September 24, 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.

 

Third Generation of The Holocaust, a former soldier in the IDF

I am a third generation of the Holocaust, and a former soldier in the IDF.

I was born in a small town in the center of a well-developed country. My most vivid memories from my childhood are music, laughter and quality family-time. My worst experience as a child was when I crashed my bike at the age of five, getting scratches on my knees. My parents gave me everything I wanted and needed, and my night’s sleep was tight and calm.

Since a very early age, my fellow classmates and I were taught that all of this was made possible thanks to our grandparents. At first by our parents, then by our Kindergarten teachers, our teachers, our commanders in the army and now – our professors at the University. When my grandparents were my age, they did not have a comfortable life or a calm night’s sleep. They woke up every day to the scenery of sand, mud and swamps and often to the sound of gunfire. They fought hard, every day, with the dream in their heart that their children and children’s children would have a normal life and safe happy, safe childhood.

My mother’s parents were native Israelis, because their families were smart enough to escape to the swampy state-to-be from Poland, before it was too late. Not all of their relatives were that alert, and were brutally murdered by the Nazi killing machine.

My father’s parents came from Iraq in the 1950’s, and lived in a transit camp until there was a place for them to live in at the newly established State of Israel. Many of my friends’ grandparents are Holocaust survivors, some of them are still unable to talk about those dark times. Together, natives, survivors and patriots from east and west, joined forces for us, their descendants.

Now, as they become older, it is our time to step to center-stage and do our part, as the third generation of the Holocaust. We are the last generation to hear about “those days,” where the country was built after the nightmares of the Holocaust, from first hand. We are the last generation to speak to the heroes who built this country and the heroes who survived the worst, and our life- mission of commemorating and educating will soon begin.  If I heard a testimony from a Holocaust survivor every year from first to 12th grade, and could ask my grandparents questions every day, my children would not have that privilege. They will have to rely on the stories, documentaries, and recorded testimonies. 

It is our mission to keep the memory alive, and in this time of the year it becomes clearer than ever. This special week of the year reminds us all the story of Israel, which is often being described here with the sentence: From Holocaust to Revival (free translation from Hebrew- משואה לתקומה).

With the memory of the Holocaust, we carry constant personal and public grief of the people we lost while fighting to keep our home in Israel – soldiers and civilians, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, who died protecting our country, or during a normal day that ended in a tragic terror attack.

This story of Israel, which is still being written, is told every year, during one week in April or May (The Hebrew months Nissan and Iyar). On the 27th of Nissan, we mention the national Holocaust Day; on the 4th of Iyar we mention the national Memorial Day; on the 5th of Iyar we mention our Independence Day. Those three dates tell the story of Israel, in order: we survived the Holocaust to build the state of Israel. From having nothing, we got to have everything, but sadly, this “everything” had its toll, when we lost many in our never-ending battle for our home.

During these days of remembrance, schools change their itinerary and people are allowed to skip work. Ceremonies are held in every public facility, and a grand nation – wide ceremony takes place in Jerusalem and is aired on national television. During these three days, stores are closed, and the entire nation is committed to the essence of the special day. During these days, for a brief moment, everyone stops everything and bow their heads down in grief as a siren is heard throughout the country. During those three days, the television and radio broadcasts are altered, and are dedicated to tell the story, for everyone to know.

With time, the reasons to fully commit to those days could become vaguer and it would be our responsibility to remember and cherish them, making sure our children would not forget them either. In times of Holocaust denial, growing anti-Semitism, growing indifference and threats from our neighboring countries, those reasons must burn in our guts and be our guiding light.

I am a third generation of the Holocaust and a former IDF soldier. Israel was given to me on a silver platter, with the promise to remember those who handed it to me, 70 years ago, and every single day since.

I promise to always remember and never forget. I promise to remember and remind my past, so that my children would be able to create the future.

For more updates about the day-to-day life in Israel, you can follow Israelife on Facebook here.

A Single Soul

The gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery are graced by U.S. flags on Memorial Day. Photo by Kathleen T. Rhem (via WikiCommons)

In 1971, by act of the United States Congress, the last Monday in May officially became the Federal holiday known as Memorial Day. Its roots, though, go all the way back to just after the Civil War when General John A. Logan, the leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a day of remembrance for all those who had fallen in the war to be held on May 30th of that same year.

By 1890, all of the Northern states had decided to observe what was then called “Decoration Day,” and soon after World War I, the Southern states joined as well.

It’s understandable that in the decades immediately following our bitter Civil War, a conflict that resulted in over 600,000 deaths, the two sides couldn’t even agree to remember and honor their dead together.

This year, Memorial Day falls immediately before Shavuot, Z’man Matan Torateinu – the Time of the Giving of Our Torah.

Here’s the lesson: immediately after pausing to remember the more than 1,300,000 Americans who have fallen in battle, we celebrate Torah, whose essence, according to Rabbi Akiva, is: וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ – “Love your neighbor as yourself.” For many interpreters, the last word of the verse is the key to understanding: kamocha (“as yourself”). The big idea is the realization of how much we are all alike. Ultimately, there is no distinction between self and “other.” We are, all humanity, a single soul: North and South, man and woman, black and white, Jew and Gentile.

It took sixty years for Americans to agree to remember their dead together.

It will take time, I know, and I’m sure it seems naive and hopelessly unrealistic given the state of our world, but my prayer is that someday, soon, we will so fully and universally recognize our shared humanity that war itself will be nothing more than a memory. We will gather on Memorial Day to mourn the fallen and give thanks for the realization of the Prophet Isaiah’s vision:

לֹא-יִשָּׂא גוֹי אֶל-גּוֹי חֶרֶב, וְלֹא-יִלְמְדוּ עוֹד מִלְחָמָה.

“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore.”


Yoshi Zweiback is Senior Rabbi at Stephen Wise Temple and Schools.

Letters to the editor: Lee Baca, Memorial Day, Trump and more

Political Cronyism

The issue is not why Congregation Bais Naftoli, an Orthodox synagogue, chose to honor ex-Sheriff Lee Baca at its annual event (“Ex-Sheriff Awaiting Sentencing Honored by Orthodox Congregation,” June 3). The real issue is political cronyism and why our elected political leaders still abide by the same “old-boy network” of political spoils and nest-feathering.

Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who’s “secretly” exploring a run for governor, and Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz openly sitting at an event honoring a disgraced former sheriff (who resigned with federal charges pending) is political cronyism at its worst. Sheriff Baca lied to federal investigators about serious constitutional violations occurring on his watch at the county jails. That makes him a liar who may very well go to jail for his deception. Shame on our elected political leaders Koretz and Villaraigosa for turning a blind eye to Baca’s corruption and embracing his corrupt form of politics.

Michael Rubinstein, Beverly Hills

Bad Grammar? It Was for a Reason

That headline — “Who Do You Love?” (June 3) — made my eyeballs hurt! Oy!  How about, “Whom Do You Love?” Yes, please use the objective case. Would you write, “Do you love she?”  Or, “You do love I?” No. You would use the objective case. 

Judi Bloom via email

Editor’s note: We purposely used the familiar colloquial phrase to give impact to the headline.

Respect The Fallen in All Wars

Whether I agree or disagree with why a war is waged, the combatants in that war who died need to be remembered positively and unconditionally. “Greenberg’s View” (May 27) belittling the valiant efforts of those who gave their lives in the Iraq War, making their ultimate sacrifice secondary to other actions taken on behalf of this country, is simply unconscionable. If Greenberg wants to show his wit as to the matter, then he should use another subject as his launching pad, instead of stepping on those who served bravely and honorably. 

Gerry Burk via email

Looking Back on Memorial Day

I would like to commend Tom Tugend for his stirring piece “Looking Back at War on Memorial Day” (May 27) and for his service during World War II. He fills my Jewish heart with pride. Mr. Tugend was absolutely right when he eloquently opined that the most heroic among those of his generation were righteous gentiles who hid Jews from the Nazis at the probable cost of their own lives. 

Marc Yablonka, Burbank

Who’s for Trump?

I read Rob Eshman’s column “Trump and Israel” (May 13) and I was relieved. And then I read Dennis Prager’s endorsement of a vote for Trump “even if only to block a democratic win” and I was shocked (Where Do Jewish Conservatives Stand on Trump?” May 13). I find it incomprehensible that anyone who is aware of what happened when the Nazis came to power would endorse a candidate for “economic well-being or endorse a candidate for any reason — and I mean “any reason” — who speaks of mass transports of human beings as a part of the plan for his presidency! Have we forgotten that quickly?

Dagmar Moscowicz, Los Angeles

Sheldon Adelson and I grew up in the same Jewish neighborhood in Boston. I remember him well, and can readily understand his strong support of Israel. In those days, anti-Semitism was rampant: Kids from neighboring gentile areas often attacked us: police were openly anti-Semitic; and there were Jewish quotas in colleges. And so Adelson strongly advocates for the State of Israel.

While I would not like Trump as our president, I believe Rob Eshman is not being fair. Yes, Trump is crude in his working of his position as he calls for banning Muslims coming into the U.S., but Eshman overlooks that Trump added words to the effect that the ban would be only until each Muslim was checked out to ensure he was not a terrorist; and the Mexicans to which Trump object are the criminals seeking entry to the U.S.

Adelson, I believe, has chosen Trump because he trusts him more than he does Hillary, especially where Israel is concerned.

