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Shomrei Torah to Host Special Veterans Tribute

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>Shomrei Torah of Fair Lawn will be paying tribute to 44 veterans on Saturday night, November 11, at 8:00. Hosted by the Naftali Aron Torah Enrichment Program, it will be the first such event in five years and the largest to date.

The tribute will be unique in that it will honor members who served in the armed forces as well as direct relatives of members, including both parents and children. Event co-organizer Mendy Aron said, “They served our country; now let’s say thank you and show our appreciation.” Although the tribute spans various conflicts over the years, the emphasis for this night will be on World War II veterans. “There is a special hakarat hatov for that group, since they both liberated the concentration camps and helped enable all Jews in the U.S. to live and worship in freedom,” explained Aron.

Of the 44 honorees, 25 served in World War II and 19 in other conflicts. Several of the former group are still alive and will be on hand. Fair Lawn’s Mayor John Cosgrove will also be present for a special proclamation.

Among those being honored are two shul members who served as chaplains in the army. Rabbi Howard (Sonny) Gershon held the rank of captain. He served for two years in Fort Bliss, Texas, during the Vietnam War, beginning in 1967. Rabbi David Lapp was a career officer and a colonel in the army. He served nearly 25 years, from January, 1958 to November, 1982. He will be the keynote speaker. Rabbi Lapp’s planned address, “Italy to Vietnam to the U.S.A., the experiences of a Jewish Army Chaplain,” promises to include many great stories.

Rabbi Lapp was asked to share a bit about his experiences as an army chaplain, and one thing quickly became apparent. Like the Jewish people in the desert after leaving Egypt, he was constantly on the move. He served in 14 locations during his tenure, including Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Knox, Kentucky; and Fort Sheridan, Illinois stateside; with several stints overseas as well. He was stationed in Germany twice, and spent over a year in Vietnam.

Rabbi Lapp told The Jewish Link he was excited from day one to do his duty for both his faith and his country. When asked what he liked most about his experience, he said it was the religious services, education, discussions and classes. These were both for adults and dependent children. Rabbi Lapp clearly relished the opportunity to bring Jewish servicemen closer to their faith. When asked what he liked least, remarkably he said, “I didn’t have any bad experiences, never any problems.”

Among his most memorable experiences was when a unit of about 150 from the Israeli Air Force visited Fort Bliss for a group training exercise. He also cited his time in early 1960s Germany where there were still many displaced persons from World War II. Because of strict quotas, they weren’t allowed to emigrate to the U.S., but were too old to start over in Israel. Germany gave them housing and stipends, but he was most proud that so many American Jewish organizations sent care packages to help them.

Along with the address and special proclamation, the event will include an encore documentary, “A November to Remember,” first shown at the shul’s 2012 tribute. That film, produced by shul member Maury Heller, focused on the stories of two men, Harry Feinberg, a veteran who was a liberator, and Abe Peck, a concentration camp survivor. Both men attended the showing at Shomrei Torah. In a Q&A that followed, Feinberg spoke of a young man he happened upon during the liberation who was barely alive. He called the medics, but wondered whatever came of the guy. In a touching moment, Peck, with tears in his eyes, came forward and thanked Feinberg on behalf of that young man as well as for the survivors for saving their lives.

The 2012 tribute included special honors for longtime shul members Harold Wohl and Norbert Schloss, both of whom served during World War II. Unfortunately, neither man is with us anymore, but it is still important to say thank you to those who served us so admirably.

The cost of the event will be $18 a person, and will include a dairy dinner. If you would like to make a reservation, please visit http://shomrei-torah.org/event/-veterans-tribute.html, or contact Michael Glass at [email protected] or Mendy Aron at Tuesdaystorah@ yahoo.com.

By Robert Isler

 Robert Isler is a marketing researcher and a senior content writer who lives in Fair Lawn. He can be reached at at [email protected].

 

 

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