A headstone, pushed off its base by vandals, lays on the ground near a smashed tomb in the Mount Carmel Cemetery on Feb. 27. Photo by Tom Mihalek/Reuters

Muslim veterans offer to guard Jewish sites across US


Following the recent wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and the vandalism of two Jewish cemeteries, some Muslims on Twitter are offering to help guard Jewish sites.

The tweeters, including some veterans, said they would volunteer to protect JCCs, cemeteries and synagogues, the Huffington Post first reported.

This latest show of solidarity comes after an online fundraising campaign started by two Muslims — and touted by “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling — raised more than $150,000 to repair a vandalized Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis last week. Some 170 gravestones were toppled at the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in University City, Missouri.

One of the founders of the campaign, Linda Sarsour, is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and a harsh critic of Israel.

On Monday, a Muslim man who started an online fundraising campaign for a Florida mosque damaged in an arson attempt said that many of the donors to the campaign, which raised $60,000, were Jewish.

“I couldn’t understand why people were donating in what seemed like weird amounts to the cause. There are sums of 18, 36, 72.00 dollars etc. then I figured out after clicking on the names Avi, Cohen, Gold-stein, Rubin, Fisher…. Jews donate in multiples of 18 as a form of what is called ‘Chai’. It wishes the recipient a long life,” Adeel Karim, a member of the Islamic Society of New Tampa wrote Monday in a Facebook post. “The Jewish faith has shown up in force to support our New Tampa Islamic community. I’m floored.”

Over the past two months, nearly 90 bomb threats have been called into 72 Jewish institutions in 30 states and one Canadian province. A Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was also vandalized.

President Donald Trump condemned the anti-Semitic threats on Tuesday night in his first speech to a joint session of Congress.

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.

In Ohio, GOP pins Senate hopes on young Jewish Iraq vet


As the 2012 campaign heats up in Ohio, Republicans are pinning their hopes on a young Jewish military veteran to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Josh Mandel, a 34-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran and the current state treasurer, has faced a number of challenges but he is doing well in the polls. A recent Rasmussen Reports poll showed Mandel only four points behind Brown—a favorite of organized labor and liberals—in a hypothetical match-up.

With Ohio seen as a key presidential swing state and control of the U.S. Senate potentially in play, the race is the focus of national attention from Democrats and Republicans.

“The stakes are really high,” said Joe Hallett, political editor of The Columbus Dispatch. “A lot of what happens in this race will depend on the national climate. The Democrats have twice as many seats to defend in the Senate than the Republicans, and this seat really could determine control of the Senate.”

Mandel, facing five lesser-known candidates in the March 6 Republican primary, is considered the front-runner for the nomination.

After serving three years as a city councilman in the Cleveland suburb of Lyndhurst and two terms as a state representative, Mandel was elected in 2010 as state treasurer. He is seen as a GOP rising star.

“I know Josh was actively recruited by top party leaders and insiders to run for this seat,” said Matthew Brooks, the Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director. “It was a process that unfolded over several months, with Josh initially not considering the idea. As the support grew and the calls for him became louder, Josh agreed and then fully committed himself to the race and doing what it took to be the next senator from Ohio come November.”

During Mandel’s tenure as a city councilman and state representative, he served in the Marine Corps Reserve and was called into active duty for two tours in the Anbar Province of Iraq.

Mandel told JTA that he was inspired to serve by his grandfathers.

“I’m the grandson of a Holocaust survivor who was liberated by Allied troops, and I’m the grandson of a U.S. Army Air Corps veteran, and these hard-working, gutsy men instilled in me a duty to community and a duty to country,” Mandel said.

While he has served in uniform in the Middle East, he is cautious about making predictions about the region.

Asked whether the Iraq war was a success, he responds, “Time will tell.”

He also said the Arab Spring is “negatively impacting Israel.”

“When terrorist groups are running the countries bordering Israel, it’s not a good situation,” he said. “Time will tell on whether it’s better that Assad will fall.”

Mandel said the United States and its allies face “a common enemy in radical Islam, and it’s an enemy that must be taken seriously.”

One issue on which Mandel differs with Brown is labor policy. Considered a union champion, Brown is outspoken on labor issues.

With Republicans pushing to limit the powers of unions, labor issues have been the subject of acrimonious fights in Ohio and other Midwestern states over the past couple years. In Ohio, the issue heated up in 2011 when Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, sought unsuccessfully to pass a law weakening the bargaining rights of public employees.