George Epstein, Los Angeles

Looking back at war on Memorial Day

Tom Tugend, center, holding his City Council proclomation at the Legion of Honor induction on March 9. Second row, from left: daughter Orlee Raymond; wife Rachel Tugend; grandson Zachary Austgen; granddaughter Maya Raymond; daughter Ronit Austgen. Third row: French Consul General Christophe Lemoine. Photo by Astrid Le Moine

In the name of the president of the French Republic, Consul General of France in Los Angeles Christophe Lemoine inducted me on March 9 into his country’s Legion of Honor, a distinction established by Napoleon in 1802. As a result of this, I now hold — with some pride and considerable disbelief — the rank of Chevalier, or Knight.

The honor harks back more than seven decades, to World War II, when my unit, the U.S. 254th Infantry Regiment, fought alongside the First French Army in the liberation of France. We’d fought through the sub-zero winter of 1944-45, reputedly the coldest in Europe in 50 years, not a pleasant season to spend in icy foxholes atop the Vosges Mountains.

As Lemoine pinned the medal onto my lapel, however, I found myself flashing back some 77 years to a rather different scene.

The date was April 20, and my mother, my sister and I — a 13-year-old in shorts — were leaving Berlin, the city where my ancestors had lived for generations. It was then, as now, the capital of Germany, the nation in whose army my father, a prominent pediatrician, had served for four years in World War I.

On the taxi ride to Tempelhof Airport, we looked out at the streets festooned with gigantic swastika banners marking not our departure, but Adolf Hitler’s 50th birthday.

I had observed my bar mitzvah the previous year in one of the city’s synagogues — a sanctuary that, only a few months afterward, was torched during Kristallnacht.

cov-wwiiSix years after our departure, I returned to Germany, in January 1945, this time wearing the uniform of an American soldier. My unit entered the country of my birth unceremoniously by breaking through its defensive Siegfried Line from southeastern France after the bitter battle against elite Wehrmacht units at the Colmar pocket in Alsace.

Curiously, I was not even an American citizen when I enlisted in the U.S. Army in March 1944. On the contrary, the U.S. government classified me as an “enemy alien” because I had been born in Germany. But unlike those of ethnic Japanese descent, including U.S.-born citizens living mainly on the West Coast, my family was not interned for our alien status. We were, however, required to have a permit to travel any long distances within the country and had to give up our shortwave radio. (I remember baby-sitting for some neighbors and sneaking in some overseas broadcasts.)

I spent my three months of intensive basic training at Camp Blanding, in northern Florida, which offered another type of education. My barrack mates were mostly rural Southerners, and for the first time I came face to face with unvarnished segregation and racism in America.

Most of the guys had never met a Jew, but, like most Americans of that time, had suckled more or less overt anti-Semitism in their mothers’ milk. One day, a fellow GI asked me about my religion, and when I answered “Jewish,” he refused to believe me, assuming that a Jew must have horns on his head and always talk about money.

Finally, when I convinced him, he paid me his highest compliment. “Tom,” he said, “you’re a white Jew.”

Just before embarking for overseas, an officer addressed our company and lifted everyone’s spirits by saying, “Take a look at the man on your left, and then on your right. One of you isn’t coming back.”

About a month before the war’s end, someone figured out that I spoke German fluently, and I was transferred — first to regimental headquarters and then to the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps.

That assignment compensated for the bitter winter. We lived in a “liberated” mansion overlooking the Neckar River and wanted for nothing, with eager Germans bowing and scraping. Heady stuff for a 19-year-old only a few years past refugee status.

There was a myth abroad at the time that retreating Germans would leave behind in each village a die-hard Nazi to organize sabotage and resistance to the occupation. My job was to go from village to village and find that elusive Nazi.

In every town, whoever I interrogated, the story was the same: “I was never a National Socialist, indeed in my heart I was against the Hitler regime. But my neighbor, my brother, my cousin, my boss, they were all Nazis, and I’ll show you where they live.”

Finally, in one village in southwest Germany, I was told of an 80-year-old blind poet who was an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler. So I went to the man’s home and told him of the accusations by his friends and neighbors. Yes, said the man, “I have always been a loyal follower of the Fuhrer, and I will love him until I die.”

I returned to my headquarters and told my commanding officer, “I believe I deserve a decoration. I have found the only Nazi in all of Germany.”

In July 1945, two months after the war in Europe came to a close, the idyll ended, and I was shipped back to the States to prepare for the invasion of Japan. At the time, experts estimated 1 million GIs might die on Japan’s beaches, and I had no burning desire to be part of that grisly statistic.

So, with chutzpah and aided by lax security unimaginable now, I, about the lowest of enlisted men, went to the Pentagon and asked to speak to the general in charge of manpower. I was admitted and told by the fatherly general how he envied my chance to fight on the front lines. In turn, I told him that I could be more valuable to the country as an interrogator in Germany than a casualty on the beaches of Japan.

He said he would look into the matter (“Fat chance,” I thought). Then, the next month, Japan surrendered. I was sent to Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where I was taught typing — on a manual typewriter, of course — so I could fill out the discharge papers of returning soldiers.
I figured I would remain in that position until my own discharge, but one day, the first sergeant ordered me to report to his office. I did so and was told that by orders direct from the Pentagon, I was to leave the next day for Governors Island in New York Harbor. “What for?” I asked. “Don’t know,” the sergeant replied. “It’s top secret.”

On Governors Island, I was assigned a bunk and told to report the next day to an office on Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. Again, information about the assignment was classified as secret.

At the Wall Street office, the story was the same. My orders were to report to the office every morning, but I could spend the rest of the day as I wanted, including checking in occasionally at the USO for a free front-row ticket to the best Broadway show that evening.

After about two weeks, the good times ended, and I got orders to travel to Fort Eustis in Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

There, the Pentagon, which, its critics charged, knew how to win a war but not the peace, had organized a six-day course to “re-educate” German prisoners of war and, upon graduation, send them to serve as small-town mayors and middle-rank civil servants in the American zone of occupied Germany.

cov-medalThe POWs tagged the course as the “Six-Day Bicycle Race,” and the idea was that the men chosen would be nonpolitical, or even “political unreliables,” who the German army had consigned to a separate, closely watched division.

Though well meant, the concept quickly ran into trouble. During the war, American authorities had left the running of the POW camps (primarily in Southern states) to the inmates, which resulted in the most fanatical Nazis, many veterans of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps, taking de facto control.

When those Nazis spotted a political “unreliable,” they frequently threw him out the window or killed him, then made it look like an accident.

So when it came to the selection of participants in the re-education course, there were frequent confrontations, pitting two POWs against each other, one maintaining that another was a vicious Nazi who had murdered his friends, while the accused ardently denied the allegations.

It was now our job as German-speaking GIs to listen to the conflicting versions and decide who was telling the truth. Hoping to find out more, one evening I put on a prisoner’s uniform and, with the help of a “good” German prisoner, was introduced as a newly arrived POW. I learned no secrets, and rather suspect that my “friend” had tipped off his comrades as to whom I really was.

Looking back, it seems strange that I felt no burning hatred for the Germans, beyond that of any soldier toward the other guy shooting at him.

Living in cosmopolitan Berlin was easier for Jews than living in smaller towns. I’d gotten nearly all my education in a Jewish environment, and, as a youngster, my obsession with my soccer team obliterated even the experience of Kristallnacht.

I was too self-absorbed to grasp the agony of my parents, especially of my father, and, perhaps most important, the horror of the Holocaust had not yet sunk in.

After I turned down offers to work as an interpreter for what turned out to be the Nuremberg war crime trials, the U.S. Army and I parted ways, with no regrets on either side, in May 1946.

Thanks to the GI Bill, I enrolled at UCLA — no tuition, no parking fees, but few girls — and then went on to UC Berkeley.

Later, in the summer of 1948, I would become a soldier again, when I traveled clandestinely to the nascent State of Israel to serve as squad leader in an anti-tank unit during the War of Independence.

My motives for that move were, as always, mixed — restlessness, my youthful Zionist indoctrination and a sense that because a new Jewish state arose only every 2,000 years or so, I didn’t want to miss it, as I probably wouldn’t be around for the next time. Also, by this time, some Holocaust survivors were beginning to talk about their experiences, lending weight to the need for a Jewish state. (I have written about this experience in a previous article for the Journal.)

Then, in my third war in six years, I was recalled by the U.S. Army at the outbreak of the Korean conflict in 1950, but this time I lucked out. Instead of being shipped out immediately as cannon fodder at the Chosin Reservoir, my newly minted bachelor’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley got me a cushy assignment as editor of an Army newspaper based at the Presidio in San Francisco.

After all that, I finally settled down and got a job at the San Francisco Chronicle, moving from copy boy to writing obits and shipping news to the police and court beats. I went to Spain for a year, got married, had three daughters, and I’ve reflected only rarely on my wartime years.

About a year ago, I received an email from a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who had heard, again by random chance, about my wartime service in France.

He told me that the French government had a program to honor and thank U.S. soldiers who had taken part in the liberation of France from the Nazis. Would I be interested in filling out some forms to get the ball rolling?

The forms slowly wended their way from the French consulate in Los Angeles to the embassy in Washington and then to some special presidential committees in Paris.

Finally, I joined nine other grizzled vets at an American Legion post in Pacific Palisades, and, when my turn came, received a very impressive medal and a kiss on the cheek by the consul general, followed by the handout of three handsome scrolls signed respectively by the mayor of Los Angeles, the city council and the Board of Supervisors.

When it was over, my 11-year-old grandson, Zach, expressed his disappointment that my knightship didn’t come with a horse, lance and armor, and went on to ask, “Saba, are you a hero?”

Having thought and written a good deal about the nature of heroism, I quickly answered Zach’s question with a “no.”

Actually, I consider the word “hero” to be perhaps the most misused — and overused — four-letter word in the English vocabulary (well, maybe not the most overused four-letter word).

