September 18, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

Every single day, including this Memorial Day, someone will die or be injured while serving this country on our behalf.  It is our duty to remember this weekend is about the troops, past and present, and not just about a BBQ or day off of work. It’s important to take a moment to acknowledge and thank our armed forces.

Remember those who are overseas.  Remember those here at home.  Remember those who are coming home injured. Remember those who are getting ready to go.  Remember every single person who has ever put on a uniform and served the United States. They dedicate their lives to service so we can live ours. To every man and woman who is serving in the armed services, every mother and father who has a child serving, every child who has a parent serving, every family who is waiting for someone to come home, and every family who has lost a member of their family, thank you.

There are kids serving who are younger than my own child.  There are men and women serving who are missing their kids.  It is a huge sacrifice to be in the military.  I can’t wrap my head around what it must feel like to be on a plane heading overseas, or on a plane coming home, but I imagine heading in either direction is scary.

If you see someone in uniform stop and say thank you. Let them know you appreciate what they do for us. Thank you to everyone who sacrifices every day to make this a great country. Your bravery and sacrifices are valued and matter. You are in our hearts, we are waiting for you to come home, pray for you, and are keeping the faith.

 

Saluting Jewish World War II Vets

When Jules Berlinsky took basic training in the South during World War II, his commanding officer said to him, “You don’t look Jewish. You don’t have horns.”

“He was serious,” said Berlinsky, 92, who was in the Army’s Spearhead Division. “He was on the ignorant side. He didn’t heckle us too much but he just let us know that we were different from him.”

Berlinsky is one of the 31 war veterans who reside at the Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA), and will be honored on Dec. 7 at the JHA’s Wells Fargo Walk of Ages IV fundraiser.

Dec. 7 is also Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, a date that — in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words — “will live in infamy,” when, in 1941, the Japanese launched their attack on Pearl Harbor, hurling the United States into the war.

Approximately 550,000 Jewish Americans served in the armed forces during World War II, about 4.23 percent of the total number of troops. Both Roosevelt and General Douglas MacArthur praised their bravery specifically. During the war, 52,000 Jewish soldiers received an award or decoration of some kind and 11,000 were killed.

Now, close to 60 years after World War II, veterans of the conflict have aged and their numbers are dwindling, but despite current ambivalence toward American war-like nature, America’s participation in World War II and relative success in making the world “safe for democracy” is never questioned.

“Since it was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we felt that doing this [honoring the veterans] would be fantastic,” said Shelly Markman, the Walk’s chair. “We opened it up not only to Jewish war veterans but to all war veterans. These people have given us freedom and the opportunity to make a living and raise a family and I think we should be thankful to them.”

At the JHA, a group of eight veterans (seven men, one woman), gathered to talk to The Journal about their experiences of being Jewish and in the armed forces during World War II. Several use walkers or canes; their speech, though sharp, is slow. They take out photographs of themselves in uniform looking young and handsome, confident and strong. One rolls up his sleeve to reveal a tattoo that a native etched on his skin with a palm frond and soot on a Pacific island during the war.

“Do you remember your serial number?” they ask each other. “Do you remember your rifle number? Do you remember that cigarettes cost us $2 a carton but we would sell them for $15?”

With time’s erosion of memory, their war experiences become reductive; a list of places stationed, and certain important events. But their recollection of being Jewish in the service — and the prejudice, ignorance, and the sense of being different that accompanied that — remains strong.

“I was in a battalion of 1,200 men,” said Ellis Simon, 80, who was in the Marines. “And there were two Jews, but we weren’t that friendly with each other. The other guy — his name was Hochberg, and he was a wuss. He got picked on mainly because he was a Jew. I wore a Jewish star, but I never had any trouble because I was a tough kid and I wouldn’t stand for that. One of the soldiers called me ‘Dirty Jew’ and I fought him.”

Berlinsky remembers a time when there was “a rumpus” in the chow hall.

“I got up to see what was wrong and this young Jewish guy from Brooklyn called Marty Cohen said ‘they’re trying to kill me. They are putting bacon in with the eggs there!,'” Berlinsky said. “I said ‘Marty, they’re not trying to kill you.’ This same fellow Marty had two twin sisters who would visit the camp and bring us salami and herring. It smelled so beautiful to us, but for those who were non-Jewish, it was a terrible smell. They couldn’t stand it.”

