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Veterans reflect on wars past and present

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Jewish War Veterans of Paramus march in the town’s Memorial Day parade earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Al Nahum

While President Obama debates whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, area veterans, just ahead of the national day in their honor, are pausing to reflect on their service

A spiritual outfit

“You can’t do what you do in the military without some degree of spirituality, and the military as an institution is highly respectful of your spiritual needs,” said Richard Musicant, a Marine from Pompton Lakes who joined up in 1988 during peacetime and ended up in Kuwait during the Gulf War.

He recalled that when he was stationed in Saudi Arabia in 1990, High Holiday services were held in a guarded warehouse, in defiance of the Saudi government.

The military services “don’t force anybody to worship but they go to great lengths to accommodate your spiritual needs,” he told The Jewish Standard. “They respect everybody’s spirituality or their faith.”

Musicant didn’t experience any anti-Semitism from his fellow Marines, but acknowledged that it was difficult to be a Jew serving in Saudi Arabia. Dogtags list a soldier’s religious affiliation, but Musicant recalled that a superior officer recommended that Jewish soldiers remove Judaism from their tags in case of capture by enemy Arab forces.

“They didn’t force anything; it was just something to consider,” he said.

For some in his unit, Musicant was the first Jew they had ever met. Their questions didn’t strike him as anti-Semitic, he said, just as genuine curiosity.

Paula Berkoff of Fair Lawn comes from a military family. Her son, Capt. Ross Berkoff, served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and now works for a security company in Washington. Her father, David Goldberg, served three years in the Air Force during World War II.

Ross Berkoff could not be reached for a comment, but his mother recalled his telling her about an incident when chaplains said that everybody had to attend the next Sunday morning service. The younger Berkoff raised his hand and said he was Jewish. While he still had to attend the service, a priest brought him a Jewish prayer book and a star of David. During Chanukah in Afghanistan, fellow soldiers tried to find Berkoff a menorah. One officer even said that his mother had told him that Jews were chosen so he had to take care of Berkoff.

“For my own child,” Paula Berkoff said, serving in the military has been “an amazingly wonderful experience. He loved every minute of it.”

Specialist John Schneider of the National Guard spent nine months in Iraq, returning home to South Jersey this past May. While overseas, he received care packages from the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/B’nai Israel.

“I had gotten care packages from family, which I kind of expected,” said Schneider, who is from Medford Lakes. “You know that other people are thinking about you [but] we got to see it. A lot of people benefited from an organization — it’s not necessarily a group we were expecting to receive care packages from — and it was wonderful.”

As a thank-you to the Jewish Center, Schneider, who is not Jewish, spoke to its Hebrew school students this past Sunday for UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Mitzvah Day, and helped them prepare a new round of care packages to ship overseas.

“They made my life much more comfortable last year, so I wanted to return the favor,” he said. “It’s a big impact on our lives and [our] families’ lives. It’s nice to have the community rally around and not only take care of one person.”

The Afghanistan conundrum

Musicant did not support the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He thought the United States was already doing a good job of containing its dictator, Saddam Hussein. He doesn’t have a solid feel for whether the Iraq war has been handled properly. Afghanistan on the other hand, he said, is “the right idea.”

“We need to go all in. Let’s get it done and get home,” he said. “There has to be a benchmark. At some point the Afghani people need to become self sufficient.”

Dr. Lawrence Nessman of Wayne — who served from 1954 to 1956 as an enlisted soldier and again in 1977 as a doctor in the Army Reserves for almost 20 years — does not think Obama should send more troops to Afghanistan. He is now a colonel in the Reserves.

“The Russians got slaughtered,” he said, referring to the Soviet Union’s military campaign in Afghanistan during the 1980s, when the United States was arming Arab fighters. “They got the crap kicked out of them because we were supplying the Pakistanis with shoulder-to-air missiles. [They] still have the weapons.”

