. 2019

By COL Nelson L Mellitz, USAF, Retired

There is a battle in the Washington D.C. political world and parts of the Pentagon about establishing an independent armed military service for U.S. command of space. This battle over establishing the “Space Force” involves: politics, costs, benefits, and the risks of creating a brand-new service taking resources away from the current military services.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein are in favor of establishment of a Space Force as long as is done right. President Trump has directed that a “detailed” feasibility study on creating a Space Force be completed and submitted to him within the next few months. Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan is leading a task force that is developing plans to form a Department of the Space Force from mostly the Air Force, with smaller pieces coming from the Army and Navy.

In September 1918, Army Colonel William “Billy” Mitchell led approximately 1,500 Allied aircraft in one of the first large scale air to ground attacks in history at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, France. What COL Mitchell knew and others later realized was that warfare had forever changed and air superiority would play a pivotal role in all future conflicts. World War II proved this to be true, and 29 years later in 1947, Congress passed the National Security Act, creating the U.S. Air Force.

A century later it is time for the U.S. to build a modern and adaptive force capable of protecting our nation from current, emerging, and future threats in space. Our enemies are continuously seeking new ways to challenge our security. Russia, China, Iran, France, Great Britain, Israel, India, to name a few countries have already established a separate “Space Command” military branch. Our military’s ability to defend our interest and guarantee our access to space is a critical national security priority and it is in danger.

At a recent public meeting in D.C. high ranking officials from the Department of Defense, State Department, National Reconnaissance Office, and NASA weighed in on the Space Force proposal – no voices opposing the issue were heard and several specific recommendations on implementation were presented. Speakers at the meeting included Kevin McLaughlin, a three-star general who was deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command during the Obama administration. Lt Gen McLaughlin stressed the need for DoD to create U.S. Space Command as a unified independent military branch. It is imperative that we develop and maintain our technological security and advantage in space. Our way of life depends on technological security and advantage in space, from instantaneous global communications to GPS signals for timing and navigation that enable transportation, commerce, and banking.

While some challenges remain, I support the establishment of a Space Command and the vision it holds to provide our men and women in uniform the resources and authority they need to develop and maintain U.S. military superiority in space. I am confident that the sixth branch of our armed forces will be led by dedicated Americans committed to protecting our freedom in space.

Volume 73. Number 1. 2019

By Ben Kane

A high-quality education, a decent paying job, a life that one can be happy with and proud of. These are things that everyone wants. For veterans, however, it’s what they’ve earned.

In late March, the non-profit organization Veterans Education Success hosted a meeting be-tween numerous veteran’s organizations—including Jewish War Veterans, and Thomas Corbett, Air Force veteran and disillusioned former president of an ITT Technical Institute campus. The purpose of the meeting was to make the numerous veterans’ affairs groups in attendance aware of the predatory methods employed by for-profit educational institutions. If any of their veteran members were targeted by these institutions in the past or are targeted in the future, these organizations now have additional knowledge and resources they can employ to help victims recover.

If you watched enough TV in the early 2000s, you might recall some commercials for ITT Technical Institute. The commercials of this “institute of higher learning” featured your standard middle class, middle American pursuing the American dream and looking for a brighter future and a means to care for their family. The commercials made enticing offers that promoted the vision that a degree from ITT was a calling card to a brighter, more rewarding future.

But ITT Technical Institute was a for-profit college, and an exceptionally predatory one at that. ITT Tech corporate targeted people from all walks of life but was especially zealous in its targeting of members in the veteran community. Thousands of veterans sought the fulfilling educational programs that ITT Tech seemed to offer and used their GI bills to make sure they were able to receive what ITT Tech was offering. Thanks to federal grants and loans, a sizeable number of the student body was lower class or of a military background.

The intention of ITT Tech and other similar predatory for-profit schools was never to give students a high-quality education, but rather to siphon as much money out of them as they could. The cost was higher than advertised, the adjunct professors could hardly be relied upon to be knowledge-able in the subject they taught, school credits could not be transferred, and since anyone could attend ITT Tech if they had a pulse and a GED, the degrees became largely worthless. In addition, the extraordinarily high cost of the school meant that many had to take out loans to afford it, putting in financial peril many of those who assumed they would be virtually guaranteed a high paying job when they graduated. One of the ways ITT Tech and other predatory educational institutions reveals its despera-tion for tuition payment is an excessive persistence to enroll a student. If loans need to be taken for the student to be able to afford enrollment, then so be it. These institutions will do anything they can to get potential students to sign on the dotted line, and excessive persistence on the part of an educational institution should be considered a red flag.