Another labor battleground has been so-called right-to-work laws, which prohibit requiring workers to join a union as a condition of employment at a unionized workplace. Neighboring Indiana’s Republican-controlled state legislature recently adopted such a law, and a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 54 percent of Ohio voters would support a similar law, with 40 percent opposed.

“I believe American citizens should have the right to join a union if they’d like to do that, but they should not be coerced and forced to join. It should be up to the individual,” Mandel said.

On the economic front, Mandel points to his short tenure in the treasurer’s office.

“I think we’re running the most efficient and effective state treasurer’s office in America,” he said.

Mandel highlighted the AAA rating that Standard and Poor’s awarded the state’s $4 billion local governments investment fund that he runs at a time when S&P downgraded 14 similar funds across the country.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats don’t portray Mandel’s record in as positive a light.

“He’s been silent on issues that are most important to Ohioans, whether it’s the Republican budget that would destroy Medicare or China’s currency manipulation, which cost us jobs in Ohio,” said Justin Barasky, the new communications director for Brown’s Senate campaign.

Democrats also have taken aim at Mandel on his campaign finances and job performance.

Two weeks ago, the Ohio Democratic Party filed a formal complaint against Mandel to the Federal Election Commission for using money from his 2010 treasurer campaign to assist in launching his U.S. Senate drive. Ohio law prohibits candidates from using state campaign funds for a federal campaign.

In late January, the Associated Press reported that Mandel did not attend a single Board of Deposit meeting during his first year in office and that he was in Washington for a fundraiser during the January meeting. Mandel also did not attend the board’s February meeting.

Asked by the Toledo Blade about Mandel’s absence, Seth Unger, press secretary for the Ohio Treasurer’s office, said that “the Treasurer directs and empowers his staff of financial professionals who represent him on the Board of Deposit, and has full confidence in his Chief Financial Officer who serves as his designee.”

Last October, Mandel was criticized for receiving a donation of $1,000 from former congressional candidate Rich Iott, who dressed up as an SS officer as part of a group that re-enacted the exploits of a Nazi division during World War II. Iott has insisted that he had no Nazi sympathies.

At the time, the National Jewish Democratic Council demanded that Mandel return Iott’s money. Travis Considine, communications director for the Mandel campaign, responded that “this is a manufactured non-issue to distract from the fact that Sherrod Brown’s radical policies have caused hundreds of thousands of jobs to leave Ohio.”

While Mandel has never served in federal office, his supporters tout his record on Israel. In 2007, as a state representative, Mandel introduced legislation that would divest Ohio pensions from companies that do business with Iran. The Ohio House eventually passed a more modest piece of legislation on the issue.

Brown for his part has faced criticism for not signing on to various Senate letters supported by pro-Israel groups. Ben Chouake, president of the New Jersey-based pro-Israel political action committee NORPAC, said that “the pro-Israel constituency in his state would like to see Brown more active and more of an advocate for the U.S.-Israel relationship. I hope he grows into that role.”

Chouake said NORPAC was not endorsing a candidate in the race. He said the organization was “not against Sherrod Brown, but his record is substantially mixed, so we classified this as a race where our members could do fundraisers for either candidate. NORPAC is not contributing from its general fund to these races, but we will meet and work with both candidates depending on the membership’s motivation to do so.”

NORPAC members held a Mandel fundraiser on Sunday, while the political action committee of J Street is raising money online for Brown. Brown is the only incumbent senator that the J Street PAC is raising money for in this election cycle.

Mandel said that Brown is “not a friend” of Israel, pointing to the senator’s voting record and his endorsement by J Street. But Barasky said that Brown has “a very strong record of standing with Israel.”

“Whether it’s working to eliminate the threat from Iran to ensuring foreign aid to fighting to end our dependence on foreign oil, Sherrod is a friend to Israel,” Barasky said.

Brown has been speaking out recently on issues important to the pro-Israel community. Last year he said he disagreed with President Obama’s suggestion that the pre-1967 lines should serve as the basis for negotiations over borders with the Palestinians. In September, Brown denounced Palestinian efforts to unilaterally seek statehood recognition at the United Nations.

Mandel’s supporters think the Iraq vet will pose a formidable challenge to the incumbent senator.

During his election to a second term in the state house, Mandel captured 72 percent of the vote in a district that includes a sizable Jewish population, which at the time had registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin.

“He epitomizes the values of the Jewish community and is someone who has demonstrated an ability to go beyond their base of support in the Republican side and be attractive to Jewish Democrats and Independents,” the RJC’s Brooks said.