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Specialist John Schneider speaks to Hebrew school students at the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Cong. Bnai Israel during Mitzvah Day on Sunday. Photo courtesty UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey

Paula Berkoff relayed her son’s feelings on the possibility of future deployments.

“The president is his boss,” she said, “and whatever he and his very able group of advisers decide is what we should be doing.”

“They want to complete what they started but there’s just no plan,” Berkoff continued. “I don’t have an answer and I don’t think anybody does.”

Milton Trost, a World War II veteran from Oradell and the husband of The Jewish Standard’s bookkeeper, Alice Trost, said that today’s soldiers face obstacles his generation never did.

“I can’t believe the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan now are feeling too great about their situation,” Trost said, pointing to the free flow of information and often negative opinions on the wars.

“The information they must get through the news and Internet — they must be wondering what’s it all about?” he said. “Why after serving one tour are they being sent back for second and third tours? It’s crazy.”

Those fighting in World War II had the benefit of conviction in what they were doing, he added.

“We were fighting a war — we thought we knew the reason for it,” he said. “It was for a good cause, for our own safety in the world.”

Few would argue, though, that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq carry the same weight with the American public as World War II did.

“This is such a different kind of war than the conventional wars before,” Ross Berkoff’s grandfather said. “It’s very hard to make any kind of decision. I just hope [Obama is] doing the right thing.”

Joining up                        

The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars are among more than 100 veterans organizations in the United States, representing a broad spectrum of religions, races, and creeds. The oldest, however, is the Jewish War Veterans of America, created in 1896 to counter the anti-Semitic canard that Jews don’t serve their country.

“One thing we have learned from the experience of all of our soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan is sometimes veterans simply need other veterans to validate their experience and help them understand what they’ve been through,” said Rabbi Arthur Weiner of the Jewish Community Center of Paramus.

Weiner served as a chaplain in the U.S. Naval Reserves from 1984 to 1991.

“People don’t think of the military as having large numbers of Jews but the truth is the number of Jews in the military pretty much mirrors the percentage of Jews in the country,” he said. “In times of war Jews have served disproportionate to our numbers and have been decorated disproportionately as well.”

Weiner is a member of Jewish War Veterans Post 669 in Paramus. That post’s commander, Al Nahum, said the wars America has fought in recent decades were very different than in the past, which partly accounts for fewer veterans joining fraternal organizations.

The United States wasn’t directly threatened by Vietnam, Nahum said, but stepped into an unpopular war. While the draft was enforced, draftees could get out of the obligation by attending institutes of higher education. Though the draft is still on the books, President Nixon initiated a fully volunteer army. That further changed the demographics of the military, Nahum said. Numbers are on the decline for JWV, as with many veterans organizations, he said, because the groups tend to attract mostly older members.

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Col. “Iron Mike” Smith presents the Purple Heart to Richard Musicant, with his father Alan Musicant watching, at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego in March 1991. Musicant was wounded while serving in Kuwait during the Gulf War. Photo courtesy Richard Musicant

“When [veterans] are young, they’re very busy getting an education or providing for their families, so not many are getting involved,” he said. “When they get older and have more time they get involved.”

Nessman is the second of a four-generation military family. His father, Sam Nessman, served in World War II; his son, journalist Ravi Nessman, spent three weeks volunteering in the Israeli army; and his grandson, 20-year-old Matan, serves in the Israeli Air Force.

“He’s Israeli, it’s his obligation, just like my father and me,” Nessman said.

Nessman credits the military, specifically the GI Bill, for giving him the opportunity to pursue a career in medicine.

“I never would have become a doctor if I didn’t serve,” he said. “When you’re a poor Jew from Brooklyn you don’t think about becoming a doctor. But the GI Bill changed the face of this country for everybody — Jews and Christians.”

In 1982, Nessman started the Jewish War Veterans Post 695 at the YM-YWHA of North Jersey in Wayne. Because he was past chair of local chapters of Israel Bonds and Jewish National Fund, he said, area leaders felt he was the best candidate to start the post.

