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By CDT Jacob Widman

Jewish Warrior Weekend was hosted this semester by Texas A&M University in College Station. This semester, 53 cadets and midshipmen were able to participate in this wonderful event. Events that they were able to participate in include: learning the basics of how to be a lay leader, listen to speeches by high ranking officers on being Jewish in the Armed Forces in this day and age, meet other future officers in the military, and speaking to Chaplains on tips and tricks of being Jewish in the Armed Forces.

The Jewish Warrior Weekend Program is weekend retreat once every college semester for cadets and midshipmen from across the country and colleges to meet other Jewish future service members and learn about various things specific to being Jewish leaders in the United States Armed Forces. It was first formed as a way for Jewish cadets and midshipmen from the military academies to meet each other. The program later grew to include Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets, culminating this year to include most of the Service Academies, many of the Senior Military Colleges, and some ROTC programs.

This event allows Jewish future service members to meet each other and develop a network, as well as learn from those already in the service tips and tricks to being Jewish and being a Jewish leader in the military. Many have already graduated from this program, and are providing more information for future participants. The community grown and developed at Jewish Warrior Weekend has lasted for many years, and will continue to do so in the future. Some prominent guest speakers that the cadets were able to learn from include RDML Harold Robinson, CAPT Dan Goldenberg, and Past TALO Commander Dr. Barry Schneider.

JWW Spring 2018 was generously sponsored by the Jewish War Veterans, the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets, Texas A&M University Hillel, Texas A&M Chabad, Jewish Welfare Board, United States Military Academy Jewish Chapel, United States Naval Academy Jewish Chapel and the United States Air Force Academy Jewish Chapel.

Next semester, Jewish Warrior Weekend will be hosted at the United States Naval Academy on Veterans Day Weekend.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By Jerry Alperstein

Purim was celebrated at the Manhattan VA Medical Center [VAMC] on Purim morning, March 1, with the reading of the Purim Megillah, live Purim music by the MazelTones and hamentashen.  The event was organized by VAMC Jewish Chaplain Rabbi Andrew Scheer and was sponsored by Jewish War Veterans [JWV] Manhattan-Cooper-Lieutenant Colonel Larry Epstein-Florence Greenwald Post 1, the oldest veterans echelon in the United States.

The Megillah reading has been an annual occurrence at the VAMC for many decades.  JWV has been sponsoring the event for approximately the last 15 years by providing the Megillah books, the groggers and the hamentashen.  Approximately 25 people attended the Megillah reading, which included Post 1 members and patrons as well as VAMC staff and patients.  Among JWV members and patrons attending were National Executive Committee member Jerry Alperstein, Sara Alperstein, Seymour Beder, Jonah Berman, Michael Henken, Robert Iskowitz, Mitchell Mernick, Harold Schaeffer, Simon Spiegelman and JWV Department of New York Hospital Committee Chair Mort Weinstein.  The Megillah reader was David Waxman, a member of our community.

Following the Megillah reading, five flavors of hamentashen [apricot, chocolate, mango, pomegranate and raspberry] were served while two members of the MazelTones of New York Band, including Jerry Alperstein on trumpet, performed Purim music.   Among the VAMC staff attending from the Chaplaincy Department in addition to Rabbi Scheer were Chaplain Elizabeth Putnam and Chaplain Intern Harold Ng.  After the hamentashen eating and Purim music were completed, a Post 1 meeting was held at the VA including the election and installation of officers for the 2018-2019 year.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By Steve Krant, Post Commander 256

The Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post 256 Color Guard was invited to perform opening ceremonies at the Third Annual Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship on a sunny late October 29th morning in the parking lot of presenting sponsor Sunnyland Furniture in far North Dallas. The rapidly growing event merged the national cuisine of Texas with strict Jewish dietary laws under the watchful supervision of Dallas Kosher and the world-renowned Kansas City Barbecue Society. Teams from around Texas and beyond fired-up their grills in the pre-dawn hours to compete in the only KCBS-sanctioned Kosher cook-off in Texas. The event featured local celebrity judges, a live band, and numerous sponsors, Post 256 included, staffing booths at the family-friendly and free event.  Tickets to sample delicious barbecue beef, turkey and sausage that were prepared with varying degrees of heat were available for purchase, with proceeds going to support several area charities. Judges announced the winners and awarded team plaques before the sun set on a perfect autumn afternoon.