The Columbus Dispatch’s Hallett said that Mandel’s fundraising efforts could make this “a close race.”

“You’d have to give the nod going in to the incumbent, but Mandel is not somebody you count out. He is one of the best fundraisers I’ve ever seen,” Hallett said. “He’s relentless on that score and he will have the resources to win this seat, but so will Brown. I think it’s going to be close, and a lot of it will depend on the national outlook.”

This article was produced in cooperation with The Washington Jewish Week.

Appeals court orders review of war memorial cross


An appeals court ordered further proceedings on a Jewish veterans group’s challenge to the display of a cross at a San Diego veterans’ memorial, saying it was unconstitutional.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Tuesday that the cross on Mount Soledad was a “government endorsement of religion.”

The Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, backed by a number of Jewish and civil liberties groups, filed the appeal a year ago after a U.S. district court ruled that the cross was not unconstitutional because it “communicates the primarily non-religious messages of military service, death and sacrifice.”

The appeals court said the district court must consider ways to reconfigure the site so that it can “pass constitutional muster,” The Los Angeles Times reported.

Americans fighters in Israel get overdue thank you


Grandfathers and grandmothers looked at the photos on the wall and saw themselves again as young, strapping soldiers, sailors and pilots, far from home andclose to the face of history.
 
They were the American and Canadian volunteers who had fought in Israel’s War of Independence in 1947-1949 and manned the “illegal” Aliyah Bet ships carrying refugees to the Jewish state.
 
The veterans, their bodies aged but memories undimmed, brought their children and grandchildren to the University of Judaism last Sunday to inaugurate the first permanent West Coast exhibit to honor their services.
 
Film producer Lou Lenart and attorney Mitchell Flint marveled at the silhouettes of patched-up Mustangs and Messerschmitts from which they “bombed” Egyptian armies advancing on Tel Aviv with hand grenades lobbed out of their cockpits.Norman Zimmerman of Sun City, Ariz., and I saw again the jam-packed refugee ship Pan York, which had brought us from Marseilles to Haifa, despite a United Nations ban on the entry of men of military age.
 
The exhibit consists of cabinets framing eight large and eight small panels. In documents, graphics and text, the display documents the history of Zionism and American support, arms acquisition, recruitment of volunteers, Aliyah Bet and navy service and Machal (the Hebrew acronym for Volunteers from Abroad) service in the Israel Defense Forces.
 
One of the panels commemorates the 40 North Americans, among them seven Christians, who were killed in action. Another focuses on the specific contributions of some 450 volunteers from the West Coast, as well as of those who risked prison by smuggling desperately needed arms and aircraft to the embattled state.
 
The dedication program was exemplary in the brevity of its speeches, and the high spirits of the songs from the 1948 and 1967 wars, presented by vocalist Ayana Haviv and pianist Amir Efrat.
 
UJ President Robert Wexler welcomed the audience of 200 and said that the exhibit will remind future generations of the linked destiny between Israel and American Jewry.
 
Yaron Gamburg, Israel’s deputy consul general in Los Angeles, noted that the Machal spirit of 1948 was revived during the recent fighting against Hezbollah in Lebanon, when his office was swamped with calls from volunteers seeking to help Israel.
 
Max Barchichat, president of the Los Angeles-based Machal West, lauded the service of his fellow volunteers by paraphrasing Winston Churchill’s tribute to the Royal Air Force that “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”Keynote speaker was Dean Ralph Lowenstein, director of the Machal Archives and Museum at the University of Florida, who created the original exhibit at his university’s Hillel House, with the support of the New York-based American Veterans of Israel.
 
He paid tribute to Jason Fenton, who initiated the West Coast version of the exhibition, Sharona Benami of Machal West and a Yom Kippur War veteran, and Iris Waskow of the University of Judaism.
 
Some 1,400 North American volunteers, mostly World War II veterans, participated in the War of Independence, and played particularly crucial roles in the nascent Israeli air force and navy, Lowenstein said.
 
A joyous dedication is usually not the time for critical analysis, but as a combat infantryman in World War II, a squad leader in an anti-tank unit in Israel, and an army editor during the Korean conflict, I ask the reader’s indulgence if I step out of my reportorial role.
 
Without diminishing the contributions of the volunteers from abroad and the arms “smugglers,” it must be said, first, that it was the Israelis who won the war itself and paid by far the highest price in military and civilian casualties.
 