“JWV has an important role to play in our Jewish community and in national life as well,” Weiner said. “On the other hand, many of our Jewish war veteran organizations are made up of men who are by and large older, because [the members’ age] reflects a time when there was a draft and a time when it was normative to express pride in one’s military service through ethnic groups.”

In January, Ross Berkoff flew down to Florida to join his grandfather’s JWV chapter, Post 501 in West Palm Beach.

“It made me feel pretty good with all the opportunities thrown at him that he chose to join the one I belonged to,” David Goldberg said. “There are no words to explain how that made me feel.”

Berkoff is the youngest member of the post and the only veteran of the present wars.

“He wanted to honor my dad,” Paula Berkoff said. “It’s important to him to belong.”

Whether they served in World War II, Korea, or Afghanistan, many soldiers feel proud of the duty they performed and they have formed lasting bonds with one another.

“You feel those are your brothers out there, and you have to support them no matter what,” Musicant said.

For Gene Preschel of Hackensack, who served during the Korean War, religion and patriotism have shaped his identity.

“I’m not sure whether I’m a proud American Jew or a proud Jewish American, but I’m proud,” he said.

 
 

Never too late to condemn genocide

 

Campaign seeks to raise monument in Arlington to Jewish chaplains

After the Nazis torpedoed the U.S. transport ship Dorchester in February 1943, Rabbi Alexander Goode and the three Christian chaplains on board gave up their own life preservers to help other servicemen to escape.

As a result of their heroic acts, Goode, Methodist Rev. George L. Fox, the Roman Catholic Priest John P. Washington, and the Reformed Church in America Rev. Clark V. Poling drowned as the ship sank.

All four chaplains were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross, and Congress created The Four Chaplains’ Medal in 1960. At Arlington National Cemetery, however, where three memorials stand in honor of military chaplains, Goode’s name is not to be found, nor has any memorial been erected for this country’s Jewish chaplains.

Sol Moglen of Caldwell is working to change that.

The monuments at Arlington are in a section called Chaplains Hill. The first monument was created on May 5, 1926, by a group of chaplains who served in World War I, and dedicated to 23 chaplains who died in that war. In 1981, a memorial to 134 Protestant chaplains was dedicated, and in 1989, a monument to 83 Catholic chaplains who died in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam was created.

Moglen learned of the missing Jewish memorial last year from Ken Kraetzer, a Westchester resident who is a member of the Sons of the American Legion. Now the pair are spearheading a fund-raising effort through The Association of Jewish Chaplains of the Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs to create a memorial, designed by Moglen and Brooklyn artist Debora Jackson, to the Jewish chaplains who died in World War II and Vietnam. (No Jewish chaplains’ deaths in other wars have been recorded.)

“This way the whole country knows about what we’re doing,” Moglen said. “It’s the cemetery of our presidents. It’s the cemetery of so many special people and now we have a chance to put something special there to honor our chaplains.”

They have collected more than $17,000 of their $30,000 goal and plan to erect a monument at Chaplains Hill in the fall. The response, according to fund-raisers, has been tremendous.

“It’s in our tradition to give,” said Richard Manberg of Hackensack, who has been helping Moglen publicize the project locally. “When people hear about a noble cause like this, they give.”

Manberg has been making contacts with synagogues and Jewish War Veterans groups because Moglen, he said, wants to focus on individuals and small groups, rather than go to large foundations for help.

“What’s very noble about this is he doesn’t want any big donors,” Manberg said. “He wants small donations so everybody feels a part of it. We want to give back and that’s what Sol’s trying to do. Those people dedicated their lives to other people.”

Moglen, who served in the U.S. Army in the late 1950s, recalled meeting a Jewish chaplain while stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. It was just before Rosh HaShanah, and the chaplain arranged dinners for Moglen.

“It was a wonderful experience for somebody 18 years old,” Moglen said. “It was a wonderful thing how the chaplains took care of us. It’s not just the Jewish chaplains, but all the chaplains are there to help.”