I consider it ludicrous that every man and woman in uniform, even if the majority of them have never heard a shot fired in anger, are reflexively labeled “heroes.” More obscenely, I keep getting letters from certain fundraising organizations offering me the designation of “hero” if I send $50 to this or that cause.

In general, I’ve found that Israelis are much less given to phony hero-worship or bragging than most Americans. I had known my Jerusalem-born wife, Rachel, for a considerable time before she casually mentioned that she had joined the underground Haganah during the British rule of Palestine — when she was 15.

Most everything in war is a matter of random chance, from the initial assignment to a given branch or company, to who will live and who will die. In my own case, while I happened to be assigned to an infantry regiment that distinguished itself in battle, I was not called upon to perform any particular Hollywood heroics.

I felt more akin to Kilroy — whose name and outsized nose was scrawled on just about every shattered wall and building in the European war zone, with the legend “Kilroy Was Here.”

That’s really the point — to be there when it counts, to do your job, to become a small part of history.

So who are the true heroes? They are those who stand up, day by day, for their beliefs, be it in the workplace or against the convictions of their societies.

By that measure, I would put sincere conscientious objectors to wartime service in that category, such as the Quakers, who enabled my own family to leave Germany for the United States when few other non-Jews were willing to help.

In my lifetime, however, the ones I believe who most deserve to be called heroes have been the righteous gentiles who shielded hunted Jews — complete strangers — during the Nazi era, at the risk of their and their families’ lives.

Back around 1990, I covered a conference at Princeton University attended by leading Holocaust scholars whose assignment it was to determine what had made such rescuers tick. In other words, what were the special characteristics and circumstances that made one average citizen shelter a hunted Jew, while most, under the same circumstances, turned a deaf ear to the pleas, or turned the Jews over to the authorities.

In every town, whoever I interrogated, the story was the same: “I was never a National Socialist, indeed in my heart I was against the Hitler regime. But my neighbor, my brother, my cousin, my boss, they were all Nazis, and I’ll show you where they live.”

Attending the Princeton conference was a middle-aged Polish woman who had worked as housekeeper in a large Polish villa requisitioned by a German major. In Poland, the penalty for helping Jews was the most draconian in all of Nazi-occupied Europe, namely death.

In the cellar of this villa, she hid half a dozen Jews. Day after day, she found ways to smuggle strictly rationed food to the Jews, removed their excrement, found medicine for them when they were sick, and so forth.

One elderly Jewish woman, near death, told her protector she was worried. “How will you get rid of my body after I die?” she asked. “I might give you all away.”

So after the woman’s death, the remaining Jews hacked the dead woman’s body into little pieces, and the housekeeper smuggled out the parts and buried them.

Would you be able to do the same, not one time, but day after day for years? For me, and I suspect for 99.99 percent of the human race, the answer is a categorical no.

After three days of discussion, the participating scholars were unable to define uniform characteristics for those rescuers. They had been laborers and professors, devout Christians and atheists, people from happy and contentious homes, and so forth. There were even a few anti-Semites who told underground rescuers, “I can’t stand the Jews, but if you ask me to hide a Jewish child, I will do it.”

And so, in best academic fashion, the gathered experts came to a tentative conclusion — these rescuers viewed the persecuted not as members of a certain race, religion or nationality, but simply as human beings who needed help.

Despite my disclaimers, I admit to having enough of an ego to enjoy the praise and respect my French medal brings me. But I wear it in the full knowledge that there are levels of true bravery, true moral courage, that I will never reach.

Cartoon: A Memorial Day thank you

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Searching for Sgt. Kauffman

Sitting on a recent day in the light filtering through a large multi-paned, stained-glass window of the Memorial Library — a branch of the Los Angeles Public Library located on Olympic Boulevard across from L.A. High School — I noticed a list of 20 names ornately worked into the glass. Satisfying my curiosity, an inscription informed that the window was “Dedicated to the alumni of the Los Angeles High School who died in the World War.” Reading the list, my eyes rested on one name: Joseph L. Kauffman. “Was he Jewish?” I wondered. Where did he die? What kind of life was ended by his sacrifice? Did someone say Kaddish for him? Little did I know, sitting in the library that afternoon, that looking for answers about the man in the window would take me on a ride across Los Angeles County.

First stop was the library’s circulation desk, where from a one-page “Brief History,” I discovered that the students of L.A. High had commissioned the stained glass for the library when it formally opened on April 29, 1930. As for my questions about the individuals memorialized in the window, the response was, “Please let us know if you find something.”

Researching at home, I found an article in a World War I-era edition of the B’nai B’rith Messenger that clearly identified Joseph Leon Kauffman as Jewish. The son of Isaac, who owned a general merchandise store in El Monte, and Ernestine Kauffman (née Laventhal), Joseph was born in Los Angeles in 1895 and was confirmed by Rabbi Sigmund Hecht of Congregation B’nai B’rith. He had an older brother, Milton. 

Joseph Kauffman. Photo courtesy Western States Jewish history

Curiously, a quick internet search also brought up a photo of a monument dedicated to Sgt. Joseph L. Kauffman, located in the San Gabriel Valley town of Temple City, a long way from the family home on Catalina Street in the heart of what today is Koreatown.

In search of answers, I got on the I-10 heading east.

In 1921, the American Jewish Committee issued a report that found that “about 250,000 Jewish soldiers served in the United States military during World War I, 40,000 of whom volunteered,” and that “about 3,500 Jews were killed in action or died of wounds.” Kauffman wanted to be a volunteer. “As soon as war was declared, he applied for entrance to the officers’ training school, but through a clerical error and confusion of names, this was denied him,” reported an article in the Dec. 1, 1918 edition of the Los Angeles Times, published after his death. “When he was drafted he joyfully accepted the call, even hastening his departure by exchanging places with a married man,” the article said.

Before being drafted into the Army for duty in the American Expeditionary Force, he graduated in 1913 from Los Angeles High School, matriculating to the University of California (now UC Berkeley) and “then returned to this city, where he engaged in the real estate business with his brother, Milton Kauffman,” the Times reported.

On his draft registration card, dated June 5, 1917, in which Kauffman describes himself as having blue eyes, brown hair, and being tall and stout, he also lists a well-known, for its time, real estate firm, W.I. Hollingsworth & Co., as his employer.

Foreshadowing his death by artillery fire in the Forest of Argonne in France, Kauffman wrote in his last letter to his parents, two days before he died: 

“We are camping close to the front. The shells are whizzing over our heads all the time. We have had a lot of long, hard marches and camping out — all the real hard doses of army life, but we are all here and still ‘a-going.’ We are all anxious to get into the fight; we have been training so long that we are tired and want some real action. Even now the noise of the big guns is music to our ears. I expect to be able to write a lot of thrilling experiences soon, but cannot tell when,” reads an excerpt included in the Times’ story.

Temple City Park, with a white bandstand in its bucolic center, looks like something right out of “The Music Man.” I easily found the granite obelisk dedicated to Kauffman, which stands tall on the side of the park adjacent to City Hall, apart from the picnic tables and barbecues. At its base, a bell-shaped bronze plaque provided the who, when and where, without shedding any light on why a monument to a Jewish soldier had been placed in such an outlying area. It reads: “In Memory of Joseph L. Kauffman, Sergeant Co. C 364th INF., 91st Division, A.E.F. Who on Sept 26, 1918 at the age of 22, fell in defense of democracy at Argonne Forest France.” Then I noticed an inscription at the bottom, “Erected by Walter P. Temple, Capt. Thomas W. Temple, Walter P. Temple, Edgar A. Temple,” as well as the “Cadets Pasadena Army and Navy Academy.” Could the why be answered by all those Temples?

Though Temple City was named for prominent real estate investor and philanthropist Walter Temple, who had purchased the town’s original tract of 400 acres from Lucky Baldwin, who had purchased it from Jewish real estate investor and wholesaler Harris Newmark, I doubted that the Newmark connection was why the monument was located there. Deepening the mystery, as I pulled away from the curb, I saw that the nearest cross street was “Kauffman Avenue.”

Sticking with my hunch that the Temples held the answer, I got on the I-60, traveling farther east to the City of Industry.

At the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, located in the middle of an industrial park that had grown up around it, the fog-of-war mystery finally began to clear. Speaking with the museum’s assistant director, Paul R. Spitzzeri, I learned that Joseph’s older brother, Milton, was for several years, including the year when his brother died in action in France, Walter Temple’s business manager and friend. Indeed, Kauffman Avenue was named for him. Milton was also working for Temple when oil was discovered on his property in Montebello Hills, and it was there, in 1919, at the intersection of San Gabriel Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue, with oil derricks in the background, that the granite memorial was first placed, Spitzzeri said. It was, in fact, “the first [World War I] memorial to an individual to be erected in California,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Kauffman headstone, Photo by Edmon J. Rodman

At the dedication that day was former California Gov. Henry Gage, as well as Rabbi Hecht, who sadly memorialized the dead soldier, saying, “I have known Joseph Kauffman from the time he was a little boy.” Gen. Johnstone Jones remarked, “This shaft is a gift from Walter P. Temple and his sons,” clearing up that mystery and concluding, “here shall this imperishable shaft stand forever.”

Only it didn’t.

After Temple sold the oil property in 1930, he had the memorial moved to its current location in Temple City, said Spitzzeri, who gave me directions to the original site. “You might want to check it out,” he suggested.

Back on the I-60, one of the rivers that run through this story, I drove west, just past Whittier Narrows and Legg Lake, to a hilly scrubland area in south Montebello, where grasshopper pumps are still taking oil from the ground.