The Post 256 Color Guard, under the direction of Color Sergeant David Foland, consisted of Allan Cantor (National Officer-of-the Day and past Post Commander), Steve Solka (Jr. Vice Commander), Art Kaplan (Dept. of TALO Commander), Bob Epstein, and Harry Kabler. Their Trooping of the Colors, both American and Israeli flags, marked the event’s official opening to the public as the crowd came to attention to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah.”

We staffed an information table near the bandstand and were able to recruit a new member, U.S. Navy veteran David Meier, to JWV and our Post.  The event was a great opportunity to showcase JWV to our community, and we are excited to include David in our ranks.  We will definitely be back next year for some of that delicious Texas barbeque.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By Howard Kuker, Post 125

Late one night I read an article about a female Air Force Captain who had committed suicide. She had also been a combat veteran.  Everyone who knew her had thought she was fine. But the sad fact was she suffered from PTSD–a disorder that far too often proves to be fatal.

I soon learned the shocking statistic: approximately 20 combat veterans commit suicide EVERY DAY in the U.S.!  Up until 2017, the number of veteran suicides was 22 a day, but a new VA study was released with a change in the right direction.  However, this statistic does not include military spouses and contractors, who also are at high risk for suicide.

To illustrate the enormity of this number: if you take the number of all the casualties of U.S. wars fought since 2001, that number does NOT equal one year of U.S. veteran suicides.

This is a shameful national tragedy!  As far as I’m concerned, stopping veteran suicide is our most pressing issue.

After I read about the Air Force Captain and the 22 doomed veterans, I decided to do something about it — immediately!  I reasoned that the best way to get the word out was with a YouTube video. That night I started composing a script.

The next day, I telephoned many people to help with this project.  I’d need someone to film the video, someone to edit it and also a place where to film, which, believe it or not, turned out to be a major challenge. A number of colleges turned me down. Plus I had to locate 21 combat veterans. For the purpose of this video, I was number 22.

After countless calls for donated help, I found Phil Falcone, producer of “Joe’s War” (please go see). Finally, after three stressful months, we were ready to film at the Deal, N.J. JCC, home of Post 125.  I was honored to have five WWII vets, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan vets to be in the video. It was a fantastic day.

Since then I have been on TV twice, met with N.J. Congressman Frank Pallone, and made the Garden State Film Festival. I hand out cards daily for the video and average about 600 a month–if you’re within hands reach of me, you’re getting a card.

The video is a call to action, not awareness.  Please call, write and/or e-mail your Congressman and President and tell them to stop this (please also send them my video).

To watch my video go to www.youtube.com or any search engine, for example Google, and type in “22 a day no way.”

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By Herb Rosenbleeth, National Executive Director

JWV will be the host organization at the Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in 2021. It seems far off, however, the time will go quickly!

Each year one of the organizations which serves on the Veterans Day National Committee becomes the host organization on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1996, the year of JWV’s 100th anniversary, JWV was the host organization. It was a day we will always remember!

On the morning of the Arlington Cemetery program, Past National Commander Bob Zweiman was seated on the dais with President Bill Clinton, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown, and the leaders of the other Veterans Service Organizations. PNC Zweiman gave an eloquent, rousing speech to a standing room only packed house at the Arlington Cemetery amphitheater. He said it is a tragedy that no one really cares about our veterans, noting that “our government has a moral and a real obligation to provide for our veterans.” The crowd cheered and applauded throughout PNC Zweiman’s speech and several times during the speech, President Clinton nodded approvingly. PNC Zweiman closed with the words “For your tomorrow, we gave our today.” The entire crowd in the amphitheater rose to their feet, applauded, and cheered. What a great day for JWV!

