One of the nation’s longest-active congressionally chartered veterans organizations is still running strong, even though more than two-thirds of its members are in their 80s.
But the Jewish War Veterans (JWV), in particular South Philadelphia Post 98, still has goals. Some members would like to see Revolutionary War hero Haym Solomon’s birthday made a national holiday. Others want to continue the post’s annual college scholarship fund, which has paid out nearly $100,000 over 30 years to relatives of post members.
And there are various social outings that maintain relationships between men and women who share a common bond: They once served their country.
On March 26, the Pennsylvania Senate took a moment to salute them.
“It’s important to recognize the war veterans for the trials and tribulations they went through,” said state Sen. John P. Sabatina, reading a proclamation and presenting certificates of commendation to post members. “It’s important not to forget them as time passes.
“I grew up in Rhawnhurst. My grandmother had two neighbors who fought in Germany, and I had a neighbor who had survived the Holocaust, so I had knowledge at an early age about the war and things others didn’t know about.”
However, Sabatina likely wasn’t aware of the kind of anti-Semitism Jews often faced in the military.
“My father was wounded in battle and got a Purple Heart, but they wouldn’t give him anything higher,” said 80-year-old post Commander Donald Feldman, who was in a 1956 armored tank division that helped rescue thousands in Hungary. “And before him, they wouldn’t let Jews serve in the military.
“Jews actually had to fight their way in. We had to insist they allow Jewish people to serve. So today we’re celebrating the fact that throughout our existence we have maintained steadfast support.
“Not only did Jews serve. They served with honor.”
Previously known as the Hebrew Union Veterans, the JWV was formed in New York in 1896.
Subsequently new posts sprang up, each given a number.
Records are inconsistent, but members said Post 98 appeared to have come into existence somewhere in the late 1910s. After starting out in South Philadelphia, where the neighborhood was predominately Jewish, it eventually settled in the Northeast to be in close proximity to its members.
Post 98 now counts 180 members, about 50 of whom were at Tiffany Diner last week, wearing their JWV hats for the ceremony. Those included veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War.
Thanks to the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, their stories can be now be preserved.
“We have to make sure all this history is recognized so people always know what it means to be a patriot,” said Judy Burns, a Red Cross volunteer who helped organize the event. “We’re doing interviews which will be there forever so we can use it to teach our kids.
“I grew up in a military family. I know it takes a different level of person who’s willing to die for someone he doesn’t even know.”
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