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The Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. (JWV) strongly condemns the anti-Semitic comments, tweets and hate-filled language espoused by Minnesota 5th District Representative Ilhan Omar. We’re angered by the attacks on Jewish elected leaders and organizations, and find that her comments are completely unacceptable for any person assigned to any committee, but most especially the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

In her time as the representative of Minnesota’s 5th District, she has been linked to organizations that have known deep terrorism ties and has been quoted attacking and intimidating people and organizations that are pro-Israel.

We, the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. are requesting that Representative Omar be removed from her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and be reprimanded for her comments, which do not reflect the values of our organization or our nation.

Post/Command: Post 158 Old Dominion of Tidewater (effectively Southeast Virginia)

Current Residence: Norfolk, VA

Military Service dates: 1999-2019 (from 1995-1999 I was enlisted in the reserves while attending college)

Member since year:  Oh, around about 2006’ish tried to work with the post in Jacksonville Florida, but nothing ever came of it.

  1. When and why did you serve in the military?

– Enlisted in the reserves in 1995 and commissioned in 1999.  It is our duty as Americans to serve our country in one form or another.  For me, it seemed like a good fit to do this through naval service vice some other civil service.  But, if you ask my good Jewish mother (sorry to keep referencing her but she is prolific in my life) I did it just to upset her.  I’ve never disputed that claim.

  1. How did you get introduced to JWV?

– I do not remember, just heard about it one day while stationed in San Diego, I was on sea duty with 1, 2, 3, 5 small children so did not follow up with it till much later.

  1. What is a program that JWV offers, in which you would like to be more involved with, and why?

– The main mission, Veterans Affairs.

  1. What is an American tradition that makes you the proudest?

– Being an American, there is a lot to be proud of.

  1. What is the best military Jewish holiday story you have?

– There I was in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba it was the 5th night of Hanukkah 2008 and my ship had bulled in for a brief refueling and resupplying.  There was a cool breeze blowing off of the Caribbean through the old battle field that was the Cuzco Well, and shaking the windows of the O’Kelly’s Irish Pub where my local detachment of American Jews had lit the menorah for the fifth night.  Through the flicker of these holy lights USMC Sargent C. Fox commenced to debrief the story of Hanukkah as only a Jewish Marine from West Virginia could…  I have tried to tell his story over again cleaning out the language and “civilian-izing” it, but it does not have the same comical punch to it!  This kid got so into telling the story about Judah Maccabi set up irregular gorilla operations against the Syrians through physical gestures (theatrics) of mock up squad  tactics (he got fellow Sailors and Marines to participate) and close order combat.  He really got into it.  We laughed so hard, I don’t think I had ever heard or seen anything so funny in my entire life!  Give me some time and I will try to recreate it….  It was funny.

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

– First off, any movie with John Wayne is top!  “In Harm’s Way,” “They Were Expendable,” “Operation Pacific,” et cetera!  But if you want a movie my wife says represents me it would be “The Last Detail.”  She says they managed to break my personality down into the three main characters.  Truth is my career has been more of a “Down Periscope” than anything else.

  1. Do you prefer Latkes or donuts on Hanukkah?

– Bourbon, was that a choice?

Cub Scout Pack 210 proudly display their new Scout Pack charter. The charter is the first Shomer Shabbat/Kosher Cub Scout Family Pack in the nation.

By Stephen Troy, Post 210-AZ

December 2, 2018 was a very special day for the Jewish Community in Phoenix as the first Shomer Shabbat / Kosher Cub Scout Family Pack in the nation was chartered. A Family Pack is a new concept in scouting where both boys and girls are in the same pack and can earn the same awards, however in our pack they are in separate dens.

The Ceremony was held at Beth El Congregation in Phoenix. Many scouting executives of the Grand Canyon Council of the Scouts of America were in attendance.

The ceremony began with Cubmaster Gavi Tabor welcoming everyone and having the Cub Scouts lead in the Pledge Allegiance to the Flag, the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. Herb Cohn, from the Catalina Council Jewish Committee on Scouting in Tucson, gave the opening prayer. This was the first day of Chanukah and Bennett Cooper, the Ritual Vice President of Beth El, with the assistance of Andy Price, the new scout executive for the Grand Canyon Council, lit the first candle for the beginning of the holiday

Fernando Gomez, executive with the Central District Scouts of America, presented Anita Gettleson, Chair of the Grand Canyon Council Jewish Committee on Scouting, with an award for founding the new Cub Pack.