Next came the Veterans Day Reception hosted by JWV at the Ft. Myers Officers Club. It was a perfect setting and was extremely well attended, including the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable Jesse Brown. The spirited program went off smoothly.

Fast forward to Thursday, November 11, 2021: JWV will again be the host organization. Our National Commander will be on the dais and will address the crowd. Our reception will follow.  JWV is in the process of raising the money necessary to fund the reception. Tax deductible donations may be sent to JWV, Attention: 2021 Reception.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By Lance Allen Wang, Editor

I have always felt comfortable in the company of fellow Jews, and likewise, I have felt equally comfortable in the company of fellow veterans.   Each time, it is much like a family reunion where I don’t necessarily know anyone, but feel the kinship and know I am among my own.   However, to be in the company of Jewish veterans is a place that is particularly special to me – a minority subgroup of a minority subgroup.   Indeed, it is why I find myself an active, participating member of Jewish War Veterans of the United States.

The ties that bind veterans together are close – sometimes even with veterans from opposing sides.   In Yehuda Avner’s book “The Prime Ministers,” the author describes a meeting between wounded veterans from opposing sides of the Yom Kippur War, and how the reconciliation was deeply affecting for all parties involved.

In Ken Burns’ recent “Vietnam” PBS mini-series, he showed interaction between former American and North Vietnamese adversaries, and again, the reconciliation seemed almost therapeutic.  The fact is, as the war veteran feels out of place in what might be called “polite society” due to his unique experiences, it is often with those who shared the battlefield with him, friend or foe, that he finds understanding.

Finally, in CBS reporter John Laurence’s book “The Cat from Hue,” a recollection of his many years reporting from the field in Vietnam, he describes an unusually close relationship that a Marine First Sergeant, a World War II Pacific veteran, develops with Laurence’s Japanese cameraman, who turns out to have been a former adversary of the Marine’s.   Close combat can be indescribable to anyone but the participants – however, that also can forge bonds between those that endure it, even sworn enemies.

So where does that leave Jewish American veterans?  Jewish veterans have dealt with the intensity of combat since the dawn of recorded history.   However, is there anything distinct about the experience of Jewish combatants?  Of course there is.  For instance, many Jews I met in the military had concerns about how they would be treated as a Jew if captured – whether by Nazis during World War II or Islamic extremists today.  Sometimes the experience of maintaining their religious obligations in the field was a point of discussion.   And of course – any Jew who has served in Southwest Asia must have sensed the presence of being near somewhere significant to their roots.

So how can relating to Israel’s veterans benefit America’s Jewish veterans?  To start with – there is the sense of kinship – we can consider Israeli vets “family which we’ve not yet met.”   Secondly, there is a sense of being able to share that which cannot be shared with the uninitiated civilian.  Most importantly, there is a sense of purpose.   We both serve democracies, yet we both serve democracies who find themselves enmeshed in controversy, politically and diplomatically.  These are turbulent times, both within and without our countries.  It is so often the fighting man who pays for these controversies – be it in their relationship with civil society, constraints such as excessively tight rules of engagement based upon political considerations, and because the services in the United States and Israel are often made up of a high percentage of non-careerists and citizen-soldiers, social rifts that take place in the society at large find their way into the uniformed services.

Some initial projects to explore the therapeutic value of having Israeli and American veterans meet have been successful.   In 2015, the American Heroes to Heroes Foundation and the Israeli Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization sponsored a 10-day meeting in Israel between American and Israeli veterans suffering both psychological and physical wounds from their battlefield experiences ranging from Vietnam to the West Bank, from Iraq to Lebanon, from Afghanistan to Gaza.   The Jerusalem Post reported one comment from a participant:   “Seeing them gives me strength… These are people who have gotten married, have jobs and children.   We have the same thoughts.   We only need to look into each other’s eyes to know that we already know everything.   I am sure I will keep in touch with them.    When I hear them talk about what happened to them, I feel like they are telling my story.”  The comments were from a battle scarred Israeli veteran, but could just as easily come from an American participant.