For Josie Joffe, the Army bought out strengths she never knew she had. “I became a sergeant major through no fault of my own,” she said. “I was a very quiet person and they had to teach me to shout commands. We used to take part in parades to welcome the troops and we would tend to wounded British pilots at a rest homes. We were a whole Jewish group and one day we heard one of the soldiers remark about the ‘bloody Jews’ so we never went back after that.”

Now of course, World War II and the struggle to liberate Europe and defeat Japan seem light years away and condensed into roundtable anecdotes, but for these men and women the armed forces experience doesn’t disappear.

Said Simon, “Once a marine always a marine.”

The Walk will take place on Dec. 7 at the JHA’s
Eisenberg Village Campus at 18855 Victory Blvd., Reseda. Registration begins at
7 a.m.; walk begins at 8:30 a.m. Comedian Don Rickles will serve as honorary
chair of the Walk. For more information, call (818) 774-3100 or visit www.walkofages.kintera.org .

They Also Serve Who Wait and Worry

Rabbi Mordechai Finley of Congregation Ohr HaTorah in Los
Angeles has devised a strategy to help his two young daughters cope with
having their big brother, Kayitz, fighting in Iraq.

Kayitz, 21, is a corporal with a front-line combat unit, the
1st Battalion of the 4th U.S. Marine Division, which has already waged bloody
battles against Iraqi units in Nasiriya, south of Baghdad.

Besides limiting the TV viewing of his girls, ages 5 and 9,
Finley said, “I tell them, ‘I’ll let you know when it’s time to worry.'”

“When there’s been a big battle,” the rabbi continued, “I
tell them the next day, ‘It was time to worry, but I forgot to tell you, so now
you don’t have to worry.'”

And so each day goes for the Finleys and thousands of
American families like them, who desperately hope to learn something about the
fate of their loved ones and try somehow to deal with knowing very little.

Kayitz is one of approximately 1,000 Jewish men and woman
serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They represent a fraction of the estimated
20,000 Jews among the 1.5 million in the U.S. armed forces.

The angst of Jewish families is indistinguishable from that
of all families with loved ones serving in the armed services. Jewish families,
though, are finding that the war is hitting home on another front — spiritually
— with the approach of Passover on April 16.

The Finleys usually host 30 to 40 people at their home for
Passover, but this year, the rabbi said, “I haven’t decided what we’ll do yet.”
One thing he knows: With Kayitz in Iraq, “his being there and fighting for
freedom is really a family theme” for the seder.

For her part, Judy Ledger of Atlanta is also sure about one
thing. “We’re not doing seder — I just can’t see doing it without them,” she
said, referring to her son and daughter and their fiancés, all of whom serve in
the military.

Ledger spends much of her time worrying. “It takes up a lot
of my time,” she said.

Her son, Matthew Boyer, 24, is a field artillery specialist
with the 101st Airborne, 3rd Brigade, and is now in Iraq. His fiancée is a
chemical and biological trainer with another unit of the 101st Airborne in Kuwait.

Ledger’s daughter, Ilana Boyer, 21, an Army medic, is
stationed at Fort Sill, Okla., but her fiancé is with the 82nd Airborne in Kuwait.

Not only does Ledger worry about her son’s safety, but the
images of allied POWs in Iraqi hands has not escaped her Jewish radar. When
Matthew was inducted, he originally did not list any religion on his dog tag,
but before going to Iraq, he changed the listing to Jewish.

“I yelled at him — it’s bad enough you’re in a dangerous
position, but I felt that was even worse,” she recalled. “But he said that if
he dies, he does not want a priest standing over him.”

Trying to glean information about their loved ones is
excruciating for these families. Ledger was buoyed late last week by a “cute”
postcard she received from her son, just a few lines scrawled on a torn piece
of cardboard.

In a way, Finley is lucky. He discovered that a reporter
with the Richmond Times-Dispatch is embedded with the 1st Battalion, and so he
studies the paper’s Web dispatches daily to glean clues about Kayitz.

After every battle, Finley, an ex-Marine, braces for the
possibility that within a few hours, military officials could arrive at his
home with bad news.

“When there are battles in Nasiriya, I feel horrible,” he
said. “The two hours after a news flash are the most horrible.”