What an isolated spot for a monument. After the unveiling, I wondered, who would have returned, and why wouldn’t relatives and friends have just visited his gravesite instead? But where was it?

Kauffman died in France, and several reports had him buried there, but when I searched on the American Battle Monuments Commission website for his grave, Sgt. Kauffman was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, a call to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C., gave me a lead.

A freeway trip on the 60 brought me to Home of Peace Memorial Park in East Los Angeles, and the final resting place of Sgt. Joseph L. Kauffman. In an article headlined “Hero’s Body En Route,” the Aug. 8, 1921 edition of the Los Angeles Times had reported that Kauffman’s remains “were due here this week.” Continuing the story, the B’nai B’rith Messenger reported in its Aug. 19, 1921 edition that after Kauffman “was brought home from France,” a funeral was held at the home of his parents, presided over by Rabbi Hecht, and at the interment a “large crowd” most of whom had known and loved the young hero, “assembled to do him honor.”

Left: The window from the Memorial Library, Right: The photo of the Kauffman monument as it stands in Temple City. Photos by Edmon J. Rodman

In the center section of the memorial park, I found the tall, ornately designed headstone that marked journey’s end for Sgt. Kauffman. 

Reaching up, I placed a stone.

Have an idea for a Los Angeles Jewish history story? Contact Edmon Rodman at edmojace@gmail.com.

Memorial Day Sonnet: Thanks But No Thanks

No parade no drum no strutting majorettes
no kids jumping up & down to see
no brazen trumpets and no striding troops
no polished horseflesh prancing no oratory
no “heroes” no “service” no “high sacrifice”
no “love of Freedom,” no flag flapping in breeze
no hand upon my patriotic heart
no generals no mayor no filthy lies
that do not resurrect either the dead
or those they slew, or cities they destroyed
no pious silence, no taps at 3 p.m.
no masquerade of peace. No. No parade.

I’m in the hammock in my own back yard
reflecting on our wars. I take it hard.


Alicia Ostriker’s most recent volumes of poetry are “The Book of Seventy” and “The Old Woman, the Tulip and the Dog.”  She was twice a finalist for the National Book Award, and received the National Jewish Book Award in 2010.

Heroes to Heroes helps U.S. soldiers heal their psychic wounds

With his two kids out of the house, retired Army Sgt. Harrison Manyoma planned to commit suicide on Aug. 10, 2012. But a Jewish mother from New Jersey derailed his plans. 

Judy Schaffer started Heroes to Heroes after meeting wounded war veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland at a Christmas party she helped organize in 2009. The meeting haunted her. 

The soldiers Schaffer met had volunteered to serve so that American boys, like her two sons, did not have to go, did not have to risk their lives, did not have to return to the United States, as Manyoma did, with physical injuries from a roadside explosion in Iraq and psychic wounds that no one could see. When Schaffer, a radio sales representative, learned that 22 veterans commit suicide every day, she wondered how Americans could live with that statistic.

Shortly after the holiday party at Walter Reed, she happened to sit next to an Israeli soldier on a plane. She asked him how Israelis recuperate from the emotional pain of combat. Israel has a military culture, he told her, because service is compulsory. So everyone knows a wounded vet. Everyone understands post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Something clicked for Schaffer. Could it possibly help veterans to visit Israel?  Could linking Israeli soldiers with American vets be a healing experience? Could visiting the holiest place on Earth help restore their faith in life? Schaffer developed a business plan and started fundraising. 

Heroes to Heroes took its first group of veterans to Israel in 2011, attempting to restore a sense of peace to ex-soldiers who, in some cases, had been suffering from PTSD for years, had lost jobs, lost relationships or were as deeply depressed as Manyoma.   

On the day Manyoma planned to kill himself, he received a call at his home in Texas inviting him on a 10-day trip, along with nine other former soldiers whose lives had been upended by wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The trip transformed him.

Now the man who had sought to end his life serves as a coach for Heroes to Heroes. For the group’s sixth trip to Israel, in February, Manyoma helped select the vets who would most benefit from the experience, monitored each ex-soldier once on Israeli soil, and worked with his Israeli counterparts, who accompanied the Americans on their journey.

From his own experience, Manyoma knew that simply being in a country that honors its veterans every day would have an intense impact on the former soldiers. And it did. A veteran of the Vietnam War who hadn’t spoken about his experience in 45 years opened up to fellow vets after his first night in Jerusalem.


Heroes to Heroes team gathers at the Western Wall.

Manyoma had a similar experience on his initial trip to Israel. He felt a sensation coursing through his arm as he placed his hand on the Western Wall. He began sobbing, but at the same time, experienced a joy he had not known for some time. He opened up emotionally, talked about his feelings and slept better that night than he had since December 2004, when he was wounded in Iraq.

On each trip, the former soldiers are purposely asked to adhere to a tight schedule. Many have not followed a routine for years and arrive in Israel with little interest in life. Their attitude starts to change as they visit the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Yad Vashem. Some walk the Stations of the Cross or undergo a baptism in the Jordan River as a symbol of renewal. All plant a tree in the Lavi Forest in honor of people they have lost or for their children. According to Schaffer, planting a tree for their kids means they are choosing to live. 

During the second trip that Heroes to Heroes made, vets met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who listened to each soldier, shared his own wartime experience and related the heartbreak of losing his brother at the raid on Entebbe in 1976. On their most recent trip, vets met with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Along with the social and emotional aspects of the program, there is a physical element. Vets are asked to ride a bicycle. Most haven’t been on a bike in years, many haven’t been active at all, and some are in physical distress. They’ve taken painkillers or used drugs and alcohol. They’re scared to get on a bike. They worry they will fall. No one has.

The vets return to the United States changed. Manyoma said his son and daughter saw a different man when he came home. “Daddy’s back,” his daughter told him. “The trip opened my heart,” he said.

Heroes to Heroes, which is run by volunteers, has so far been limited to two trips a year because of the financial commitment each visit requires. Schaffer has solicited donors, applied for a grant and is now discussing the possibility that a film could be made about the organization. Her goal is to take four teams to Israel in 2015, to reach people who desperately need help, to throw them a lifeline before they crash, to help them heal. 

To learn more, visit this story at jewishjournal.com.

Israel to recognize 23,320 fallen on Memorial Day

Israel will recognize its 23,320 fallen soldiers as well as civilian victims of terror with the start of Yom Hazikaron, or Memorial Day.

Memorial Day begins on Tuesday night with a minute-long siren. A second siren, two minutes long, will sound at 11 a.m. Wednesday and marks the beginning of official memorial ceremonies throughout Israel.

Among those being honored are the 116 soldiers and civilians who were killed or died in the last year, including 67 soldiers and five civilians killed in Israel’s operation in Gaza last summer.

The figure of 23,320 fallen soldiers is calculated from 1860, when Jews first began to settle outside of Jerusalem. The dead  include members of the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service, the Mossad, the Israel Police, the Israel Prisons Service and the World War II Jewish Brigade, and include soldiers who died from their disabilities suffered during combat, including 35 such soldiers this year.

“On Remembrance Day, the Israeli nation, as one big family, bows its head and unites with the memories of all of the fallen of Israel’s
wars as a moral obligation to those who in their death commanded us to live. So that we may be worthy of them,” Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon wrote after lighting a virtual candle on a memorial website of his ministry that allows the public to light the virtual candles and leave messages.

On Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the grave of his brother, Yonatan, who died in 1976 during the rescue of kidnapped Israelis in Entebbe, Uganda. Netanyahu has visited the grave ahead of Memorial Day since taking office in order to avoid disturbing bereaved families on the actual day.

On Sunday, the prime minister met with children who lost their fathers during the fathers’ military service. The children, aged 8 to 15, from the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization, told Netanyahu about their fathers. Following the meeting, the prime minister invited the children to tour his office.

More than 1.5 million Israelis will visit military cemeteries throughout Yom Hazikaron. The end of Yom Hazikaron on Wednesday night marks the start of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.

Moving and Shaking: VBS honors Vets, Bob Blumenfield loves Israel, Marilu Henner honored

Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) honored 200 veterans during a special pre-Memorial Day Shabbat service on May 24. The program spotlighted veterans of World War II, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and conflicts in between. 

Bea Cohen, 104, believed to be the oldest living female veteran of World War II in California — and perhaps the country — was among the honorees. She was born on Feb. 3, 1910, in Bucharest, Romania. After working for Douglas Aircraft Co. in Santa Monica, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) toward the end of 1942. Later, she enlisted in the new Women’s Army Corps (WAC), which, unlike WAAC, was part of the regular Army. Stationed overseas in Great Britain, she worked with top-secret mimeographed documents. 

Cohen, who became a bat mitzvah at age 100 at Culver City’s Temple Akiba, appeared in uniform and served as a guest speaker at the third annual event, which took place two days before Memorial Day and also paid tribute to American soldiers who liberated concentration camps in Europe.

“Now [Cohen] volunteers with the VA to the extent that she can. She said that men come in there with shoes and no socks. She started to cry,” Rabbi Ed Feinstein, who led services at the Conservative Encino synagogue, told the Journal. “At that moment I stood up and said, ‘We pledge 10,000 pairs of socks.’ ”

The VBS event — which was attended by some 700 people — included a blessing for the veterans and a singing of “God Bless America,” as well as an opportunity for all the veterans to introduce themselves, Feinstein said.

“How could you not say thank you to people like this,” he said. “I wanted kids to meet these people. I wanted kids to see what heroes look like.”