Sy Lazar, a member of Jewish War Veterans Lt. James Platt Post 651 in Fair Lawn, was shocked when he learned from Manberg that there was no memorial at Arlington for Jewish chaplains. He intends to present the project to his JWV chapter and propose that it make a donation.

“This is like an oversight,” Lazar said. “We had no idea about this. It’s a shanda.”

Lazar had never noticed that a memorial was missing during his visits to Arlington, and, he said, he was sure other Jewish veterans were unaware of the lack as well.

“I consider this personally a very, very worthwhile charity,” he said. “I hope to spread the word as much as I can about it.”

The response to the project, according to Rear Adm. Rabbi Harold Robinson, director of the Association of Jewish Chaplains of the Armed Forces and Veterans Administration, has been “overwhelming.”

How to help
For more information about or to contribute to the memorial fund, call Sol Moglen at (201) 415-1141 or write to The Association of Jewish Chaplains of the Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs, 520 Eighth Ave., 4th floor. New York, N.Y. 10018.

“What a wonderful idea,” he said. It is “long overdue. Let’s get this done.”

Robinson credited Kraetzer of the Sons of the American Legion, who, he said, pulled together “an ad hoc group” of Jewish War Veterans, chaplains’ organizations, and rabbis. In addition to serving as the treasurer for the monument effort, the Association of Jewish Chaplains has also been coordinating with Arlington National Cemetery, which Robinson said has been very helpful in moving along the approval process.

“I agreed that this was an appropriate addition to Chaplains Hill at Arlington and we have been working to assist [the group] with this request,” said John Metzler, superintendent of the cemetery, in an e-mail to The Jewish Standard on Wednesday.

Jews have a long history of military service in this country, dating back to the Civil War. According to the Association of Jewish Chaplains, 8,500 Jews out of a population of 150,000 fought in the Civil War. More than 250,000 signed up to serve during World War I, and more than 550,000 served in World War II. More than 300 rabbis volunteered during World War II and worked with survivors in the Nazi concentration camps.

“Chaplains are doing wonderful mitzvahs that should not be forgotten,” Moglen said. “If we don’t [put up this monument] in our generation now it’ll never get done.”

 
 

New Milford shul, tax assessor spar

The president of Cong. Beth Tikvah/New Milford Jewish Center is wondering why the borough’s tax assessor is trying to take away the building’s property tax exemption. The municipal tax assessor denies this is the case and says she is just doing her job by asking the congregation, New Milford’s only Jewish house of worship, to clarify the building’s ownership and whether the owner is profiting from rent paid by a tenant.

Both hope the matter can be resolved amicably, and soon.

The disconnect appears to center on two issues: first, Beth Tikvah’s agreement earlier this year to sell its building to TorahLinks. The sale is yet to go through, but once it does, Beth Tikvah plans to remain in the building through a lease-back of space. Second, Yeshivas Ohr Yosef, a Jewish high school with an enrollment of about 30 teens, has been occupying the synagogue’s bottom floor six days a week since October 2006.

According to Robert Nesoff, the congregation’s president, Beth Tikvah is still the property owner of record, “taking a contribution for [use of] the space by Yeshivas Ohr Yosef.” The synagogue is not making a profit from this arrangement, Nesoff claimed, and therefore Beth Tikvah’s property tax exemption should remain fully in place. “The whole thing is a contributory pass-through with checks made out to us. They [Yeshivas Ohr Yosef] kick in for a portion of the utilities; it’s a monthly contribution,” he told The Jewish Standard. “The building is used for religious purposes, and that is all. We don’t rent to private or political organizations.”

Moreover, Nesoff contends, because Ohr Yosef is a religious school, its use of the building is in compliance with state statutes for property tax exemptions granted to religious and educational institutions and represents a continuation of Beth Tikvah’s historic use of the property. “There has always been a school in the building,” said Nesoff.

