Veteran generals address day school students

“Judaism, the Jewish religion and the history of the Jewish people are steeped in values,” said retired Lt. Gen. David Fridovich, who also served in the U.S. Army as a Green Beret. Addressing a crowd of elementary and middle school students from Sinai Akiba Academy and Brawerman Elementary School, Fridovich explained how Jewish values helped him succeed in the armed forces. 

“Giving everything” of yourself is fundamental to thriving in the Army — and to Judaism, Fridovich added.

Fridovich spoke at Sinai Temple on Nov. 5 in advance of Veterans Day, which falls on Nov. 12. Retired Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, a Holocaust survivor, also participated in a panel discussion introducing the students to Jewish American heroes as well as spotlighting American patriotism and the armed forces.

More than 350 fourth- through eighth-graders from Sinai Akiba and fourth- through sixth-graders from Brawerman Elementary attended. Sarah Shulkind, head of school at Sinai Akiba, moderated the discussion. The panelists also took questions from the students. 

Attendees included Elliott Broidy, a Los Angeles businessman and Israel benefactor; Lenny Sands, chairman of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Western region; and Jeffrey Gunter, a parent alumnus of Sinai Akiba who helped organize the event. 

Fridovich and Shachnow drew on their vast experience in service during the discussion.

Fridovich currently serves as director for defense and strategies at Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a nonprofit that advocates for a strong U.S. security relationship with Israel. Shachnow is on JINSA’s board of advisers.

Shachnow, 78, was born in Lithuania and was imprisoned for three years in a concentration camp during World War II. In 1950, he immigrated to the United States and enlisted in the Army. 

A highlight of his military career was serving as a commanding general in Berlin — “what used to be the Nazi capital,” Shachnow said.

“I don’t think it ever occurred to them [the Nazis] that a Jew would be there doing [that],” Shachnow said.

During his long career, Fridovich commanded Special Forces units and counterterrorism forces throughout the world. The scariest thing he has done lately: Speaking in front a crowd of 13- and 14-year-olds, he said.