The program was created and organized by VBS congregant Harvey Keenan. Dignitaries in attendance included Paul Cohen, commander of Post 603 (San Fernando Valley) of the Jewish War Veterans (JWV) of the United States of America; Greg Lee, commander of the department of California for the organization; Art Sherman, leader of Wings Over Wendy’s, a veterans group that meets in the San Fernando Valley; and Mort Schecter, who was named Veteran of the Year by the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in 2012 — an award that went to Cohen the following year. 


 


From left: Larry Gold, Jacob Segal, Glenn Yago, Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, Consul General David Siegel, Councilmember Curren Price, Lee Wallach, Jacob Lipa and Mark Levinson at Los Angeles City Hall. Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Blumenfield. 

Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield wasn’t joking when he declared his love of Israel at Los Angeles City Hall on May 23.

Am Yisra’el Chai,” the elected official said, joined by Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel, Israeli American Council (IAC) chairman Shawn Evenhaim, IAC board member Naty Saidoff and others during two presentations that underscored the robust partnership between Israel and Los Angeles.

During the first presentation, which took place on Friday morning, L.A. City Council considered a motion to create a cooperative task force between Los Angeles and Eilat. Its purpose would be to encourage mutually beneficial development between the two cities.

“The Los Angeles/Eilat Innovation and Cooperation Task Force builds on the 55-year-old sister-city relationship with Eilat and is designed to promote collaboration and advancement in technology investment, business development and research opportunities in clean technology, water resources, solar energy and environmental technologies throughout Los Angeles and the State of Israel,” according to a city council press release.

According to press material, the partnership would build on a two-way trade agreement that California and Israel signed on to together back in March. Blumenfield successfully “secured City Council support” for the task force’s creation, the statement states.


Representatives of Los Angeles City Council, the Israeli government and local community organization Israeli American Council schmooze at Los Angeles City Hall on May 23. Photo by Abraham Joseph Pal.

During the second presentation, Blumenfield presented an award to the IAC in recognition of the IAC’s May 18 Celebrate Israel festival. The Yom HaAtzmaut event drew a crowd of 15,000 people to Rancho Park and has become an annual tradition in West Los Angeles.

Last week, Evenhaim credited City Council with making the event, which required the participation of multiple city agencies, possible.

“I want to thank you for your support,” the IAC leader said.

Blumenfield was not the only council member to express his affinity for Israel last week. From his desk in the council chambers, L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar called for a lasting friendship between Israel and Los Angeles.

“I think Los Angeles and Israel have a lot in common, and we have our future bound together as we move forward,” he said. 


 


Shalom Institute vice president Gil Breakman and his wife, Jennifer, join Shalom Institute executive director Bill Kaplan at the Shalom Institute’s boys cabin donor wall. Photo by David Starkopf

Feast on the Farm, an annual donor appreciation event at the Shalom Institute in Malibu, turned the spotlight on a host of honorees May 4.

Those people and organizations honored included: the JCC Development Corp.; the Real Estate Principals Organization of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, Mick Horwitz, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Abby and Stephen Solomon, Andrea Spatz and Robert Wunderlich, Gosia and Adam Weiss, and an anonymous donor.

They were chosen because they assist Jewish groups and financially supported the renovation of the 75-year-old boys’ cabins and restrooms used by more than 500 campers every summer, as well as educational programs and retreats throughout the year.

“This renovation allows us to provide a better experience for our Camp JCA Shalom campers and for our year-round retreat participants and rental groups. It also increases our capacity during our summer camp and year-round for community organizations that use the Shalom Institute as their retreat center,” Bill Kaplan, Shalom Institute executive director, said in an email.

More than 100 donors attended the appreciation party for the Boys’ Side dedication, wine tasting, dinner and tours of the campgrounds. They were thanked for their help that enables scholarships for children to attend programs and facility improvements.

“Support is critical for Shalom Institute to continue to strive for excellence as a year-round experiential Jewish education center and Jewish overnight camp. We feel grateful for the support of all the organizations and individual donors who helped make our dream of renovating the boys’ side into a reality,” Kaplan said.

Shalom Institute is located at 34342 Mulholland Highway in Malibu and welcomes more than 25,000 people annually. 

— Michelle Chernack, Contributing Writer


 

Women’s Guild-Cedars Sinai honored actress, author and wellness advocate Marilu Henner with the Woman of the 21st Century Award during a April 22 luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Henner, who is the author of books on health and fitness, starred on the legendary sitcom “Taxi.” Her neurological condition, highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM), inspired the CBS drama “Unforgettable.”

The Cedars-Sinai group also honored author-producer Jackie Collins with the Trailblazer Award. She is a supporter of the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, among other causes.

Guild board member Gina Furth received the Evelyn Clayburgh Award in honor of her “leadership, service and dedication,” according to a Guild press release.

Annabelle Gurwitch, actress and author of “I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities and Survival stories From the Edge of 50,” served as the master of ceremonies. Attendees included actresses Jami Gertz (“Twister”) and Lori Loughlin (“Full House”).

The event also inducted the group’s new president, Hella Hershon. The organization describes itself as a “volunteer group dedicated to patient care.” 

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Recipe: Olallieberry Pie, Oh My!

The Olallieberry (pronounced ol-la-leh) pie is hands-down my favorite pie! This pie would be perfect for you to bring to any Memorial Day festivity. In fact, you can get creative with your pie crust designs to make it fit any occasion.

So, what is an Olallieberry? It’s crossing a Loganberry with a Youngberry. The word Olallie is a Native American word meaning “berry”. The Olallieberry has physical characteristic of the classic blackberry, but it is genetically about ⅔ blackberry and ⅓ red raspberry. It’s so delicious.

Pie Crust Ingredients

⅔ cup shortening

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp baking sugar

½ cup cold water*

Pie Filling Ingredients

32 oz Olallieberry Dessert Filling and Topping

1 tbsp corn starch

1 tbsp of butter (room temperature)

Additional Ingredients (for the top of the pie):

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup milk

decorative crystal sugar

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375

Step 1: In a large bowl mix the following ingredients

* 1 cup flour

* 1 tsp salt

* 1 tbsp baking sugar

Mix into a paste. I use my hands to do this, your paste will be sticky. You can use a spatula to avoid getting your hands full of the paste.

Step 2:

Add

* remaining cup of flour

* ⅔ cup shortning

* ½ cup cold water

When adding the flour and cold water you will make a paste. Make sure the water you are using is cold and straight from the refrigerator. I measure out the water first and keep it in the refrigerator until I need to use it. Mix softly with your hands until the sides of the bowl are clean. Remember not to over knead.

Step 3:

Roll out your dough between two pieces of parchment paper large enough to cover the bottom of your pie pan.

I use a marble rolling pin, but a wooden or plastic one will work just fine. If you decide to use a marble rolling pin, place it in the refrigerator 20 minutes before using it. By doing this it will roll out your dough better. Another option to use if you don’t have parchment paper, is wax paper. Keep in mind the diameter of your pie pan so you know how much to roll out. Place the rolled out dough into your pie pan. You can decorate the rim of your crust by using a fork or your fingers.

Pie filling instructions:

Step 4:

Place the Olallieberry pie filling into your pie pan on top of your crust you just rolled out. Add cornstarch and mix into pie filling with spatula. Take your room temperature butter and cut into fourths. Drop the cut butter into the filling. It will stick up, do not stir in.

Step 5:

Repeat the ingredients and instructions from the pie crust to make the pie top crust.

You can place it directly onto your pie, make sure to leave a hole by cutting out slits into your top crust. I choose to use my flower cookie cutter to make my top crust. Once you have rolled out the pie crust, cut out your pieces, and going in a circle, place them on top of your pie. Brush egg yolk and milk on top with your pastry brush and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Step: 6

Place your pie on a cookie sheet in the center of your oven and bake for about 50 minutes! Cool for 2 – 24 hours before digging in. Refrigerate when cool.

For more, visit www.holasara.com 

Netanyahu heckled at ceremony for terror victims

Bereaved families heckled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Israel’s official Memorial Day ceremony on Mount Herzl for terror victims.

Some families waved red flags and yelled at Netanyahu, preventing him from beginning his speech at the Monday afternoon ceremony. Many then walked out.

The hecklers were protesting a series of releases of more than 80 Palestinian prisoners involved in terror attacks as part of the failed U.S.-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

“You are freeing the murderers of our children,” one protester shouted, according to Israeli media reports.

In response to the protesters, Netanyahu said, “The decision that has been made was difficult, it goes against the value of justice – everyone feels this way. The complicated reality in our region has created a situation in which, for the last four decades, the governments of Israel had to make decisions that were hard to bear — over and over again. I knew I would meet you here, but I viewed it as my responsibility as the prime minister of Israel. I salute your bravery and resistance.”

As part of his prepared remarks during a ceremony an hour earlier on Mount Herzl for fallen soldiers, Netanyahu said, “The IDF and our security forces is the only thing that separates the past destruction of our people with our people today. Israel is a state that is able to defend itself from any threat. Their sacrifice allowed us to live here in an independent country that is proud of all its citizens, a state that is the national home of our people.”

Ceremonies took place at military cemeteries across the country on Monday following a two-minute siren that wailed throughout the country, bringing the country to a standstill.

Memorial Day, or Yom Hazikaron, this year honors the 23,169 casualties of war and terrorism who have been killed since 1860.

Chabad distributes O.U. disaster-relief funds in Oklahoma

Chabad distributed some $15,000 in disaster-relief funds provided by the Orthodox Union to Oklahomans affected by the recent devastating tornado.

The money distributed by the Chabad Community Center of Southern Oklahoma over the Memorial Day weekend was used for store gift cards and cash relief to help residents whose homes were destroyed by the May 21 tornado that struck Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City, according to Chabad.org. The tornado killed 24 and destroyed or damaged 2,400 homes.