For her part, Maureen Kamen, the tax assessor who has been in the position for a little over two years, said that every three years the borough is required by the state to re-evaluate property tax exemptions for all non-government owned buildings. To comply with these regulations, she conducted an internal audit of every tax-exempt institution in New Milford and sent what are known as “further statements” to them all, requesting supporting documentation to maintain their tax-exempt status. She noted that the last further statements went out in 2006, under the prior tax assessor.

Tax exemptions granted must accurately reflect use of the property; different exemptions are granted for different, albeit legitimate, uses, Kamen explained.

On Oct. 20, 2006, when the financial chair of Beth Tikvah filed an initial application for exemption, he included the information that a Jewish Montessori school was paying $1,700 a month in rent to the congregation, said Kamen. “That raised a red flag whether it’s a private school; they have to document it is not a profit-making school. They could lose the exemption for that portion of the property being rented, if it was a profit-making entity. If it is a full-time school, they are entitled to a different exemption under a different state statute. It is their responsibility to provide the documents so I can make the decision,” she said.

The pending sale of Beth Tikvah’s building also came to her attention, said Kamen, through newspaper accounts she read online (including a story that appeared in the Standard on Jan. 1, 2010). “It raised for me the question of whether the building is being sold. Nesoff said it is not, [but] the problem we have here is, when do they anticipate the sale? The new organization will have to qualify [because the tax exemption is tied to property ownership]. It doesn’t mean the new owner can’t qualify [for an exemption] and lease to them, but it [the new organization] must [first] apply and supply supporting documentation by Oct. 1 for the exemption to be in place for 2011,” Kamen stated, citing Section 54: 4-4.4 as the relevant section of the New Jersey tax code.

In fact, Beth Tikvah is late in meeting the borough’s deadline for documentation required by the further statement, said Kamen. Only recently did she receive an insurance declaration, but that, she indicated, isn’t sufficient to determine the institution’s tax-exempt status for the coming year.

“There must be a timely application on a further statement of Nov. 1 of the pre-tax year, every third year. We should have gotten [Beth Tikvah’s application] in 2009. It’s been an uphill battle to get information. I have worked with many others, Baptist, Catholic, the Elks Lodge. I’m only missing information on one other property and the New Milford Jewish Center,” said Kamen.

But Nesoff believes that Beth Tikvah, unlike other religious institutions in the borough, has been unfairly targeted, a question he raised in a letter he sent Kamen on June 16.

Nesoff also believes that by insisting Beth Tikvah provide proof of its eligibility for tax-exempt status, the tax assessor may be undermining the borough’s religious community.

“My question to her [Kamen] is, there are other religious institutions in town that are blatantly violating laws, for example, one of the churches rents out its parking lot each year for the sale of Christmas trees. The church must need the income, so the town has never gone after them, and why should they? Why shouldn’t we try to save the religious institutions in town?

“In this day and age, most congregations are graying and congregational numbers are falling,” he continued. “Why not bend a little to help instead of trying to put them out of business? All religious institutions provide services in town. For example, we don’t charge rent for meetings for Hadassah and for the Jewish War Veterans. I’m sure all the churches do the same.

“We contribute a lot more than we are taking, not just us, but the entire religious community in New Milford,” he pointed out. “Why this sudden scrutiny of the only Jewish house of worship in town, and why are council members trying to make this a political issue and trying to make political points for themselves?”

At a recent council meeting, said Nesoff, Republicans Ann Subrizi, Keith Bachmann, and Howard Berner asked who owns the building in which Beth Tikvah and Ohr Yosef are housed and, according to Nesoff, “why are kids running around in the street?”

“I don’t want to get the shul involved in politics,” he said, “but there is a question [about their motivation]. These kids wear yarmulkes and tzitzit.”

One neighbor, Nesoff said, has filed complaints about the presence of the school and what she described as unruly behavior by students off school grounds. Nesoff said that the issue was addressed with Ohr Yosef’s principal, and that the principal has taken steps to supervise the youngsters and find alternative space for their free time between classes.