In a time where many in the diaspora find themselves at odds with political decisions made in Israel, increasing a rift between parts of our small American Jewish community and our equally small homeland, perhaps veterans reaching out as a means of salving their own souls can help bridge the divide.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By Liat Lisha, Shlicha of Northern Virginia

In July 2017, I began my training in Jerusalem in preparation for my role as the Shlicha (Hebrew meaning “Emissary”) at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. As part of my training, I was told that my goal was to engage the Northern Virginia community in learning about Israel and to share my personal story.  It was equally as important that upon returning to Israel, that I take the knowledge gained about American Jewry and share it with my community back home.

For the past few months, I have been producing a documentary that connects bereaved military families from Israel and bereaved military families from the United States (Virginia, Maryland, and Florida). These families lost sons and daughters in the IDF and in the U.S. Military. Filming took place in both countries so I could use the project as a way of bridging the two countries through their shared experiences. While this has been a powerful experience for the families, it has had a tremendous  impact on me. I was fortunate  to meet these amazing people who showed me the true meaning of bravery.

What led me to make this documentary? At the beginning of my shlichut, I developed a list of programs, celebrations, and remembrance days that I wanted to share with my new community. One that I was very interested in sharing was the Israeli Memorial Day that takes place this year on April 17th called Yom Hazikaron (Hebrew meaning “Memorial Day”). A National Remembrance Day observed in Israel for all Israeli military personnel who lost their lives in the struggle that led to the establishment of the State of Israel, and for those who have been killed subsequently while on active duty in Israel’s armed forces. As of Yom Hazikaron in 2017, that number was 23,544 and it includes the fallen soldiers of Israel and victims of terrorism.

Yom Hazikaron is a national day of mourning with flags flying at half-mast, restaurants and stores closed for the day, and most Israelis spending the evening at home listening to somber music played on the radio or watching TV broadcasts. A blaring siren can be heard all over Israel at 8pm and again at 11am the next morning. Every Israeli knows this sound all too well, having learned about and heard it since they were a child in school – a siren that all of us wished we didn’t need.

To provide a better understanding of Yom Hazikaron and relay the importance of this remembrance day in Israel, I wanted to create personal connections between the families by sharing their stories with our community.  Since bringing the families together for filming was challenging and the idea of doing a live chat not being a viable option due to time differences, I decided to make a movie. Having no experience in filmmaking, I reached out to a group of young people in Israel who agreed to volunteer and help me make the movie. Elad Gitelmakher, Shay Nechamia, and Hodaya Shtofblat are three young Israelis who chose to give their time while going to high-school or serving in the IDF.

When I was looking for Jewish military families to be a part of the movie, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there were Jews who served in the military but I didn’t know how to get to them. When I was introduced to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, I was surprised to learn that not only is there an organization focused on Jewish Americans who served in the armed forces, but they are also in touch with bereaved families, creating a sense of community, reminding me of similar types of communities in Israel. After meeting these families and listening to their stories, l was left speechless and even more convinced that these connections between Israeli and American military families needed to be made.

I invite you to join us for Yom Hazikaron on Tuesday, April 17th at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia for the screening of this documentary. The movie will also be screened in Israel, showing that while 5,000 miles separate these families, their stories, shared experiences of grief and bravery are not that far apart. Someone once said – “life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.” These courageous families showed me that life is 100% how you react and the way you deal with adversity is everything.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

By PNC David Magidson, Post 243

In 1896, the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. (JWV) was founded to refute the lie that Jews did not serve in the military during our Civil War.  We did in significant numbers – for both sides.

Now, 120 years later, the “Big Lie” came from the lips of an unusual source – The Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel, Tzipi Hotovely.  In an interview with 124 News in Israel, the Deputy Foreign Minister said that American Jews “never send their children to fight for their country.