Secondly, the role of the American Jewish community was perhaps the least glorious among the 43 nations who provided volunteers,In proportion to the size and power of their Jewish communities, every other English-speaking country sent much larger, and better prepared, contingents than the biggest Jewish community in the world, and it was one of the few to emerge from the war with greater strength than before.
 
The difference lay mainly in the communal attitude and civic courage of the different Diaspora communities. South Africa’s Jews, and Britain’s to a slightly smaller degree, set up their own selective service systems, complete with physical and psychological testing, and rallied fully behind their young men and women heading for the battlefield.
 
By contrast, organized American Jewry, fearful of accusations of double loyalty, generally averted its collective eyes and prayed silently that those crazy kids going over would not prove an embarrassment.
 
Happily, the flip side of this sorry record is that in the last half century, American Jewry has largely left behind the shameful timidity of the 1940s and the Holocaust era. It is my hope that should American Jewry ever face a challenge similar to 1948, we will acquit ourselves with greater honor.

War Hero’s Medal Wait Finally Ends


Next Friday, as Tibor Rubin enters the White House, generals will stand at rigid attention. The president of the United States also will rise and then drape the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for gallantry in combat, around the neck of the 76-year-old Holocaust survivor and Korean War veteran.

Rubin and a legion of supporters have waited almost 55 years for this triumph of camaraderie and persistence over both bureaucratic lethargy and the prejudice endured by so many old-time Jewish GIs.

Rubin still does not know precisely which of his wartime feats met the standard of “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, in actual combat against an enemy armed force.”

[READ: TIBOR RUBIN, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, DIES AT 86]

He guesses it might have been the time he secured a route of retreat for his company by single-handedly defending a hill for 24 hours against waves of North Korean soldiers.

All told, his commanding officers and fellow soldiers recommended him for the Medal of Honor for his deeds performed on no less than four occasions. He also was recommended two times for the Distinguished Service Cross and twice for the Silver Star.

Had he received all these awards, he would have become the most decorated American veteran of the Korean War. What he actually got were two Purple Hearts for combat wounds and a 100 percent disability rating.

Rubin, known as “Tibi” to his Hungarian childhood friends and “Ted” to his Army buddies, was born in Paszto, a Hungarian shtetl of 120 Jewish families, the son of a shoemaker and one of six children. At age 13, he was transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where he was liberated two years later by American troops. His parents and two sisters perished in the Holocaust.

He came to the United States in 1948, settled in New York and worked first as a shoemaker and then as a butcher.

“I was a handsome dog in those days, and the ladies who worked with me always brought me lunch,” he recalled.

In 1949, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army, both as a possible shortcut to American citizenship and, he hoped, to attend the Army's butcher school in Chicago. Knowing hardly any English, he flunked the language test, but tried again in 1950 and passed, with some help from two fellow test takers.

In July of that year, Pfc. Rubin found himself fighting on the front lines of Korea with I Company of the 8th Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. There he encountered the terror of I Company: 1st Sgt. Artice V. Watson, who, from numerous descriptions, could have been modeled on the sadistic 1st Sgt. Rickett in Irwin Shaw's “The Young Lions.”

Watson was reputedly a vicious anti-Semite, who consistently “volunteered” Rubin for the most dangerous patrols and missions, according to lengthy affidavits submitted by nearly a dozen men — mostly self-described “country boys” from the South and Midwest.

The bravery displayed by Rubin during such missions so impressed two commanding officers that they recommended him three times for the Medal of Honor. Both officers were soon afterward killed in action, but not before telling Watson to initiate the necessary paperwork to secure the medals for Rubin. Some of the men in Rubin's company were present when Watson was ordered to put in for the medals, and all are convinced that he deliberately ignored the orders.

“I believe in my heart that 1st Sgt. Watson would have jeopardized his own safety rather than assist in any way whatsoever in the awarding of the medal to a person of Jewish descent,” Cpl. Harold Speakman wrote in a notarized affidavit.

Toward the end of October 1950, massive Chinese troop concentrations crossed the border into North Korea and attacked the unprepared Americans. After most of his regiment had been wiped out, the severely wounded Rubin was captured and spent the next 30 months in a prisoner of war camp.

Faced with constant hunger, filth and disease, most of the GIs simply gave up.

“No one wanted to help anyone. Everybody was for himself,” wrote Sgt. Leo A. Cormier Jr., a fellow prisoner.

But not Rubin. Almost every evening, he would sneak out of the camp to steal food from the Chinese and North Korean supply depots, understanding that he would be shot if caught.