“We’ve shrunk so much. We can’t afford to keep the building going. We’re trying to be a continuing member of the community, trying to service an aging Jewish population and at the same time bring in younger members and trying to be good citizens of New Milford.

“We are a tax-exempt religious institution, and the yeshiva is both a religious and educational institution. It’s very unfair what they’re trying to do to us,” he charged.

Countered Kamen, “I investigate every single property, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, even the Elks [Lodge]. I’m trying to find out what’s going on. I want to assist them to qualify for an exemption and give them proper information and forms to file.”

 
 

Retired chaplain Ira Kronenberg calls for support, connection for veterans

Kronenberg says shuls should host a ‘veterans Shabbat’

When Rabbi Ira Kronenberg served as chaplain to Jewish soldiers back in the 1970s, those in uniform did not receive a lot of respect.

“Most Americans couldn’t separate politics from the individual soldier,” said Kronenberg, a retired army colonel who spent 37 years in the United States military. “Now, even those who are more to the left politically can separate anti-war feeling from (feelings toward) the soldiers” and reach out to them as individuals.

Throughout his career, the rabbi, a resident of Passaic and religious director of Daughters of Miriam Center-The Gallen Institute in Clifton, has counseled Jewish soldiers stateside and abroad, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When he first began his service, at Fort Riley in Kansas, “I was the only rabbi in the entire area,” he said, explaining that the base “was in the middle of nowhere. We probably had 130 to 200 Jewish families,” he recalled. “There were still people being drafted.”

For the next 27 years he served as a reserve chaplain, working with the New Jersey National Guard as well as units in New York. In 2003 — as reserve soldiers began to be tapped for overseas service — he was once again called up for active duty.

“I got soldiers spiritually ready to leave their families,” said Kronenberg, whose training as a licensed clinical social worker came in handy. “I also saw them when they returned, to help them reintegrate.”

Between 2003 and 2008, Kronenberg was sent overseas five times to lead holiday services in Iraq and Afghanistan, serving groups from 60 soldiers “to a handful.” In one case, he said, he made a special trip to visit one soldier who couldn’t leave his base in Iraq because of an impending invasion.

“He was from Fair Lawn,” said Kronenberg, “and he had a yahrzeit for his father.”

The chaplain said that while all soldiers have the same needs on returning home, the situation is slightly different for Jewish veterans.

“Generally, Jews are not big supporters of the military,” he said. “So while a non-Jewish soldier returning home in, say, South Carolina, is likely to be enthusiastically greeted by his church and community, Jewish soldiers don’t generally get that kind of reception.”

Kronenberg said he came to realize over the years that the Jewish War Veterans is held in high esteem, ironically “getting more kavod” from non-Jews than from Jews themselves.

While members of JWV posts tend to be older, having served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, “we encourage the young kids who come back to join,” said Kronenberg.

“We need to show support, to get Jewish soldiers out of the woodwork,” he said. “Being overseas is difficult. It affects people when they get back. It affects everything.”

The rabbi said that in addition to encouraging veterans to join JWV, synagogues should follow the model of congregations that sponsor a veterans Shabbat.

“They do it in South Jersey” he noted. “It’s dedicated to veterans — the sermon, kiddush, readings.”

“It’s most important for soldiers to know that they have support,” he said, “that people don’t think they’re stupid or went over because they were brainwashed.”

Clifton resident Bob Cirkus, a Vietnam veteran and former state JWV commander, said he hasn’t seen much outreach from the Jewish community to veterans.

Cirkus, who recalls a holiday observance in Vietnam led by a chaplain and shared with five or six other Jews, said he was prompted by his wife to “get out of the house” when he returned from the war.

“I went down to Passaic where there is a post. They opened up their arms and took me in,” he said.

Cirkus, the commander of post no. 47, said that the Jewish War Veterans is the oldest veterans organization in the United States.