Allan Rubin of Dallas has even less insight into his son’s
condition. Every day, Rubin and his wife, Linda, send their son, Daniel, 21, a
postcard that includes the phrase, “another day, no word.”

That’s because they have not heard from Daniel since
January, when he shipped out from Camp Pendleton to Kuwait and points beyond
with the Light Armored Vehicle 1st Battalion of the 1st Marine Division.

“It’s a little hard,” Rubin said, his voice breaking. “He’s
just a wonderful young man.”

Daniel, a mechanic and technician, is very likely near Basra
in southern Iraq, from what Rubin has gleaned from news reports and an ABC News
reporter, who is embedded with what he thinks is his son’s unit.

While he’s worried, Rubin said, “I know he’s trained well,
and I know he’s doing all the right things, so in that respect, my heart is
settled with him.”

All of the families have turned to the Brave, a listserv —
kind of an e-mail bulletin board — that the Conservative movement’s United
Synagogue is sponsoring to help Jewish military families connect.

Jews in the military and their families sometimes have different
perspectives on the war. One member of the Brave listserv, who has not yet been
deployed, is Philip, 40, a member of the Army Reserve in Massachusetts.

Still, Phillip dreads leaving his wife and children behind.
“I don’t mind going — I mind leaving,” he said.

Unlike many whose kin are in the military, Becky O’Brien of
Lafayette, Colo., opposes the war. Her husband, Chris, 37, who is not Jewish,
is with the Air National Guard somewhere in the war theater. To find solace,
O’Brien attended a recent peace service at her synagogue, Congregation Har
HaShem.

“Judaism teaches you to question God, your rabbi, it’s the
rabbinic tradition,” she said. “You can have one text and 30 interpretations.
You should be able to question the president.” Â

Community Briefs

Bringing the Military Back toMaccabee

Putting a new spin on Chanukah celebrations, the U.S. Marine Corps Marching Band will perform at The Calabasas Shul’s annual menorah-lighting ceremony to honor the men and women of the United States armed forces.

Local musician Brad Schachter and the Kadima Hebrew Academy Children’s Choir will also perform at the latkes-and-sufganiyot party.

A 16-foot model of a Navy battleship and one of the Air Force’s new jet fighter, the Raptor, will be on display, along with other equipment representative of the four military branches.

“Chanukah is a celebration of heroes and victory,” said shul leader Rabbi Yacov Vann. “We are proud to dedicate this event to the heroes of freedom and to send our prayers and support for those in the U.S. armed forces.”

The celebration has a special meaning for event chairman Neil Yeschin — his 20-year-old son, Steven, is serving in the Marine Corps. Steven Yeschin will be the Marine’s delegate for the menorah-lighting, but it doesn’t stop his father from worrying about the future.

“He was in college and after Sept. 11 he dropped out and joined the Marines,” Yeschin said. “He just went through desert training, civil-unrest training and will be deployed, but who knows when or where?”

Yeschin said the various branches of the service have been enthusiastic about their participation in the Chanukah event and plan to provide giveaways of pens and other goodies for the children.

The event will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 4, from 6-8 p.m. at The Commons at Calabasas, located on Calabasas Road, south of the Ventura Freeway, between Valley Circle Boulevard and Parkway Calabasas. For information call (818) 591-7485. — Wendy Madnick, Contributing Writer

Shoah Opens Archives to Educators

Staff, volunteers and supporters of Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation (VHF) gathered last month for the dedication of the Tapper Research and Testing Center at the foundation’s Studio City headquarters. The Tapper Center ushered in a new phase of educational outreach for the foundation.

The Tapper Center, which allows students, educators and researchers to access the VHF’s archive for academic and creative purposes, features six computer workstations equipped with a cutting-edge software applications developed by the VHF. The software allows users to search the VHF’s digital Visual History Archive, in which nearly 52,000 eyewitness testimonies — documented through video and text documents — are comprehensively categorized and cross-referenced.

Among those in attendance: Shoah Foundation President and CEO Douglas Greenberg; Tapper Center namesake Albert Tapper; Deborah Dwork, Rose professor of Holocaust History and director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University. Shoah Foundation founder Steven Spielberg could not attend because he was in Japan for the opening of his film, “Minority Report.”

In 1994, Spielberg established Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation as an afterthought from his experience directing “Schindler’s List” in 1993. Since its formation, the VHF has interviewed, videotaped and catalogued more than 50,000 Holocaust survivors, hailing from 57 countries, in 32 languages.

