Today marks the 76th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. It was a moment that scarred our nation for many generations, both from the lives lost and the reaction the nation took after. It is what fueled the American involvement in World War II, ultimately leading to the defeat of Nazi Germany.
However, Pearl Harbor did not just ignite an American call to arms but a Jewish-American need to serve. There has long been an anti-Semitic trope that Jews do not serve in the American military. This could not be farther from the truth. In fact, the history of Jews serving this country predates America. When Jews came to the New Land they were barred from serving to protect. In 1654, this was overturned by Holland and Jews began serving and protecting New Amsterdam. This was over 350 years ago. Fast forward to World War II and Post Pearl Harbor 550,000 Jewish men and women responded to the call for arms. During the war, the Jewish community lost 11,000 soldiers and more than 40,000 were wounded.
I grew up with one of those Jewish men in my life. My grandfather served in the Navy. He joined his fellow Americans to end the horrors of World War II. While many of his stories he has kept to himself he always stressed the pride he had in being an American serviceman, I truly believe he feels he had no greater duty. What amazes me about his service is he did this at a time when anti-Semitism was not rooted in undertones but was blatant. Though many in the country looked down on his Jewish identity he chose to serve his country.
Today we do not just honor and the lives lost in Pearl Harbor but the lives lost during World War II. We honor our American identity. In doing so it is important to remember the Jewish men and women who have stood by this country in the time of war. We must not forget about the men and women still alive today who have come home from war. It is important that we work to welcome veterans into our community spaces. This is why the work of organizations like Jewish War Veterans is important. They are a fellow nonprofit organization that helps protect the history of Jews serving, assist current servicemen/women, aid veterans in their needs, and give a voice to people like my grandfather who served.
Thank you to the many who have come before and after who will take the brave call of duty to protect us at home and abroad. Our prayers are with those serving currently and for peace to come.
If you would like to learn more information on JWV (Jewish War Veterans) please visit their website: http://www.jwv.org/
Additionally, if you would like to help assist in reestablishing Indianapolis’s chapter (Post 114) please contact Rabbi David Gingold-Altchek: firstname.lastname@example.org