By Marc Liebman
Make no mistake about it, our freedom to practice Judaism without fear is again under attack. Antisemitism is on the rise in the United States as well as in most of the free world. Traditionally, antisemitism in the U.S. came from members of the far right who wanted the country free of the diversity that makes our society unique and successful. Members of the KKK and Neo-Nazis have been discredited and few take them seriously. Attacks are also coming from the left, and we have members of Congress making antisemitic remarks.
Every member of the Jewish War Veterans has held up his or her right hand and said, I < fill in your name > do solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic… While most of us don’t think about the implications of those words which end with, so help me G-d, Jewish members of the U.S. Armed Forces are also affirming that the First Amendment of the Constitution begins with the words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The oath we take ties us morally and professionally to the Constitution. As American Jews who have served this wonderful country, we have the right to practice our religion without fear.
Synagogues and temples are being attacked. There were five in 2019, and one each in 2020, 2021, and 2022 (which is half over). This doesn’t include graffiti spray painted on walls and the defacing of graves in Jewish cemeteries.
Google antisemitism and you’ll easily find the four traditional tropes. One, Jews don’t fight for their country. Two, Jews are only interested in money.
Three, Jews are only interested in Israel. Four, Jews want to control the world.
The sad part is none of these concepts are new. They were already in the minds of the immigrants who came to the 13 colonies before the American Revolution. Those individuals were raised in a world where Jews could not own land, were limited in which professions they could pursue, and were unable fight for their duke or king.
Sadly, we, as veterans, have possibly faced antisemitism in our military careers and in civilian life. So, the question is what do we do about it?
One, we must educate our own community about the significant contributions Jews, especially our members, have made on the battlefield. Few American Jews know that the founder of the Green Berets was Aaron Bank or that the man responsible for the design and building of the infrastructure that enabled the United States to fight effectively in Europe and in the Pacific was Ben Moreell. He is also considered to be the founder of the SeaBees. The man George Washington entrusted to bring the signed copy of the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution and brought us independence from England was David Franks. The director of strategy for the U.S. Navy during World War II was Ed Taussig. Thirteen of the more than 140 U.S. astronauts, both mission specialists and pilots, are Jewish.
Second, we have a different perspective than the Anti-Defamation League and others who denounce antisemitism. Jewish veterans have taken the sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution and must be more vocal and share their perspective about antisemitism.
Many of us have risked our lives in defense of the United States. The experience has forever changed us and our perspective as defenders of the Constitution needs to be shared.
Third, we must share this view and our legacy throughout JWV and the larger Jewish community. Press releases, tweets, and emails help, but will not get the job done. We must speak with state and local representatives when antisemitism rears its ugly head.
In February of this year, there was an attack on a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. Immediately, the two representatives whose districts comprised the areas where most of the members lived, condemned the attack. A month later, religious leaders, along with the mayors of Colleyville and neighboring cities, and these members of Congress, gathered to discuss ways to deal with such attacks as well as antisemitism. The event made the local TV news on all the major Dallas/Forth Worth networks.
Sadly, we, Jewish veterans, who have expressed our willingness to defend the Constitution were not invited. Why? Because few in the Jewish community, much less the rest of American society, know who we are or what we stand for.
Fighting antisemitism is in the JWV mission statement which makes actively combating antisemitism our fight. Our National Vice Commander Nelson Mellitz has taken on this task. We, both individually and as an organization, need to find ways to make sure our voice and message that antisemitism cannot be tolerated is heard loud and clear.
Volume 76. Number 2. 2022