After that, Shari Judah, the Cub Pack advancement chair, presented the Bobcat Award to several of the Scouts.

Andy Price, the new scout executive for the Grand canyon Council of Phoenix, presented Major Steven Troy of JWV Post 210 and the chartered organization representative of the Pack with the official charter.

After the ceremony the Scout project for the night was to make Menorahs.

Volume 72. Number 4. Winter 2018

Medal of Honor. Photo Credit: Netflix.

by Harrison Heller, Membership Coordinator

On November 9, Netflix premiered its new docuseries entitled Medal of Honor. The series shares the stories of eight veterans who served from World War II to the Global War on Terror. For season one, Medal of Honor features the stories of: SGT. Sylvester Antolak (WW2), SSGT. Clint Romesha (Afghanistan), SFC. Edward Carter (WW2), SSGT. Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura (Korea), MSG. Vito Bertoldo (WW2), CPL. Joseph Vittori (Korea), CMSGT. Richard L. Etchberger (Vietnam) and SSGT. Ty M. Carter (Afghanistan).

Each episode is an individual story and details “the worst day of their lives”. The stories are re-enacted and told by military historians, witnesses, and sometimes even the recipient. Medal of Honor shares some amazing stories about some of our nation’s bravest heroes. The stories of Staff Sergeants Clint Romesha and Ty Carter are from the same battle, a Taliban assault on Combat Outpost Keating. This is the first time since Vietnam that the Medal of Honor was awarded to two survivors of the same battle. Medal of Honor is a must watch and a must binge.

One story that truly stood out to me was that of Staff Sergeant Edward Carter, Jr. The child of an African American father and East Indian mother, Carter was raised in India and Shanghai, China. Carter’s parents were missionaries and were constantly on the move. Edward Carter was a born soldier. In 1932 he ran away from home to serve with the Chinese Nationalist Army. After it was discovered that he was only 15, he was forced to leave the Nationalist Army. A short time later, he found his way to Europe and served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. The Lincoln Brigade was a group of American volunteers who served in the Spanish Civil War, which fought against the regime of General Francisco Franco.

In 1941, Edward Carter entered the Army. Due to his previous combat experience, Carter stood out among the other recruits and in less than year, he achieved the rank of staff sergeant. In 1944, he was deployed to Europe and was assigned to supply duties. General Eisenhower ran short of combat-arms replacements in December 1944 and instituted the volunteer Ground Force Replacement Command for rear-echelon soldiers of all races. At the height of Carter’s career, he served as one of General George S. Patton’s guards.

After months of volunteering, Carter’s platoon made it to the frontlines and was assigned to the “Mystery Division”. When Carter was assigned to this unit, he went from staff sergeant to a private. This was because his superiors would not allow an African American to command white troops. One thing to keep in mind, America was fighting one of the most racist regimes in world history, Nazi Germany, yet our own military was still segregated.

On March 23, 1945, while scouting with his platoon, the tank that was carrying Carter was hit by bazooka fire. Carter quickly dismounted,confronted his superior officer and asked to go across and examine a nearby open field, where he noticed a mortar crew and 2 machine gun nests. The officer first told him no, due to his rank. Carter replied that he held the rank of staff sergeant before going to the frontlines.

Carter entered the open field with three other African American troops. In the field, Carter was able to get a better view of the situation. He told his troops to run back and that he will continue forward. Two of his troops were killed and one was severely wounded. Carter continued deeper into the open field alone. He was wounded five times before taking cover. As eight German soldiers scan the field in an attempt to capture Carter, he sprung up and killed six Germans and captured two. While limping and using the two captured Germans as a shield, he was able to interrogate them. The Germans gave Carter valuable information on enemy-troop positions. For this Carter was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He was also awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and many other citations and awards.

