The Aleph Institute and the JWV

By Larry Jasper

I have previously written about my collaboration with Rabbi Irv Elson of the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) as part of an effort to reach out to veterans while they are still on active duty. Elson has access to Jewish chaplains and lay leaders around the world. The goal is to use those chaplains and lay leaders to reach active duty service members in order to enhance their connection to the Jewish community through JWV. The challenge is to let these service members know what’s in it for them. I presented a brochure highlighting that focus of my work and presented it to the National Executive Committee in February. My work with Elson and the JWB continues. (My apologies to the Marketing Committee which did not exist when this process began)

So what does this have to do with the title of this article?

Late last year, Membership Committee Chairman Barry Lischinsky sent me a copy of a new quarterly magazine published by the Aleph Institute in Surfside, Florida. Since I did not know about Aleph, I started looking into the group.

The Aleph Institute is a Chabad organization with a branch that works with Orthodox servicemembers as chaplains and lay leaders. (JWB works with all denominations of Judaism) Aleph established Operation Enduring Traditions to service the unique needs of Jewish members of the United States Armed Forces stationed worldwide. Aleph’s military program is the nation’s largest provider of religious and educational materials to Jewish military personnel and their families. They provide prayer books and other religious articles, kosher food and care packages, holiday provisions and services, chaplaincy training, and many other services.

I contacted the Institute and indicated I wanted to explore a partnership with Aleph that would enable both organizations to better serve active duty Jewish service members.

Rabbi Sandy Dresin is the Director of Military Programs for Aleph and Rabbi Elie Estrin is the Military Personnel Liaison for Aleph. Dresin is a retired Army Chaplain, who happened to serve with almost identical dates as I did. We started the same year and he retired three years prior to me. We both served in Vietnam at the same time. Estrin is a USAF Reserve Chaplain.

Aleph held an annual symposium for chaplains and lay leaders in February. They invited me to attend and deliver a speech to their group. Approximately half of those present were already JWV members. I talked to the others about the benefits of JWV, asked them to join, and asked them to talk about us with their fellow service members. I left with three completed membership applications. Estrin and Dresin have agreed to send information about JWV to their members around the world.

Aleph has asked me to return to their symposium next year, at which time I will be able to make a more in-depth presentation on JWV. I will also continue working with Dresin and Estrin on how we can forge a mutually beneficial relationship. The ultimate goal is to provide a continuing connection with the Jewish service member both while on active duty and after leaving military service. I believe JWV, JWB, and Aleph can work together to accomplish this.

You never know what you can do until you try.

Volume 74. Number 1. 2020