Once JWV and its leadership got over the initial disbelief, shock, and hurt of this statement, we surged into action.  Our National Commander put out a press release denouncing the comment.  He met with personnel of the Israeli Embassy.  Moreover, Embassy staff were invited and did attend a tour of our museum – The National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C.  There they saw proof of the honorable and sometimes heroic service of American Jews to this country.

But all American Jews and especially those who have served and their families deserve more.  On their behalf, we fought for a retraction and apology, and we received it!  On January 28, 2018, Minister Hotovely sent a letter to JWV where she apologized to Jewish American service members and veterans of all wars. “My words were shortsighted and not reflective of my beliefs, and I deeply apologize,” she said.

Silence and shirking duty are not characteristics of JWV.  In March 1933, two months after Hitler came to power, the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. organized and carried out a protest march in New York City – despite the admonitions of various Jewish groups not to anger the new German Chancellor (a video of the march is on display at our National Museum).

Today, as we have done for over a century, JWV has responded to “The Big Lie.”  Over that period, we have earned respect and prestige in our Capitol and others.  The resultant apology is being communicated to all of you in memory of the 57 Jewish-American brothers and sisters killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Yes, American Jews do send their children to fight for their country, and sometimes their children pay the ultimate price.

If you wish to assist the Jewish War Veterans in carrying out its mission: (a) please consider joining our Posts as a member (if qualified) or a Patron; (b) generously provide an annual donation in support thereof; and/or (c) leave a legacy gift to JWV in your will, trust or life insurance policy.  Please remember that while we care for all Veterans, only JWV specifically speaks to the service and memory of the Jewish-American Veteran, his/her family and friends.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

The Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. (JWV) is proud to announce that after months of fighting to correct the slanderous statements about Jewish American military service by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, Ms. Hotovely has finally apologized to all Jewish American service members and veterans as well to JWV as the premier Jewish American Veteran organization.  On January 28, 2018, Minister Hotovely sent a letter where she apologized to Jewish American service members and veterans of all wars.  “My words were shortsighted and not reflective of my beliefs, and I deeply apologize,” she said.

Minister Hotovely previously apologized on Israeli television about her comments, but she only apologized to lone soldiers in Israel and to American soldiers that served in World War II.  She conveniently left out the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – the same wars she said American Jews did not serve in.  On January 18, 2017, the Past National Commanders of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. penned a letter to Ambassador Ron Dermer to demand that Minister Hotovely apologize directly to the Jewish veterans of all conflicts and to apologize to those families who have lost someone fighting for our shared democratic values.

Ms. Hotovely has finally corrected this injustice, and we hope to see her at the Museum of American Jewish Military History on her next visit to Washington, DC.  Until then, JWV will continue to work on educating the American and Israeli public about the proud and rich history of Jewish American military service.Tzipi Hotovely Letter

Last week the United Nations (U.N.) held a special emergency session that “demanded” that all countries comply with UN Security Council resolutions regarding the status of Jerusalem, following the United States recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.  In response to this U.N. action, the U.S. government has cut millions of dollars in aid to the U.N. and still has not complied with their demands.

The Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. applauds the U.S. response because, as we see it, this U.N. resolution was not only about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  It was about something bigger – America’s intolerance of bigotry.

As Americans, there are certain truths that we hold self-evident, and one of those truths is that citizens of the world have the right to liberty no matter their race, religion or creed.  However, modern anti-Semitism, under the guise of anti-Zionism, has been allowed to flourish virtually unchallenged in the U.N.  Let us be clear, there is a fine line between criticism of the state of Israel and anti-Semitism.  However, when U.N. members are allowed to speak on the U.N. floor about Jews “sucking the blood” of their Muslim neighbors, that line has been crossed.

It’s time to recognize that the U.N. has a serious anti-Semitism problem.  The U.N. has disproportionately targeted Israel, the only country with a Jewish majority, in its resolutions and Human Rights Council.  By voting “no”, the United States stood up for its values and did not back down in the face of U.N. bullying.

As George Washington wrote to the Rhode Island Jewish Congregation, Mikveh Israel, “For happily the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”