In 1949 Edward Carter tried to re-enlist in the Army. Due to unfounded allegations, as a result of his time serving with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, he was denied. They believed that he had communist contacts and allegiances. Carter died of lung cancer on January 30, 1963, attributed to shrapnel remaining in his neck. He was 47 years old. He was buried in Sawtelle National Cemetery in Los Angeles.

In 1992, John Shannon, Secretary of the Army, commissioned an independent study to identify unrecognized African American heroes from World War II. The study was completed in 1996, under the name “The Exclusion of Black Soldiers from the Medal of Honor in World War II.” On January 13, 1997, SSgt Edward Allen Carter, Jr’s Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton at a White House ceremony. SSgt Carter’s body was exhumed and relocated to Arlington National Cemetery, where he was laid to rest with full honors.

As part of the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, there is a hall dedicated to the many African Americans who served in the American armed forces from the American Revolution to current War on Terror. There is a section dedicated to African Americans who were awarded the Medal of Honor. On your next trip to Washington, DC, we recommend that you a make a stop at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. If you bring your Military ID, you can skip the line and enter without a reservation.

As the series Medal of Honor grows, it is the hope of the Jewish War Veterans that they include the stories of our Jewish heroes who were awarded this highest honor.

Volume 72. Number 4. Winter 2018

Screenshot from film. Photo Credit: HBO.

By Sabrina Fine, Communications Intern

Crisis Hotline: Veteran Press 1 is a HBO documentary film in association with Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) that chronicles veteran crisis line counselors.   It gives insight to day and night conversations with veterans on the verge of suicide or having suicidal thoughts.   The only Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) Center is in Canandaigua, New York.

The documentary produced by Dana Perry and directed by Ellen Goosenberg Kent is both educational and tear-jerking.  The fact that 22 veterans take their own life each day makes the counselor’s job matters of life and death.  The counselors are at the frontline of the battle of saving veterans from suicide.  VCL counselors are seen in the opening of the documentary with either hands pressed against their foreheads or stoic and professional as they recite words such as “I know you said you have a knife nearby you. Do you agree to not use that knife while I put you on hold?”  Another counselor says “putting a gun in your mouth is not an option we want to discuss today, sir.”  The call center receives more than 22,000 calls a month.

“You have five children, you have a wife and you have a lot to live for,” says one counselor named Darlene. Her voice is calm, but her eyes are fearful as she speaks with a former Marine who says he is a weapon to himself and suffers from recurring nightmares and having flashbacks.   “I am not going to leave you; I am not going to go anyway.”  Eventually a wellness check is sent to his home and Darlene briefly speaks with the Marine’s wife before she is abruptly hung up on.

The documentary is hard to watch yet it feels like a significant insight to the extreme suffering that some veterans feel.   To fully comprehend the documentary, you can watch it on HBO.  JWV supports IAVA in their continued campaigns that battle the veteran suicide rates.

Post 243 at the Children’s Hospital.

by Greg Woodfield

On the wall of David Magidson’s home study is a framed photo. It was taken in Washington DC and David is standing in a group with Barack Obama. The picture is one of a number on quiet display and there is a humble pride in the way David singles it out. Yet it is not vanity from being photographed next to a two-term sitting president at the nation’s capital that means so much to him. It is the reason that he was there that is crucial. He is representing Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America. David explains, “Every year we go to Congress for a week, and we talk about veterans and we talk about Israel. And we get stuff done. That is a measure of the regard in which the organization is held.”

This past president of Temple Judea is passionate about his continued role as a national officer in the organization. While JWV has a distinguished history, David is still fighting to correct erroneous perceptions that linger about the Jewish contribution to the military. According to David, “It remains crucial to let everyone know that Jews have served the United States honorably and courageously and continue to do so.”

David, who spent a year in Madrid studying Spanish before his Army service, speaks with humor and nostalgia about his introduction to the military in 1967. After being commissioned, he was posted to the Miami field office of the 111th Military Intelligence Group as an operations officer. Upon leaving the Army, David stayed in Miami and graduated in law to add to his undergraduate degree in Spanish from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Thus, his involvement with the Jewish War Veterans also began. He joined Coral Gables post 243, rising to become post commander, then National Judge Advocate followed by in 2005 by the top job of National Commander.