With its goal quota of testimonies recorded, Greenberg said that the VHF will now move into a new phase that will preserve and provide access to its archives, further its educational programs and develop educational products, such as the foundation’s line of interactive CD-Roms, based on the data gathered.

The Ambassadors for Humanity dinner, benefiting thesurvivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation will be held at 5 p.m. onThursday, Dec. 5. Tickets start at $1,500. For information, call (818) 777-7876.To learn more about the Shoah Visual History Foundation, visit www.vhf.org . — Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer

Mideast

Israeli

rescue

crews

are

heroes

to

Kenyans

 

‘Saving Lives Is Just Something That’s in Our Blood’

By Eric Silver, Mideast Correspondent

Gil Wiener, the husky soldier who dragged out the first survivor of the Nairobi bombing to be saved by the Israeli dog squad last weekend, is a 29-year-old architecture student working his way through college as a lifeguard at the Hebrew University swimming pool in Jerusalem.

Like him, most of the 170 skilled officers and men who flew to the Kenyan capital within 24 hours of the explosion that wrecked the U.S. Embassy are reservists. They are recruited from all branches of the armed forces during the last year of their three-year compulsory service and trained on simulated disaster sites. Back in civilian life, the volunteers are annually called up for one week of intensive refresher courses. A permanent-alert staff is primed to mobilize them at short notice.

“My men are not the strongest soldiers in the army,” the commander of their training base, Maj. Ronen Greenberg, said this week, “but they have to be pretty strong — and they have to have a talent for technology. They must know how to handle sophisticated equipment, and how to fix it quickly if it malfunctions during an emergency.”

They are taught patience and extreme caution. Gil Wiener and his team kept their Kenyan survivor talking for six hours before they got him out of his steel-and-concrete trap. Their commander insisted that they work only from the side and above. Although the man had an almost severed leg and head injuries, rushing the operation might have brought tons of rubble down on rescued and rescuers.

The emergency unit was established during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon after an explosion demolished an army administrative block in the port city of Tyre, killing 89 soldiers and secret service agents. Since then, it has seen service at home and on humanitarian missions on three continents.

It rescued Israeli civilians from Tel Aviv flats hit by Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War. In the mid and late 1980s, it joined the hunt for survivors of massive earthquakes in Mexico and Armenia and flew in food, tents and medical supplies. In 1994, the unit extricated dead and wounded from the four-story Israeli Embassy building blown up by Islamic fanatics in Buenos Aires. The army also sent a medical-aid team, protected by 270 infantrymen, to Rwanda during the 1994 civil war, and firefighting helicopters to help put out a huge blaze at a Turkish arms factory in 1997.

Defense Ministry officials in Tel Aviv hailed the Nairobi mission as a debt of honor. Kenya joined most African states in cutting diplomatic relations with Israel after it invaded Egypt, a fellow African country, during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. But Kenya maintained close economic links with the Jewish state. Hundreds of Israeli specialists worked on industrial and agricultural development projects there. Kenyan managers and technicians studied in Israel.

In July 1976, Kenya secretly allowed Israeli transport planes to refuel in Nairobi after their epic rescue of hijacked airline passengers from neighboring Entebbe. Ehud Barak, now leader of the Labor opposition, commanded the Nairobi backup group.

Some of the team sent back to the Kenyan capital this weekend are veterans of the Buenos Aires and Armenian operations. They are among the least flamboyant of Israeli soldiers. They expect to bring out more dead than alive. It is a sobering thought.

When the Nairobi crowd lauded Gil Wiener on Saturday night, he remonstrated: “I’m no hero.” Another rescuer said: “Saving lives is just something that’s in our blood.” During that first rescue, the survivor, Sammy Ngana, was suffering so much pain that he begged the Israelis to let him die. “I’m a doctor,” said Lt. Nahum Nesher, one of the team. “I won’t let you die.”

The men do their job, with no time for sentiment. Greenberg, the chief instructor, confided that during 10 years as a rescuer, he experienced only one “happy ending.” He located an elderly woman trapped in a Tel Aviv flat shattered by one of Saddam’s Scuds. “While we were trying to get her out,” he said, “I asked her about other people who might still be in the building. A year later, she spotted me at an army exhibition. She remembered every question, word for word. I hadn’t even recognized her.”