“On behalf of those here in Oklahoma who will receive this help, my thanks go to all of the O.U. members and friends who were so generous in a time of real need,” said Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, director of the Chabad center.

The money was collected in O.U. synagogues and via social networking.

Chabad, which opened its center as a shelter, has been collecting and distributing supplies for displaced families and the elderly.

Reflections on the first mourner’s daddish in honor of Memorial Day

Kaddish – The origins of this most famous Jewish prayer are shrouded in history.  Most agree that it began with the central words, “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah Mevorach L’Olam u’l’Almei Almaya,” or “May God’s Name be praised now and forever.” One source suggests that the Kaddish was originally recited at the conclusion of a learning session in the study halls of ancient Israel.  After engaging in the sacred task of study, these words were recited to show honor and reverence for the learning and to pay respect to the teacher. 

One legend originates the Kaddish as a memorial prayer when the great teacher of his generation died and his students carried him from the Beit Midrash to the grave. There they recited the words, “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah Mevorach L’Olam u’l’Almei Almaya,” to express their profound sadness and gratitude.  It is to say that the greatness of God’s Name is borne out of a teacher’s influence.  Anytime we recite the Mourner’s Kaddish; the words are manifest not only in sadness, but in appreciation for a shared wisdom.     

In honor of Memorial Day, I’d like to introduce you to my newest teacher, US Army Veteran SSGT Stephen E. Sherman.  At 92 years old, Stephen is one of the few living African American serviceman.  He now dedicates his time helping homeless veterans.  We met waiting in a line one morning, and in the midst of light conversation, he drew closer, looked me deeply in the eyes and shared, “I have seen what your people went through when I was in the war.  I was there when they liberated a camp in western Germany.  I will never forget the look on those people’s faces when we told them they were free.”  It was a powerful and brief moment that honestly took me aback.  We shared an understanding from an intensely significant time in his life of the burden and responsibility of memory.  Searching for a response, I returned with words of gratitude for him and his service to our country.  Our chance encounter changed the outlook of my day, and now, even several weeks later, my appreciation for the power memory holds in binding the living together.  

This man, who so proudly served his country in World War II, is spending the twilight years of his life serving those who survive. For that he is an inspiration.  But he became my teacher when he reminded me that when we are carriers of memory and respect between us; we too lived out these words, “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah Mevorach L’Olam u’l’Almei Almaya,” God’s great Name is praised when we recognized the collective responsibility to remember.

On Memorial Day we will take moments to activate the memory for those who fought to preserve and protect our ideals.   On Memorial Day, we are reminded just how important it is to remember the bravery and heroism of those who gave their lives to defend our freedom as Americans and as Jews.  And more than words of honor and reverence, on Memorial Day the Mourner’s Kaddish should be recited for them too.  Kaddish breathes meaning into the words we wish to express in gratitude for a lesson learned.

For me, SSGT Sherman gave life and being to the countless men and women who died in service this country.  Our shared moment opened up worlds of meaning to connect the Memorial Day of this country with the memorial days of the Jewish lifecycle and calendar.  It is precisely those worlds of meaning that make God’s Name great now and forever.

Moving and Shaking: Jewish leaders celebrate Yom HaZikaron, Milken students discuss Yom HaShoah

Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel Photo by Orly Halevy

Leaders from Los Angeles’ Jewish and Israel communities came together to celebrate Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for its fallen soldiers and victims of terror, on April 14 at Stephen S. Wise Temple in Bel Air. The Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles organized the evening ceremony, which took place on the eve of the holiday. Speakers included Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel. Miri Nash, executive director of the Western Region of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), laid down a wreath to commemorate the dead. Established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors, the FIDF provides for the well-being of the men and women who fight in the Israel Defense Forces and for the families of fallen soldiers


Milken students meet with Holocaust survivors and husband and wife Arnold and Isolde Schwartzman. Photo courtesy of Remember Us: The Righteous Conversations Project

During the week of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), teenagers from Milken Community High School discussed that time in history with several survivors. During a four-day workshop held April 8-11 at Milken’s campus in Bel Air, 15 students, four filmmakers and four teachers met with four Holocaust survivors to engage in conversation about the impact and responsibility of communal memory. The event was part of the Righteous Conversations Project, which facilitates dialogue between survivors and teens. At the gathering, posters from “Voices & Visions,” a poster art campaign involving quotes from notable Jewish thinkers, added a layer to the workshop’s exploration into the role of media messages in today’s world. Attendees included Los Angeles filmmaker and “Voices” artistic director Arnold Schwartzman, who served as the workshop artist-in-residence, and his wife, Isolde.


Dan Friedman

The Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center (SIJCC) has named Dan Friedman as its program director. The New Jersey native, who was hired in mid-February and will oversee community programming implemented by the SIJCC and East Side Jews, previously served as producing director at the
Greenway Arts Alliance and as the program director at the Sholem Community. “I am excited about working in this position,” Friedman said. “The vibrant, unique people and energy that makes up the East Side of Los Angeles is packed with creative voices and people excited to engage in discourse and build a community.”


This month, the West Coast Region of American Friends of Ramban Hospital named Steven Karash as its new director. The former executive vice president of advertising and marketing for the Jewish Journal, Karash spent the majority of his career on the staff of the New York Times Media Group in Los Angeles, where he held sales and management positions.

Israel observes Memorial Day with siren, ceremonies

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a national memorial ceremony for Israel's fallen soldiers that no one will succeed in destroying Israel.

“Since the birth of the State of Israel, many have tried to destroy it. They will never succeed. The IDF is stronger than ever,” Netanyahu said Monday at the ceremony on Mount Herzl, moments after a two-minute siren that brings Israelis throughout the country to a standstill on Memorial Day. “We will continue to strengthen our forces and act toward achieving peace with our neighbors and to protect our state. We always remember that we wouldn't be here without our soldiers' willingness to fight for our existence.

“We salute the fallen, our loved ones, the heroes of the State of Israel. May they rest in peace,” he said.

The ceremony was one of hundreds across the country in which Israel remembered its more than 25,000 fallen soldiers and terror victims

Yom Hazikaron, or Memorial Day, began in Israel on Sunday night with the sounding of a siren.

“We will not forget even for a moment and will always remember those for whom the survival of Israel and its glory are indebted,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an address to bereaved families Sunday night at the national ceremony held at the Western Wall.

Peres praised the courage and spirit of Israeli soldiers and their commanders.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz also addressed the bereaved families.

Judah Pearl, the father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, lit the memorial flame Monday at the annual Yom Hazikaron ceremony at the Jewish Agency and National Institutions Compound in Jerusalem in memory of Jews killed in terror attacks and anti-Semitic incidents around the world.

“The last words of my son were, 'My father is a Jew, my mother is a Jew and I am a Jew.' For 11 years I have prayed for the moment that I would have the honor to read Daniel’s words in Jerusalem, the city where he celebrated his bar mitzvah,” Pearl said. “Today I can realize that privilege by lighting the memorial flame here in Jerusalem. This is a memorial flame, but it is also the flame of Jewish pride and a collective pledge that terror and evil will never be victorious and that our grandchildren will enjoy a better world.”

Also participating in the ceremony were Daniel Pearl’s two sisters; his wife; Mariane; and his son, Adam, who was born several months after his father’s murder in Pakistan.

Netanyahu at the opening of the weekly Cabinet meeting said Sunday, “We are here thanks to Israel's fighters who joined the struggle for our existence, thanks to those who survived the wars and thanks to those who fell. We do not forget, even for a second, that we are here thanks to the fallen.”

On Saturday night, Netanyahu visited the grave of his brother, Yonatan, who died in 1976 during the rescue of kidnapped Israelis in Entebbe, Uganda.

Some 92 names were added to the list of Israel's fallen this year.

According to the Ministry of Defense, there are 17,553 bereaved families of security personnel in Israel, 2,324 orphans, and 4,964 widows of the Israel Defense Forces and the defense establishment.

More than 1.5 million Israelis will visit military cemeteries throughout Yom Hazikaron. The end of Yom Hazikaron on Monday night marks the start of Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.

Also Sunday, in advance of Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics released its annual population report, which found that Israel’s population hit 8 million for the first time. It represents an increase of 1.8 percent, or 137,000 people, over last year.

Calif.’s oldest female vet, 102, reaches out with compassion

This Memorial Day, World War II Veteran Bea Abrams Cohen will be attending ceremonies at Los Angeles National Cemetery, paying tribute to all the men and women who have died fighting while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. But for this 102-year-old resident of Los Angeles, who is certainly California’s oldest female veteran — and possibly the oldest nationwide — it’s the living veterans, especially those who are suffering or in need, who have garnered most of her attention these past seven decades. “I want them to be treated with dignity and compassion,” Cohen said recently.

She backs up her words with actions. Last winter, walking into the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, Cohen saw veterans going sockless. She promptly requested that all guests at her 102nd birthday party, celebrated by more than 150 people at the Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Airport on Feb. 21, bring new white socks to donate to the veterans. She collected more than 700 pairs.

Cohen knows firsthand the toll war can take on a family. She was born Shayna Bayla Hershcovi on Feb. 3, 1910, in Bucharest, Romania, the third child of Joseph and Matilda Hershcovi. She never knew her father; he died a soldier in the Romanian army when she was 3.

Her widowed mother, a seamstress, moved the family to the village of Buhusi. There, she agreed to an arranged marriage with Hyman Abrams, who had moved from Buhusi to Fort Worth, Texas, in 1890, and who had become a widower when his wife died after the birth of their ninth child. “He knew no American woman would agree to take care of nine children,” Cohen said. Abrams sent money, and the family prepared to leave.