Jewish veterans “have the same problems everyone else does,” he said, pointing out that JWV “continues to lobby politicians to [provide] veterans with the health care they were promised.” He explained that when people enlist in the military, they are assured “that they will be taken care of for the rest of their lives.”

Yet, he said, that does not happen.

Traumatic brain injuries are being seen in “very big numbers,” said Cirkus, noting that soldiers’ survival rates are greater today than they were in past wars. That means, he explained, that the number of returning wounded soldiers is higher.

There have also been much higher rates of military suicides.

“There’s a higher concentration of National Guard and reservists going into military,” he said. “That’s not meant to be. They come home after being away from their family a year at a time. And it’s not just once or twice. I know someone getting reading for his fifth tour.”

In addition to putting a strain on family life, “a large majority of these people are losing their jobs,” even though, according to the federal government, employers cannot penalize employees for military service, he said. “Every day they’re losing their houses — they can’t pay their mortgages. People fall through the cracks.”

The veteran pointed out that what happened after Vietnam, when returning veterans were greeted with disrespect, “will never happen again.”

“Now they’re treated like heroes; it’s the right thing to do,” he said, adding that he has seen veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam “shoulder to shoulder” with newly returned soldiers to show solidarity.

Among other things, said Cirkus, president of the Jewish Memorial Chapel in Clifton, the JWV has prompted the Veterans Administration to provide new soldiers with packets of information telling them what benefits they’re entitled to.

Cirkus said he thinks “it’s a great thing that synagogues are doing,” sending packets of supplies to soldiers overseas.

“One of the greatest things any organization can do is to let those over there know that we are constantly thinking of them,” he said. “I will cross the street to personally thank veterans for their service.”

 
 

Showing due respect

 

Inside the Beltway

Oren, JWVets visit local pols in D.C.

The New Jersey Department of Jewish War Veterans made its annual visit to Capitol Hill earlier this month, where members of the group met with Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) to lobby for a Jewish chaplains’ memorial in Arlington National Cemetery and federal aid for homeless veterans.

Carl Singer of Passaic, past commander of the Jewish War Veterans for this state and a retired army colonel, told this newspaper that Pascrell has been “very responsive” to the group’s concerns.

“We need permission to have this memorial put in place there, in memory of those Jewish chaplains that died in service,” Singer said. “There are similar ones for those of other religions. It’s a bill that’s long overdue.”

Singer added, “It will not cost the government any money; private citizens have raised funds for it — and veterans’ organizations.”

His organization also lobbied for continued funding of New Jersey’s VA hospitals, nursing homes for veterans, and for a facility — yet to be built — to help homeless veterans, according to Singer.

“Congressman Pascrell is himself a veteran and… you get an extra feeling of empathy from him,” said Singer.

Pascrell reported that the president’s budget proposal increases funding to $949 million for programs benefiting homeless veterans.

Last week, Pascrell joined Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in sponsoring a resolution honoring the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and recognizing the impact of the tragedy on national movements to improve conditions for workers.

“The tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire was one of the salient events that taught us that, as Americans, we must be capitalists with consciences,” said Pascrell in a statement. “Women and children, some of them immigrants, perished unnecessarily simply because their employer protected profits instead of people.”

Also last week, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) met with Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. According to a statement from Menendez’s office, “The two discussed the continuation of the strong bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Israel through and beyond the current crises in the Middle East, as well as the critical importance of deterring Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

Menendez also released a statement for Purim condemning anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, and elaborated in an e-mail that “[a]nti-Israel vitriol that directly translates into anti-Semitism has seen a resurgence recently. It is both taught and tolerated in many foreign nations. And even here at home, we are seeing an increase in hateful rhetoric against Israel that can’t be tolerated. We are seeing evidence in the media, across university campuses, and in public boycotts and rallies.

“Of all occurrences,” he continued, “the continued incitement against Israel and Jews within the Palestinian media, mosques, and schools is the most concerning. It is time to speak out and say this will not stand.”

 
 
 
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