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Synagogue's Memorial Day ceremony attracts diverse vets, raises questions

Jewish soldiers buried at the
Cemetery in
How many Jews gave their lives defending our diaspora nations? Should America's Memorial Day apply to volunteers for Israel? To civilian casualties of terror?

In Simon Wolf's 1895, "The American Jew as Patriot, Soldier, and Citizen," out of a Revolutionary War era population of 3,000 Jews in the colonies, 46 fought in George Washington's army.  The first Jew ever elected to public office in the colonies, Francis Salvador, became the first Jew killed fighting for America's independence from the British.

Since then, Jewish-North Americans (including Canadians) numbering approximately 1.5 million Jews fought in the regular Allied armies,  according to Yad Vashem 

In many cases, the percentage of Jews fighting was greater than the percentage of Jews in the population.

About 500,000 Jewish soldiers fought in the Red Army during World War II. Some 120,000 were killed in combat and in the line of duty (4.6% of the Jewish population); the Germans murdered 80,000 as prisoners of war. More than 160,000, at all levels of command, earned citations, with over 150 designated “Heroes of the Soviet Union”— the highest honor awarded to soldiers in the Red Army.

Approximately 550,000 Jewish soldiers fought in the US Armed Forces during World War II. They served on all fronts in Europe and in the Pacific. Some 10,000 were killed in combat, and more than 36,000 received citations. Many Jewish soldiers took part in liberating the camps.

Approximately 100,000 Jews fought in the Polish army against the German invasion. They made up 10% of the Polish army, commensurate with the percentage of Jews within the general population. Approximately 30,000 Jews fell in battle, were taken captive by the Germans, or declared missing during the battles defending Poland, 11,000 in the defense of Warsaw. Thousands of Jews later served in various Polish armies fighting against the Germans in the Allied Forces.

During World War II, more than 17,000 Jewish Canadians enlisted. They served in every branch of the armed forces and in the merchant marine. 577 Canadian Jewish casualties in the Canadian Armed Forces include servicemen who died while serving in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. 

About 30,000 Jews served in the British army in 1939-1946, some in special units of Jews from Palestine, such as the Jewish Brigade.

Rabbi Ed Feinstein of
Valley Beth Shalom
On May 25, 2019, L.A. synagogue Valley Beth Shalom commemorated Memorial Day during the Musaf service and afterwards - in a special ceremony which attracted both Jewish veterans and members of the air-veterans fraternity, Wings over Wendy's.
Harvey Keenan organizes
egalitarian ceremonies for

Memorial and Veterans Days

After officiating at the Los Angeles National Cemetery ceremony on Memorial Day, Chaplain Dov Cohen explains annual ceremonies at Valley Beth Shalom, organized by Rabbi Ed Feinstein and Harvey Keenan.

How is African-American, Honor Guard Roscoe Frazier, Jr. an esteemed participant in Jewish-Americans' veterans' activities?
Following the Memorial Day Service at Valley Beth Shalom, Harvey Keenan introduces Roscoe Frazier, Jr. - a 20-year, Army veteran who is also a valued member of the Wings over Wendy's veterans' fraternal association.

Should American Memorial Day include the Anglo volunteers killed in defending the Holy Land? 

Sgt. Bob Stiles, a Christian-raised, former USAF air-traffic controller at Castle A.F.B, discusses his service during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Mr. Stiles, a self-identified, "latter-day Jew" contends that the wars which Americans recognize on Memorial Day - ought to include the wars in which Anglo-Americans (Jewish, Christian, and otherwise) volunteered from around the world to defend the independence of Israel, the Judeo-Christian, Middle-East outpost, against Arab onslaught, beginning in 1947. 

WWII and Korean War veteran, Hy Arnesty, 96,
a former Jewish War Veterans post commander,
attended both Memorial Day veterans' events 
Approximately 1,400 North American volunteers, mostly World War II veterans, participated in the War of Independence, and played particularly crucial roles in the nascent Israeli air force and navy, said Dean Ralph Lowenstein, director of the Machal Archives and Museum at the University of Florida. 

123 Machalniks were killed or went missing-in-action during the War. Many were wounded, and some were taken prisoners-of-war. A Memorial was erected at the entrance to the Burma Road in the Sha’ar Hagai Forest, to commemorate the Fallen Machalniks. A memorial plaque lists the names of the Fallen in Hebrew and English, and the countries from which they came. Most Machalniks returned to their home countries after the War. About 550 Machalniks (16%) stayed on in Israel, or returned later to make their homes here. 

Briton Dr. Jason Fenton enlisted in the fledgling IDF in 1948- now active in Machal, Zionist veterans association (recorded 2012 at Celebrate Israel Festival).

Today, there is an annual constant stream of 150—180 young Jewish volunteers from all over the world who continue to come to Israel to serve in all branches of the IDF, many in combat units, and a number have died in action. (Source: http://www.machal.org.il/)

The National Museum of American Jewish Military History has compiled a list of American Jewish Casualties of Operations Iraqi Freedom (2003), Enduring Freedom (2001), and New Dawn (2003-2011).

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