“He shared the food evenly among the GIs,” Cormier wrote. “He also took care of us, nursed us, carried us to the latrine…. He did many good deeds, which he told us were 'mitzvahs' in the Jewish tradition…. He was a very religious Jew, and helping his fellow men was the most important thing to him.”

Survivors of the camp credited Rubin with keeping 35 to 40 of their number alive and recommended him for the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star.

Cpl. Leonard Hamm of Indiana wrote the Army that Rubin had saved his life, both on the battlefield and in the camp. He went on to upbraid the Pentagon for its “degrading and insulting treatment” of “one of the greatest men I have ever known, and definitely one of the greatest heroes in this nation's history.”

Sgt. Carl McClendon, another soldier saved by Rubin, wrote, “He [Rubin] had more courage, guts and fellowship than I ever knew anyone had. He is the most outstanding man I ever met, with a heart of gold. Tibor Rubin committed every day bravery that boggles the mind. How he ever came home alive is a mystery to me.”

For some 30 years after his discharge, Rubin lived quietly in a small house in Garden Grove, with his wife, Yvonne, a Dutch Holocaust survivor. The couple reared two children, Frank, an Air Force veteran, and a daughter, Rosalyn.

In 1953, Rubin finally got his American citizenship. He tried to resume his old job as a butcher, but a combination of crippling afflictions, traceable to his war wounds, forced him to quit.

It wasn't until the 1980s that Rubin's old Army buddies started protesting the Army's inaction in recognizing the man who had saved so many of their lives.

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) introduced a special bill on Rubin's behalf in 1988. Former GOP Rep. Robert K. Dornan of Orange County also pleaded for recognition of his constituent. In addition, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) and former Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) kept badgering the Pentagon.

“From his childhood in a Nazi concentration camp to his valor in Korea, Tibor Rubin never wavered in his fight against tyranny and injustice,”Wexler said. “It is unconscionable that the Pentagon overlooked his acts of heroism for more than 50 years.”

The Jewish War Veterans organization has championed Rubin's cause for many years, and at one point, collected 42,000 signatures on a petition presented to President Ronald Reagan.

But nothing appeared to penetrate the bureaucratic indifference.

Then in the mid-90s, the U.S. military, now a model equal-opportunity employer, finally responded to persistent criticism that it had consistently squelched recommendations for high medal awards to minority soldiers who served during World War II and the Korean War.

In 1996, the Pentagon belatedly awarded Medals of Honor to 21 Japanese American and other Asian American veterans, and eight to former African American servicemen, who were institutionally segregated during World War II.

In 2001, Congress passed a bill providing for a review of selected Jewish veterans, known as the Leonard Kravitz Jewish War Veterans Act. Kravitz, the uncle and namesake of rock musician Lenny Kravitz, was killed manning his lone machine gun against attacking Chinese troops during the Korean War, allowing the rest of his platoon to retreat in safety.

Years ago, Kravitz was recommended for a Medal of Honor, but the award was downgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest decoration.

Under the terms of the Kravitz Act, a list containing the names and wartime records of 138 Jewish veterans was sent to the Pentagon. All the men listed had received the Service Cross from one of the military branches. The exception was Rubin, though his file was the thickest of all.

There's still work to do in reviewing such records. Last week, following receipt of a request for information, U.S. Army spokeswoman Maj. Elizabeth Robbins said that the Army had contracted with the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress for a three-year review of the records of the Jewish servicemen on the list, and for a similar review of Latino American veterans. Robbins said she expected a report on the results later this year.

Still, there was no doubt about Rubin or any need to make him wait any longer. He becomes the 15th Jewish recipient of the Medal of Honor since it was instituted during the Civil War by an act of Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln, according to archivist Pamela Elbe of the National Museum of American Jewish Military History.

His first notice of the award came on July 27, when a White House aide called the house in Garden Grove early in the morning and asked for Rubin. His wife said that he was still asleep, but woke him at the caller's insistence.

“The man said that President Bush had just signed the order for my Medal of Honor,” Rubin recalled. “I was thinking, 'b——-' and went back to sleep.”

A little while later, the aide called again to ask what date would be convenient for Rubin to meet with the president. Gradually, Rubin started to believe.

“It would have been nice if they had given me the medal when I was a young, handsome man,” Rubin mused. “It would have opened a lot of doors.”

Nevertheless, ex-Cpl. Rubin is deeply impressed that high brass now must, according to military protocol, address him as “mister” or “sir,” and that he will have an escort of a major and a master sergeant on his way to Washington.

