June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Yom HaZikaron American-Style

I am writing this on what has been designated as Memorial Day. Today has been a typical day in most people’s lives. I was amazed when I heard people joking as they greeted each other with “Happy Memorial Day.” As Jews, we more than others should take the time to think about the young men who sacrificed themselves for this very special country.

Most things in life are taken for granted, and our freedom has been a given for the majority of our lives. Today was a good day for barbecues (although the weather did not really cooperate), parties for children and maybe some adults as well, running to sales and just overall spending family time together. Some look at this day as the beginning of the summer. It is time to plant, prune and picnic.

I wonder how many of us took the time to explain to our children why we really have this day off from school, work, etc. The idea of the military in the United States of America is taken for granted, and rarely do we hear of a Jewish young man who has volunteered to be in the armed services. Why is that? Would a local parent take great pride in telling his friends that his son has decided to join the Navy? Chas v’shalom! I actually tried to convince one or two of my grandsons that taking the chaplaincy route in the armed services might not be such a bad idea. Great remuneration, tremendous benefits and by the time they turn 45 they can retire for life with an amazing pension and the opportunity to start a new career. I had no takers. (Believe me, I have heard all of their arguments.)

Nevertheless there have been so many men and women who lost their lives fighting for this country, including many Jews. Yes, we hear of the Jewish war veterans, but how many of us have spent time explaining to our children the amazing sacrifices they have made on our behalf and even more, how many of us have shown them the respect which they so deserve?

On the other hand, the concept of the chayalim and what they are doing to protect our land and the traumas that they have been living through, especially since October 7 is on everyone’s mind. The number of non-Jewish lives lost over the years protecting our country is rarely discussed in our circle. This especially pains me as the majority of American Jews have chosen to live in the United States and not in Israel. This country—the land of the free—is being protected by those we have little contact with and give little thought to.

I read an interesting article today released by the JTA regarding four chaplains who were stationed on the U.S.A.T. Dorchester 80 years ago when their ship was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in the Atlantic. One rabbi, a Catholic priest and two other ministers befriended each other while at the Army Chaplains School at Harvard University. They found themselves stationed on the same ship. The rabbi, Alexander D. Goode, sank with the ship while saying the Shema. He and his cohorts sacrificed themselves by giving away their own life jackets to others, eliminating any possibility of saving their own lives. How many of us have ever heard about these brave soldiers? The story is being retold by a relative of Rabbi Goode’s, living in Passaic.

Never before when Israel was involved in a war did people living in the USA realize how uncertain their lives here really are. Once again, just yesterday I heard what has become a weekly reminder of the fact that our lives are just not the same in our peaceful little enclave. Music blasting, horns blowing and Palestinian flags flowing from the parade of cars that made their presence well known as they drove down New Bridge. I certainly do not feel comfortable or safe.

I continually wonder how long it took my grandparents to pick up and leave the comforts of their home in Berlin. Many worse incidents occurred there, and we have no idea what all of this nonsense is leading up to. As long as any of us still feel that this is where we will be and this is our home, then I feel that it is our obligation and responsibility to show honor to the thousands of soldiers that serve in the U.S. Armed Services and to those that were killed in the line of duty.

Next time Memorial Day or Veterans Day rolls around, let’s give our children an education about these heroes and how much hakarot hatov we need to have for them.


Nina Glick can be reached at [email protected].

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