The scheme didn’t last forever, and pressure from the government and from angry current and former students eventually caused the bankruptcy of ITT Tech in 2016, and the $500 million student debt relief settlement in 2018. It is worth noting that even in its death throes, ITT Tech’s incompetence and utter disregard for its students and employees was palpable. Initially promising that all students still enrolled at the time of bankruptcy would be able to complete their education, students, teachers, even administrators of campuses found the doors of those campuses permanently locked with no warning.
ITT Tech was and is no more. However, for-profit “educational institutions” still exist, still prey on unsuspecting students, and may soon see a growth in numbers due to the Trump administrations plans to weaken protections for students.

Fortunately for the veteran community, there are organizations dedicated to helping those who have fallen victim to predatory targeting by for-profit education institutions. If you believe that you or someone you know has been predatorily targeted by a for-profit institution due to your military status, or to get information on student loan forgiveness programs, don’t hesitate to contact one of the many non-profits like JWV and the Veterans Education Success that can and want to help you.

Volume 73. Number 1. 2019

By Harvey Weiner, JWV National Judge Advocate

Sometime around 1982 during the Galilee War, my wife and I were asked to host a dinner for a visiting retired Israel Defense Force (IDF) general, who was in the United States recruiting civilian volunteers to come to Israel to help the IDF in support positions. We had a pleasant evening with Dr. Aharon Davidi (z”l), the former head of the IDF Paratroopers and Infantry Corps. Over cognac, about which the general was an expert, I somehow promised him that I would eventually participate in his program if it came to fruition. As a result of his efforts, in the spring of 1983, “Sar-El”, —the National Project for Volunteers for Israel – was founded as a non-profit, non-political organization. “Sar-El” is the Hebrew acronym meaning “Service for Israel.”

Each year since then, volunteers, including those in their 70’s and 80’s, work on non-combat IDF bases throughout Israel doing support work for a one to three week period. Although such volunteers are civilians and not members of the IDF, they are led by madrachot, who are IDF soldiers. Volunteers work on a Sunday through Thursday schedule doing work such as quartermaster/supply work, base maintenance, maintenance and equipment repair, kitchen work or construction. Weekends are for traveling, sightseeing and visiting family and friends. There are frequent interesting lectures and question and answer sessions with Sar-El and military personnel. Of course, you work side by side with IDF soldiers, many of whom are now proud owners of Boston Red Sox pens. Alas, there are no JWV pens!

The free facilities are spartan and not a little nostalgic. Volunteers live in communal barracks in sleeping bags on cots with communal bathrooms. There is no central heat or air conditioning. Hot water is at a premium. Men and women are housed separately, including married couples. The mess hall food, however, is filling.

In December, 2015, over thirty-three years after I had rashly made a promise to the General, I spent two weeks for Sar-El in an army base in central Israel. Better late than never. We were a group of fourteen and worked very hard collecting, inventorying and crating military supplies, particularly tank maintenance equipment and parts. One of our speakers told us that Sar-El volunteers have unusually high productivity, presumably because they are motivated and because they only have a very short time commitment. There is both an initiation ceremony, during which the Sar-El epaulettes are placed on you, and a graduation ceremony, during which you receive the Sar-El pin and a Certificate of Appreciation.

The makeup of Sar-El volunteers is diverse. About 4,000 volunteers come per year and in 2014 they were from 51 countries. Tellingly, in 2014, France had the most volunteers with 1,161 with the U.S. having 938. France, of late, has the most people making Aliyah. In our group of fourteen, there were volunteers from Canada, England and South Africa, as well as the United States, and we were joined for a brief period on our bus by a small group from Hungary and Holland. There was also a Christian in our group, who is an avid supporter of Israel. Most of my Sar-El volunteer group were repeats and one woman in our group was there for the 13th time. The group bonded and there was a great sense of camaraderie and friendship, as well as a lot of laughs.

One day, the group went north of Haifa on a tour of the Ghetto Fighters’ Museum and there became the first to plant yellow daffodils in Israel as part of Project Daffodil, whereby it is intended to plant 1.5 million daffodils throughout the world in memory of the 1.5 million children who were murdered in the Shoah. (See daffodilproject.net )

There are no upper age limits for volunteers, and there were two volunteers in our group in their 70’s, but one should be relatively fit and healthy and willing to work. I was given one of the daily honors of raising the Israeli flag on the Israeli base followed by the singing of Hatikvah. My ancestors (and General Davidi) would have kvelled. (Many of the facts above are taken from the Sar-El website).

You can tie in a Sar-El experience prior to the JWV Israel trip, as did Membership Chair Barry Lischinsky, or you can do it independently, as I did and as National Quartermaster Nelson Mellitz did.

Volume 73. Number 1. 2019