But soon after, Bea and her family heard unusual noises and ran outside to see airplanes — a strange and wondrous sight — flying very low across the sky. Cohen waved at one of the pilots. “He had a mustache,” she said. She believes the planes were headed to bomb a nearby factory. It was 1914 and the beginning of World War I. The family’s departure to America was delayed.

Finally, they arrived in Fort Worth, in 1920, with Cohen, her sister and mother dressed in red wool coats with lamb collars and buttons specially tailored by her mother. Cohen adjusted to her new, large family and enrolled in both public and Hebrew school. She was confirmed and also graduated high school.

Bea’s military service photo.

In 1929, following one of Abrams’ older daughters, Cohen, her mother,  Hyman Abrams and one brother relocated to Los Angeles, living off West Adams Street, near a kosher chicken shop and a few blocks from Beth Jacob Congregation. The rest of the children eventually joined them. Cohen attended school to learn shorthand and bookkeeping. After a short stint at the May Co., she worked at Adele’s Sportswear. Hyman Abrams, whom Cohen called Papa, died in 1939.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Cohen was on a movie date at the Pantages Theatre, located downtown, when, after 10 minutes, the screen went dark, the lights went up and a voice announced, “We’re at war. Go home.” Cohen was stunned.

Soon after, she returned to school to learn riveting, and she subsequently was hired by Douglas Aircraft Co. in Santa Monica, working the 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift. “We never knew what kinds of planes we were working on. It was top secret,” she said.

But Cohen wanted to do more to pay back America. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) toward the end of 1942, at age 32, turning down a 5-cents-an-hour raise offered by Douglas Aircraft. After completing basic training in Des Moines, Iowa, Cohen was stationed in Utah and Colorado. 

She then enlisted in the new Women’s Army Corps (WAC), which, unlike WAAC, was part of the regular Army. She was stationed overseas at Elveden Hall, 90 miles from London, and there, as Pfc. Abrams, she worked with top-secret mimeographed documents. Soon after she arrived, she again heard planes flying overhead. She went outside to see the sky full of American bombers heading to Normandy, France, for D-Day.

Cohen returned home on Sept. 28, 1945. In early November, she met Ray Cohen, who had been a Marine gunnery sergeant and was imprisoned on Corregidor Island in the Philippines for more than three years. They married on Jan. 28, 1946, and had two daughters, Janice and Susan.

Cohen joined a group for former prisoners of war with her husband. Also, in 1955, she joined the Jewish War Veterans and became chairwoman for child welfare, where she worked with the United Cerebral Palsy-Spastic Children’s Foundation for 35 years, including initiating annual visits to Disneyland for the children.

Cohen became legally blind in 1990, and her husband died in 2003, but neither tribulation slowed her pace or her passion.

Today, Cohen continues to attend monthly POW meetings for family members and volunteers most Wednesdays at the Veterans Home of West Los Angeles during bingo games. She also has an active Jewish life, becoming a bat mitzvah at age 100 at Culver City’s Temple Akiba and attending Shabbat services there several times a month. She also prepares a seder every year, doing most of the cooking herself.

In addition to collecting new white socks, Cohen, after seeing amputee veterans sitting uncovered in their wheelchairs, began collecting lap robes — knit, crocheted or quilted 50-by-50-inch blankets. “I need some, if anybody wants to make a donation,” she said during an interview. In fact, whenever she goes to a doctor’s appointment or a meeting at the VA, she always brings a lap robe or two and some new socks. And she always finds grateful recipients.

Cohen will also be participating in a new gardening group to be held at the Veterans Home of West Los Angeles, bringing gladiolus and hydrangea cuttings from her yard.

And as if that’s not enough, this veteran who took upholstery classes off and on from 1961 to 2011 and who proudly displays her self-upholstered chairs and sofa in her Westchester home, is looking for a location and funding for an upholstery class for returning or unemployed veterans who want to learn a trade.

“Never forget our veterans,” Cohen told a reporter. “They are our heroes.”

To donate socks or lap robes or for more information, contact:

Sock donations:
West Los Angeles VA Hospital
Clothing Room – Bldg. 500, Room 0441
11301 Wilshire Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90073
310.478.3711, ext. 43535

Lap robe donations:
Jeanne Bonfilio
Public Information Officer
California Department of Veterans Affairs
11500 Nimitz Ave.
Los Angeles, CA  90049
424.832.8219

Siren ushers in Israel’s Memorial Day

A one-minute siren marked the beginning of Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day, Israel’s official Memorial Day.

Tuesday evening’s siren was immediately followed by a national ceremony held at the Western Wall and televised to the entire nation.

“Your beloved ones had a crucial part in the achievements of the state,” Israeli President Shimon Peres told the bereaved families at the ceremony. “We shall forever remain indebted to your children. No act or gesture on our part can relieve your pain and the memories that will not vanish.”

According to official figures, the total number of fallen security personnel and terror victims from 1860 to 2012 stands at 22,993, with 126 killed since last Remembrance Day. There are 10,524 bereaved families of security personnel, 2,396 orphans and 4,992 widows of the Israeli military and the defense establishment.

At a ceremony earlier in the day at the Yad Lebanim memorial, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the bereaved parents and political and religious figures on hand, “It was the heartfelt duty of our dear ones that led them to face the enemy.  It is the duty of our conscience that leads us to stand with eyes closed and not only remember but look toward the future as well. Today, the people of Israel lay aside disagreements and stand as one beside you. Today we remember the fallen of Israel’s wars, all of our dear ones. Each one had a family.  Every name has a life’s story of its own; an entire world has been cut short.”

Netanyahu’s brother Yonatan was killed in the Israeli military’s July 1976 mission to rescue hostages at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda.

“As a member of a bereaved family, Remembrance Day is very significant for me,” the prime minister said. “It is not only a national day of remembrance, it is also a private day of remembrance for me and my family, as it is for all of you.”

Memorial services will be held in communities and military cemeteries across the country on Wednesday, culminating with a torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl at 8 p.m., which ushers in Yom Ha’atzmaut, or Israel Independence Day.

Also Tuesday, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics announced that Israel’s population stands at 7.88 million. There were 806,000 residents of Israel when it was established in 1948.

Three-quarters of the population, or 59.3 million people, is Jewish. The 1.62 million Arabs in Israel comprise 20 percent of the population.

Peres at Memorial Day ceremony: IDF is stronger than ever

The Israel Defense Forces is stronger than ever, President Shimon Peres told bereaved families at Israel’s Memorial Day ceremony in the Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday night.

During his speech, which took place immediately after the Israeli flag was lowered to half-mast, Peres said that, while Israel has paid a heavy price for its existence, it is yet to stabilize peace.

Standing before the Western Wall, the president opened his speech with words of empathy for bereaved families. He went on to acknowledge that no words could heal the pain of losing a loved one. “We can collect words from morning to night,” said Peres, “To search the entire lexicon. To consult experts. To try every expression. Every sentence. Every single word. And I know, it has not yet been found and will not be found: a word capable of healing sorrow. The sentence that has the power to console. There is no such sentence. There never was. And there never will be.”

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Israeli soldier killed in Mount Herzl stage collapse

One woman was killed and several people were injured after a stage collapsed on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

The collapse came Wednesday afternoon during a rehearsal for the national Memorial Day ceremony to be held next week, according to reports.

A bank of heavy lights crashed to the stage, according to reports. The accident occured shortly after a large group of soliers participating in the ceremony left the scene. One of the injured is reported to be in moderate condition.

Police and rescue workers searched the scene for more injured, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Israelis observe national Memorial Day

Israel continued its observance of Memorial Day, or Yom HaZikaron with a two-minute siren sounded across the country.

The siren Monday morning, during which people stopped and stood in their places and traffic came to a standstill, also marked the start of the State ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

The annual observance of Remembrance Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism is in memory of the nearly 23,000 men and women who have fallen in battle for the State of Israel and the some 2,500 Israelis who have been victims of terrorist attacks.

“It is hard to estimate the full price our state has paid with its fallen – families never established, children who were never born, creations never created,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during the ceremony.

“I wish I could advise those of you who have this year joined our family, the family of bereavement, but I am powerless to do so. I know that even though the entire nation accompanies you, you have been sentenced to walk alone with this pain and the abyss that has opened up in your lives,” Netanyahu said

Some 183 members of Israel’s security forces, including police, Israel Defense Forces, Border Police, Israel Security Agency and other organizations—have been killed since last Memorial Day. Among that number are the 41 police officers and prison services officers killed in December 2010 in the Carmel Forest Fire. Three fire fighters were also killed in the blaze, but the Cabinet decided Sunday to defer a discussion as to whether to recognize the firefighters as Israel’s Fallen.

Memorial ceremonies were held in military cemeteries across the country on Monday.

“To this holy place, a remnant of our Temple, our fighting sons, the first paratroopers came, and touched the stones of the Western Wall, in the midst of the Six-Day War,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said Sunday night, addressing bereaved families gathered at the Western Wall for the national memorial ceremony, following a minute long siren and moment of silence to usher in the somber day.

“We didn’t seek war. It was imposed upon us. But when we were attacked, we didn’t have the possibility to lose, even one war. And when we won, we returned to seek peace,” he said. “We were sober then and we remained prepared today. And in any situation we will not give up the chance of full peace, real peace. And if one opportunity fails, we will look for a new one.”

At a memorial ceremony earlier Sunday on Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem to open events marking the day, Netanyahu, whose brother Yonatan was killed 35 years ago leading the operation to free the hostages at Entebbe Airport in Uganda, addressed bereaved families.