Furthermore, when he wears his medal, tradition requires that even five-star generals salute him and that the president of the United States stand when Rubin enters a room.

He is bound to get a lot of salutes at the White House, and later that day in a ceremony at the Pentagon, hosted by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Rubin is allowed to invite 200 guests for the White House ceremony, and among them will be the survivors of his old company and their families. There will also be relatives, but Rubin doubts that his cousins in Israel will be able to make it.

Although he usually says what's on his mind, Rubin promises to be on his best behavior at the White House and Pentagon: “My wife told me to be very humble, very nice.”

When Rubin was interviewed three years ago, he told this reporter, “I want this recognition for my Jewish brothers and sisters. I want the goyim to know that there were Jews over there, that there was a little greenhorn, a little shmuck from Hungary, who fought for their beloved country.”

Times have changed.

“Now,” said Rubin with a self-deprecating laugh, “It's Mister Shmuck, the hero.”

 

Rolls of Veterans Groups Dwindling


Seymour Goldman spent World War II with an Army cleanup crew handling mustard gas drums in India.

“It was a terrible job,” said the 83-year-old, a retired TV repairman who lives in Culver City. “When I got out, I just didn’t want anything more to do with it.”

For Goldman and millions of other veterans — Jews and non-Jews alike — service in World War II was not a grand struggle, but exhaustive work.

Of the estimated 12 million to 13 million American men and women in uniform during World War II, only 1 million to 2 million of them saw actual combat. While Thursday’s Veterans Day services brought out many veterans who have vivid memories of fighting the Nazis, scores of veterans served in support positions, which left them with little interest in remembrance or nostalgia.

“I had no illusions about action. We were quartered in mansions,” said the Brooklyn-bred Goldman, whose unit was composed of himself, another Jewish soldier and 26 non-Jews, all from Texas.

The paucity of Jews serving on front lines may explain the dwindling numbers of members belonging to Jewish war veteran organizations.

Other reasons for the fewer members in the organization include the graying of the membership, and the fewer younger Jews serving in the military — and therefore joining — local Jewish veterans groups.

The San Fernando Valley’s Jewish War Veterans Post 603 has 325 members, but that is a decline over the past decade. The post is part of California’s 20,000 members who make up the Jewish War Veterans 110,000-member national roster, once dominated by World War II veterans.

Navy veteran Si Prussin, 81, spent most of the war in San Diego, waiting to be shipped out as a motor machinist on a landing craft.

“I wouldn’t have avoided going into the service; there was a feeling that it was an important and useful thing to do,” said Prussin, who later used the G.I. Bill to go to college

Prussin, raised in the Bronx, received an advanced degree from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University. He has had a long career in metallurgy and semiconductor engineering and still teaches electrical engineering at UCLA.

He briefly joined a veterans group for a short time, but then dropped out. “It was not my atmosphere,” he told The Journal.

Prussin and other Jewish veterans who did not see combat said they didn’t need to belong to veterans groups, with Prussin noting that no combat means no nightmares.

Yiddish translator Hershel Hartman, 75, also didn’t serve on the front lines in the Korean War — but not by choice. The Army kept him at New Jersey’s Ft. Dix for 15 months, because he was considered a security risk due to his memberships in left-wing, communist-allied groups.

“I refused to sign the loyalty oath,” said Hartman, who was trained at an Army radio school but never was sent to Korea while he and his family were being investigated.

What Hartman remembers most of his service is not combat but tragedy. With Ft. Dix being close enough to New York, Hartman traveled to Manhattan for a rally on the day in 1954 that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed as Soviet spies. “I remember that day very well.”

There are other Jewish veterans who saw terrible events, and do participate in Veterans groups. But Jewish veterans from World War II and Korea are aging and their memories are slipping, which is why it’s important to the groups to attract younger members.

At 32, U.S. Army Capt. David Sellen is the youngest member of Jewish War Veterans Post 603. The Valley Glen resident was an infantry officer in Afghanistan and now serves as a civil defense operations officer at Missouri’s Ft. Leonard Wood.

“I think the next guy is in his early 60s or late 50s,” said Sellen, whose mother is a nursery school teacher at Encino’s Valley Beth Shalom. “There are more Jewish soldiers at least known today, and so I think more of it has to do with getting the word out. I didn’t know it existed.”

Why don’t younger Jewish war veterans join organizations?

“They don’t have the time to get into organizations,” he said. “They save most of the [free] time for their families.”