More than half a million Jews served in World War II, and David recognizes this figure might be a surprise even to Jewish people. To him, it is perception influencing reality. The perception even within our own communities that Jews have traditionally sought non-military roles in life. And the reality is that Jews served here as early as the American Revolutionary War. David cites three significant victories accomplished by JWV in recent years. He explains that “First there was no GI Bill after Vietnam and we played a significant part in getting it reintroduced. After, we had a Congress bill passed in which we got the President and the Defense Department to revisit all the Jewish servicemembers who won the Distinguished Service Cross, but not the Medal of Honor. We believed many didn’t get the higher honor because of anti-Semitism. Many were upgraded and now we have 17 Medal of Honor recipients.”

JWV’s latest battle felt particularly painful on an emotional level. Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, claimed American Jews never send their children to fight for their country. Her comments in November last year drew withering criticism in the United States. And a hasty apology left out Jewish Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, further inflaming the situation. David was one of the past JWV national commanders to sign a letter to Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. demanding Ms Hotovely apologize directly to Jewish veterans of all conflicts. This she did. That home truth was illustrated following David’s powerful words at the Friday night Shabbat service before Memorial Day this year, which was dedicated to veterans.

After he spoke, a haunting slideshow of the 58 Jewish servicemembers who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan emphasized the commitment and sacrifice. They were people, not statistics. According to David, “After I spoke, Rabbi Jonathan Fisch asked all those who had served in the military to stand up. People stood. He then asked those who had brothers or sisters or father or mothers who served to stand up. And the number of people on their feet grew and grew. We had nearly three quarters of the congregation standing up.”

Closer to home, David’s son Ben was an intelligence officer attached to an infantry battalion, serving 15 months in Afghanistan. David recalls: ‘I remember when Ben finally came back and for some reason I’m looking through his duffel bag. And I say “what’s this?” He says casually, “It’s the Bronze Star”. I say, “I never knew”.’

Volume 72. Number 4. Winter 2018

Post 210 in parade

By Steven Troy, Post 210 Adjunct

Several members of Scottsdale Post 210 spent many hours on Friday November 9 and Sunday November 11, in front of 5 FRY’S  food stores collecting for Veterans organizations that they support, to include The Arizona State Veterans Home in Phoenix, Packages from Home, the National Cemetery in Phoenix and others. It was a successful weekend of the generosity from FRY’S patrons.  Some of the Post members that collected were Commander Rochel Hayman, Michael & Ahuva Chambers, Steven Troy, Juli Altman & David Woodland, Jonathan Sorrell & Millie Rogowin.  See pictures 1,2,3.

Another venture of Scottsdale Post 210 of the Jewish War Veterans was to Charter Cub Scout Pack 210.  On Sunday night November 12, members of the Jewish Cub Scout Pack 210 attended an American Flag Retirement Ceremony at North Mountain Park, Yavapai Ramada.  In addition to many Cub Scouts and older Scouts there were representatives from both The Grand Canyon Council and the Central District of the Scouts of America.  After several speeches Phoenix Councilwoman Debra Stark presented the first folded flags to be retired to the Scouts from Pack 210.  Troop 41 and Troop 329 then continued to retire more than 100 flags.  During the event, a bugler played.  Only cloth flags were retired.

According to the U.S. Flag Code:  The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. 

The Cub Scouts that attended learned the proper way to fold the flag and to retire it.  This was a valuable ceremony that not many get to observe.

The last event, of the weekend, that Scottsdale Post 210 and Cub Scout Pack 210 participated in was in the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade in downtown Phoenix on November 12th.   The parade this year had Loretta Swit as its Celebrity Grand Marshal along with Eight Veteran Grand Marshals, representing each era of military service from World War II to present day.  The Post and pack were fortunate to partner with the Arizona Military Vehicle Collectors Club and ride in two of their vehicles. A WWII Jeep and a 5-ton troop carrier with no top.  The parade route took us through the streets crowded with cheering people.  The Scouts and veterans waved at all and had a ride to remember.    See pictures 8, 9, 10.

Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV) is the voice of the Jewish serviceperson and friend to all veterans. Formed in New York in 1896 after the American Civil War, the Jewish veteran group was known as the Hebrew Union Veterans Association. The union fought anti-Semitism in the Armed Forces and the general public. Seeking to prove that Jews do proudly serve and fight in the US Armed Forces, the union evolved with each war, eventually taking the name we know today – JWV. With over 120 years of service, JWV is the oldest, continuously operating Veteran Service Organization in the country.

 

Sheila doing the pledge with Allentown Jewish Day School.

By Ben Kane, Programs Assistant

Post Commander Sheila Berg of Lehigh Valley Post 239 is no stranger to the JWV and its community outreach programs. Sheila serves not just as a Project Maggid speaker, but also as JWV’s Chairwoman of the Women in the Military Committee and has previously served as an NEC for the Department of Pennsylvania. Recently, Sheila was a participant in a Veterans Day ceremony at the Allentown Jewish Day School, where she shared her story with the students.

Retired Senior Master Sergeant Sheila Berg, originally from Westbury, Long Island, joined the United States Air Force reserves in 1980 because she wanted to serve our country and sought a challenge. For 14 years, she served as a jet-engine mechanic in and around Dover Air Force Base. She also deployed to Iraq during the Gulf War. After 14 years as a jet engine mechanic, Berg became 1st Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of Family Readiness for the Reserves at Dover and was called up to Active Duty for 3 years. In 2009, SMSG (ret) Sheila Berg decided to hang up her hat from the military, and she decided to give her experience and expertise to JWV and the Jewish community.

Sheila with the 7th Grade group.

During this Veterans Day, she first joined the Middle School students of Allentown Jewish Day School for a flag raising ceremony, and following that, she gave a talk to the students at an assembly. Several guests, high ranking military personnel and representatives joined her for this talk, including Rabbi (Lieutenant Commander) Seth Phillips, State Representative Michael Schlossberg, Naval Commander Sean Boyle, Captain and Jewish Day School (JDS) parent Kristen Johnson, and JDS teacher and IDF veteran Merav Wirthiem.

“It was an educational and interesting assembly, with a great deal of wisdom imparted to the students,” said Sheila. The assembly concluded with Rabbi Lieutenant Commander (Ret.) Seth Phillips remarking that “people in uniform are the most peace loving of all, because we know the cost. We don’t long for a fight. We wish we all could live in Shalom”.

Speakers, like Sheila, go out into Jewish communities through JWV’s Project Maggid storyteller program. To date. it has proven itself to be a very popular program with over 100 speakers telling stories of Jewish veterans in 2018. Any veteran interested in being a Project Maggid speaker is invited to reach out to JWV National Headquarters and learn how you can become one.

Volume 72. Number 4. Winter 2018

Post 373 Members with JROTC Group

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.

Post 373 Members with Beth Am Youth Group.

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.

By Steve Krant, Post 256 Commander

Maury Schermann, a 95-year old Army Air Corps veteran of World War II and a long-time member of Dallas Post 256, was honored in a surprise ceremony at his favorite location of the Original Pancake House restaurant chain on Veteran’s Day weekend. Mark Davis Bailey, co-owner of the eight-location DFW group, presented Maury with a Stars & Stripes-themed quilt hand-crafted by his mother Betty.

Maury & Betty

“Mr. Schermann has been more of a blessing to [our] team and guests than we could ever be to him. He won’t even let us buy his meal,” said Bailey. “His upbeat outlook, friendly personality and determination to keep serving inspires us all.” Bailey noted that over 12+ years as an OPH regular, Schermann has raised a great deal of money to help provide aid to American veterans. He is estimated to have raised about $100,000 in support of JWV’s efforts benefitting local hospitalized and homeless veterans. The money used goes to benefits for veterans like holiday visits and gift bags, special occasion meal events, and VA facility upgrades such as recreation and therapy room equipment.

Schermann’s devotion to all things “veteran” and his warm personality have endeared him to customers of the Original Pancake House, as well as to the management team. He’s become an honorary member of the Bailey family, and regular patrons of the establishment often ask about Maury if he’s not seated at his customary table near the entrance, generally with a JWV donation bucket close by.