“As a member of a bereaved family, I am well acquainted with the pain, the sense of loss and helplessness,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu, his wife and two sons visited the grave of Yonatan Netanyahu on Saturday night.

The conclusion of Memorial Day on Monday night marks the beginning of Israel Independence Day, or Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Petition requests break between Memorial, Independence days

Bereaved families and their supporters have signed a petition calling for a break between Memorial Day and Independence Day.

The petition says it is too difficult both emotionally and logistically to have Independence Day immediately follow Memorial Day. The petition points out that the families experience significant emotional pain on Memorial Day, and then must find their way home from cemeteries and ceremonies during which they encounter closed roads and preparations beginning for Independence Day.

The petition, which has garnered 5,000 signatures, many from bereaved families, requests an at least 24-hour break between the two observances.

The change would require Knesset legislation.

Euroleague basketball finals changed to accommodate Israeli team

The start time of the Euroleague championship basketball game has been moved up by several hours to accommodate an Israeli team that does not want to play on its Memorial Day.

On Wednesday, the Euroleague said the May 8 final of its Final Four tournament in Barcelona, Spain, would be played at 5:30 p.m. Israel time, so as not to interfere with Yom Hazikaron, the memorial day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror.

Maccabi Tel Aviv, the most awarded sports team in Israeli history, qualified for the Final Four after beating the Spanish team Caja Laboral Vitoria in four games last week to capture their best-of-5-series.

Maccabi’s general manager, Shimon Mizrachi, the winner of this year’s prestigious Israel Prize, negotiated with the CEO of the Euroleague about changing the tipoff to an earlier hour.

Maccabi, which has won the Euroleague title four times since 1977, must win its semifinal game on May 6 to qualify for the finals.

The idea of an Israeli team playing on one of the most somber days on the Israeli calendar sparked controversy on the Israeli street.

In Maccabi’s case, it wasn’t the first time. Twenty years ago, the club was heavily criticized for playing in the semifinals of the European Final Four in a game that ended after the start of Memorial Day in Israel.

Jewish leaders slam memorial day for expelled Germans

Jewish leaders and political groups in Germany condemning a proposed national day of remembrance for the 12 million ethnic Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after World War II.

The proposal was to be heard in parliament Thursday.

Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told reporters that “One could almost call [the proposal] a kind of retaliation” against remembrance of the victims of German war crimes.

The governing political coalition parties—the conservative Christian Democratic Union, its sister party the Christian Social Union, and the center-right Free Democratic Party—proposed the annual memorial day for Aug. 5. On that day in 1950, the association of Germans from the annexed regions signed a Charter of German Expellees in which they “renounce revenge and retaliation.”

According to news reports, the parties argued that the memorial day would not dissociate the expulsion of ethnic Germans from German responsibility for the war and for war crimes, but they said it was time that the stigmatization in Germany of expellees and their descendants come to an end.

Opposition political leaders and a group of historians have condemned the proposal as revisionist and avoiding German guilt.

Kramer said such a memorial day could have a “catastrophic effect” on Germany’s image abroad.

The president of the League of German Expellees, Erika Steinbach, told Deutsche Welle that the 1950 charter was about the expellees “overcoming their own justified resentment to say that they wanted to look forward and bring about a peaceful coexistence in Europe.”

She said she expected “the sympathy of the German state … for the particular fate of a substantial part of the German people.”

Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, called the proposal “a disgraceful distortion of history and
an abuse of truth and memory.”

“In reality, ethnic Germans who colonized Eastern Europe during World War II were the unbridled instruments of the brutal Nazi plans for the conquest and plunder of Europe. They served as agents of an evil design,” Steinberg said in a statement.

“To link their commemoration to the 1950 Charter of Expellees, which expresses no contrition for the victims of the Nazis, mocks the memory of all who were brutalized by the Hitler regime, Jew and non-Jew,” he said.

For the Kids

One Minute in Time

In Parshat Naso, all the tribes bring offerings to the finished tabernacle: animals, food and incense.
On Memorial Day, we make an offering to all the soldiers who died in all of our wars. We bring flowers to their graves, raise the American flag and honor their memory.
We also have lots of fun on Memorial Day. There are parades and picnics, food and family festivals. In order to remember what Memorial Day is all about, our government passed a resolution in December 2000, called the National Moment of Remembrance. We are asked to stop what we are doing for one minute, at 3 p.m., and spend that time remembering our fallen heroes. Can you remember to take that moment for remembrance?

Freedom and Responsibility

The Israelites were set free from Egypt. Three months later they received the great responsibility of the Torah. How are freedom and responsibility related?
Tell a story, write a poem or create a cartoon that demonstrates the connection between the two.
Deadline: June 24. Prize: A free pass to an area theme park or entertainment complex.
Send your entries to kids@jewishjournal.com or mail to Kids Page, Jewish Journal, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA, 90010.

Remembering the Fallen

The day before Israel’s Independence Day is Yom HaZikaron Lechalelay Tsahal (Memorial Day for the Fallen of the Israel Defense Forces), which this year begins on Monday night April 15.

It is characteristically Jewish to place Memorial Day right before Independence Day. Whereas in the Catholic tradition, for example, you have the exuberant Mardi Gras before the austere Lent, in Judaism, you have the Fast of Esther precede the gaiety of Purim, and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) a few days before Succot, traditionally, the happiest of Jewish holidays.

The onset of Israel’s Memorial Day itself follows Jewish tradition in that it occurs with nightfall, rather than midnight; in effect, the two holidays merge into each other, with the mourning of Yom HaZikaron flowing into the celebrating of Yom HaAtzmaut.

Many communities have their own Memorial Day ceremonies, especially honoring the fallen relatives of families who live in that community. (If a person dies at any time during the course of his or her military service, he or she is considered an official Israel Defense Forces (IDF) casualty.)

Givat Ze’ev’s ceremony takes place beside its own memorial monument. The ceremony begins at 7:50 p.m. with the lowering of the Israeli flag to half-staff, the lighting of memorial torches and the recitation of the Yizkor memorial prayer.

Businesses are open on Memorial Day, though friends and relatives of the deceased will usually fill the country’s army cemeteries with prayers and reminiscences, placing stones and flowers at the graves of their loved ones (parts of some of these cemeteries are only open during this one day of the year). Schools are open, too, with learning focused on the themes of service and patriotism to one’s country, and with a special school assembly.

State radio and television programming (advertisement-free on this day) tells specific life stories of some of the soldiers who died, and victims of terror incidents are also recalled.

At precisely 11 a.m., a siren will sound for two minutes across the country. During these two minutes, it is customary to stop whatever you are doing. Traffic on Israel’s roads and highways comes to a complete halt during this period, as drivers and passengers all get out of their vehicles and stand silently at attention. There is an official national ceremony in Jerusalem to mark the end of Memorial Day before the festivities of Independence Day can commence.

When the holiday does begin a short while later, it is with a renewed awareness of the price that Israelis have paid and continue to pay for their independence.

You are Invited

The Consulate General of Israel will hold a Yom haZikaron service on Mon., April 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Adat Ari El Synagogue (12020 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood). Consul General Yuval Rotem and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky will be among the speakers. The public is urged to attend the free event, which will be held in Hebrew and English.

Don’t Forget Israel’s Fallen

During May, both the United States and Israel will mark their respective Memorial Days. While the American version will have many remembrance events, most people will spend the day at barbecues, picnics or at the beach. This is not the case in Israel.

On the evening of May 8, as happens each year, all entertainment establishments are closed. There is not a family in Israel that does not have a family member, or at least a friend, who has lost a relative in Israel’s wars. In fact, the country literally comes to a halt when a siren call stops all Israelis for two minutes of contemplation and to honor the memories of those who gave their lives for the Jewish state.

They gave their lives in many places. Israeli soldiers, over the years, have not only fought for the citizens of Israel but in missions in Entebbe, in Europe and during rescue efforts in Ethiopia to protect Jews, wherever they might be. For that reason, I am confused by the fact that Yom Hazikaron is not on the agenda of the Jewish community here in Los Angeles. In fact, some prominent Jewish community leaders have made it clear that they were sorry if I was caused any discomfort or unease by the fact that they had other plans for the evening.

I was taken aback by the response. The affront was not towards me. I fear that the distance and the relative safety of Southern California may have caused us to lose our ties with the fact that more than 20,000 men and women have given their lives over the last 52 years for the security of Israel. As you read these words, our soldiers remain on duty in Lebanon and on the Golan Heights. Pilots are on alert and the Israeli navy patrols the Mediterranean. The men and women of Israel have, for generations now, been asked to give up the best years of their lives to defend our homeland. Some don’t just lose two or three years, some don’t come home.

We mark other auspicious dates on our calendar — Yom HaShoah, which memorializes victims of the Holocaust, and Yom Yerushalayim, the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem — which commemorate modern Jewish milestones along with more traditional holidays like Chanukah and Purim. Why is it that such a central event that marks the huge price paid for the safety of Israel is not on the radar of so many here?

Let’s change that. Each year the Consulate General of the State of Israel organizes a memorial ceremony at Congregation Adat Ari El on May 8 to honor and identify with those heroes who stood and fell. Please join with me, not just for the people of Israel but for all of us who have benefited from the efforts of these soldiers.

We often talk of ourselves as am echad (one people). I believe that is true. By commemorating Memorial Day together, we will take one more step in enhancing the vital Diaspora-Israel relationship and making am echad a reality.

The ceremony marking Israel’s fallen soldiers will take place May 8 at 7 p.m at Temple Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd. in Valley Village.

Yuval Rotem is Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles.