A Lesson From Israel on How to Honor Veterans

What if Americans spent two minutes in silence, to honor their nation’s veterans?

The World, produced by Andrea Crossan (PRI).


On Yom Hazikaron a 2-minute siren is played on the air-raid system. The custom that has developed is that during those two minutes everyone stops what they are doing and stands still.

Michael and Daniel Bendetson saw how Israelis honor their veterans on Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and wondered why we couldn’t do the same.

The Bendetsons were standing with their father, Peter, on a Tel Aviv sidewalk in 2010 when the sirens sounded before 120 seconds of reflection.

“At 11 a.m., a siren sounded throughout the entire country,” explained Daniel Bendetson, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Michigan. “Hundreds of people at a busy intersection got out of their cars and stood at attention for two minutes to pay respects to those who really make the ultimate sacrifice.”

So the Bendetsons set out to have Veterans’ Day in the US include two minutes of silence.

The proposal passed the US House of Representatives last week as part of the annual defense bill. Under the House bill, the moment would be observed at 2:11 p.m. on Veterans Day on the East Coast and simultaneously across the country: 1:11 p.m. in Chicago, 11:11 a.m. in Los Angeles, and 9:11 a.m. in Honolulu.

It’s A Dog’s Life At The Haverford Township No-So-Free Library

Librarian Claims Firing Over Seeing Eye Dog: MyFoxPHILLY.com

— The writer of this article is a patron of Haverford Township Free Library. Out of concern for that relationship she has asked to remain anonymous

With Golden Retriever Henry close by her side, Deborah Rosan is as articulate as she is thoughtful, an impressive combination for someone who has recently been fired from her job of almost 10 years. “They had an opportunity to Do Good in this world” Rosan says, “and they refused it”. The good she is referring to takes us back to Henry, the guide dog puppy Rosan and her family are currently fostering. “We receive the puppies when they’re 2-3 months old, and keep them
for about a year and a half. Our main job is to expose the pups to as wide a range of experiences as possible, so that they’ll be effective guide dogs when they mature.” Indeed, Rosan’s first foster, Ethel, was a regular visitor to Haverford
Township Library, snoozing under the front desk for a full shift weekly as Deborah worked. But with a switch of library Directors came a switch of policy; the guide dogs in training, many of whom will go to Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans,
were no longer welcome. Rosan took her request to the head of the Library Board, to have it denied again.

More after the jump.

Haverford Township Free Library’s problem is, the law is on Rosan’s side. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania protects those who train and handle guide dogs just as those who will later use them. “Denying access is not only unconscionable” Rosan says “it is against the law”. Rosan thought seriously about bringing Henry despite the ban, but decided against it, for the dog’s sake. Rosan laughs, a loving twinkle in her eyes “Henry is a very sensitive fellow” she explains “I have no doubt he would have picked up on the tension, and ultimately I would have done him a disservice with that kind of experience”. And why the laughter, I ask “At about fifty pounds, he might not be the best personality to make this particular point. He thinks he’s a lap dog” she smiles “and he is quite sure that every time I sit down, I am a lap; it actually can cause a bit of a scene”.

So one night, when she was not scheduled to work, Deborah and Henry Dog, as she calls him, went to the library just for a visit. Which led to her being fired. “Insubordination” was what was written in her letter of termination, the incident with her guide dog puppy was referred to verbally at the meeting during which she was handed that letter.

“Ignorant and self righteous” is how Rosan describes the leadership of the library. Nor is the irony lost on her, she continues “that individuals whose very profession equips them with the skills to gather accurate information and then disseminate it to the public, would behave this way, is astounding”.

What would right the wrong? Among other things, Rosan suggests, “A sign posted on the library front door reading: Haverford Township Free Library Welcomes Service Dogs and Service Dogs in Training”. Rosan is filing complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Board and the EEOC. She has named Haverford Township Free Library, Haverford Township and the Delaware County Library System in the complaint.

Honoring Liberators


Veterans and former prisoners of war. Photo: Richard Chaitt.

A vanishing breed who refuse to allow their memories to die.

It is not often that one gets to see and honor a true hero in person let alone dozens of them.   But that is exactly what an audience of 325, including 75 students from the Hebrew High schools of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, Adath Israel and Har Zion, experienced firsthand on Sunday at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood in a moving program to honor Concentration Camp Liberators, POWs, and veterans from the U.S. Military, IDF and Russian Army.  The program was the brainchild of Ed “The Sage” Snyder of TBH-BE, and co-sponsored with the Israel Advocacy Committee and Men’s Club.   It was an incredible and moving program, that recognized the service and heroism of thirty men and women who have served defending liberty and freedom. But unfortunately, the liberators who are in the mid 80s-90s  are an all too-fast vanishing breed who will no longer be around to testify in person as to the atrocities they witnessed.

More after the jump.


Veterans: (left to right) Paul Seres (Ebensee; liberator of Mauthausen); Sidney Parmet (POW at Stalag 7B, from 45th Division); Arthur Seltzer; Frank Hartzell (11th Armored Div.; liberator of Mauthausen); Alexandra Bucharova (Russian Army, 16th Army, liberator of Majdanek). Photo: Richard Chaitt.

The program began with welcoming remarks and greetings from Lou Balcher of the Israel Consul General’s Office.   Ed Snyder then introduced the program, and deliberately and overtly focusing his attention on the student section of the audience, our future leaders, so they could see and connect for themselves with the Holocaust and its horrors — and the brave men and women who served to defeat them. Ed  then called the names of the veterans in attendance, starting with the liberators from the U.S,. Military: Arthur Seltzer, George Gunning, Arthur Goldstein, Frank Hartzell, Paul Seres, Morton Horrow, Marvin Davidow; Alexandra Bochova, a woman liberator from the Russian army; and POWs Stanley Malamut and Sydney Parmet. A member of the Catholic War Veterans was also in attendance to show solidarity. All other veterans in attendance from the various services were also recognized and all stood at their seats.  Some came in with walkers, but all stood up. The audience was clearly moved by their presence.

Ed then introduced the guest speaker, Arthur Seltzer of Cherry Hill, whose Jewish War Veterans post, he boasted, was the largest in the country.  Ed read a partial list of service medals Mr. Seltzer was awarded, which included the Bronze Star, and the list was astounding.  Mr. Seltzer then took to the podium, wearing his JWV cap and medals, and recounted how as an 18-year-old after graduating Olney High School, he was drafted as a communications specialist, and in 1943 transported to England via the ship Queen Elizabeth. He described in vivid detail training for D-Day landing, and showed a dollar bill that had the signatures of 36 members of his squadron before the landing. He was weighed down with 70 pounds of communications equipment on his back and was essentially dumped over the side of the transport boat at Omaha Beach, fighting his way up, thousands of men and bodies strewn everywhere, very much like it was depicted in the movie Saving Private Ryan. He was in the 3rd-4th wave; in the 1st-2nd wave there were 60-80% wounded/killed.  According to Mr. Seltzer, General Eisenhower had virtually no “Plan B” in case the invasion was thwarted.  He then described how they were successful in beating back the Germans who were shooting down at them from the bluffs.

Photograph taken May 6, 1945, the day after the official liberation of the Mauthausen main camp. Prisoners surround an M8 Greyhound armored car. Previous day’s liberation reenacted for photographers at the request of Gene. Eisenhower. The Nazi eagle over the gate had already been removed by the prisoners and the  banner put up by the Spanish political prisoners reads “The Spanish Anti-Fascists Salute the Liberating Forces.”

He operated communications equipment from a trailer with officers, and they fought their way through France, Ardennes Forrest and the Battle of the Bulge.  He was with the 7th Armored Division and they liberated the 101st.  They got marching orders that if they came to POW camp to get the US soldiers out, virtually at all costs.

On April 28, 1945, he arrived in Munich, and headed towards Dachau, a town eight miles outside the city.  The war was coming to an end. His division, 20th Armored, was to go to the Elbe River to meet up with the Russian Army.  The transport driver told them they were coming up to a POW camp, but then he was told to look more closely, and through binoculars he saw the inmates were not wearing army uniforms as POWs customarily did, but rather black and white pajama-like outfits. Up until that time, he said that the word “Concentration Camp” never came up, they did not hear of one, not know what one was.  They cut the chain link fence to the camp, and they saw “a sight you could not believe someone could do this to another person.”  There was a sign that said “work makes you free” in “German. He was only 20 years old and clearly not prepared for it. The smell, the stench: “can’t describe how bad the odor was.” Then he saw smoke coming out of a smoke- stack that was hidden by trees, and thought it was a factory. Instead, he learned later that it was the crematorium that was still burning and hot.  Mr. Seltzer then turned to the students and said that he hoped that when they graduated college that they vote to make sure that people in Washington make sure this never happens again, as it is now also happening in Africa.  

Nazi eagle being pulled down by Mauthausen survivors, May 6, 1945

He he never spoke about all this when he returned from the war, and never intended to. However, when his granddaughter was in 5th grade and had a homework assignment about the Holocaust, which is mandatory education in New Jersey- which he stated he hoped would be in the entire country- and volunteered him to speak to her class, he could not disappoint her, and has been now speaking ever since.  He lamented that all too many people say this never happened.

He continued with the story, about how they stopped the inmates from attacking the six Germans who were left to guard the camp.  They did kill the vicious, trained tokill German police dog, however.  Those six guards were taken captive and heavily interrogated.

His job in the signal corps was to take photos of the camp, which he did personally, and on orders from General Eisenhower who said to take as many photos to document it as he could because people will never believe it happened.  What he saw and witnessed firsthand was mind-numbing: ashes from the crematorium that were still warm, mass graves and pits with bodies and bulldozers, starving inmates, many like walking skeletons, in thin pajamas or naked.  Soldiers instinctively gave their K-rations to the prisoners, who could not handle it and got violently ill. They liberated 3700 prisoners.

He then showed some of the photos he took, warning in advance that they were graphic, and if the audience  wanted to turn away they could. No one did. The photos showed many of the scenes common to those seen in Yad Vashem, the U.S. Holocaust Museum and other museums and exhibits-only these were taken by him personally.  

One thing a liberator does, he said, was to try to find someone he liberated.  He then related how his niece found a survivor in Ohio who he had liberated, and it turned out to be a boy who was 14 at the time and was pictured in one of his photographs.  They had a very long, engaging talk.   He ended his presentation by saying that he hopes his story will never be forgotten.  

The Collaborative Hebrew High School of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El and Adath Israel then presented Mr. Seltzer with a special certificate for his service.

He took some questions from the audience.  He said that being a Jew in the units he served in was not an impediment, no one felt they could not take orders from him- he was in charge of 24 soldiers, and he told them if anyone felt so, they could take it up with his commanders; no one did.  He said he also felt that many of the non-Jewish soldiers took what they saw at Dachau very hard, could not believe that follow Christians could do such things.  Many in the audience stayed for a long time afterward speaking with the liberators and veterans.      

Honoring Our Veterans


— by Hannah Lee

Today we observe Veterans Day.  May we all remember and honor the service given to our country by these brave men and women in uniform.  They upheld the values of our country and, as young as they were when sent into service, they gave it all they had.  We owe it to them to remember their service.

On October 18th, I attended a ceremony dedicated to the 14 Jewish chaplains who’d fallen during service to the United States.  Their names are engraved on a plaque that was on exhibit that day at the National Museum of American Jewish History and a week later was installed on Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery.  The moving moment for me was the sight of the aged veterans, in full military regalia, snap to attention and salute the flag while we recited the Pledge of Allegiance.  Being a child of the 60’s, I grew up in an era when we distrusted authority (and anyone over 30).  Saying the Pledge was perfunctory and maybe also ironic.  Singing the national anthem invariably induced some jokester to call out, “Play ball.”  But it was no joke for these veterans of America’s wars.  They remember their fallen comrades and why they were posted to foreign lands, regardless of whether it was the right strategic move.  The values they upheld were of civic and religious freedom (and the “pursuit of happiness” which our religious forefathers did not mean the right to shop until we drop).

More after the jump.

The 14 Jewish chaplains include:

  • World War II: Rabbi Alexander Goode; Rabbi Herman L. Rosen; Rabbi Henry Goody; Rabbi Samuel D. Hurwitz; Rabbi Louis Werfel; Rabbi Irving Tepper; Rabbi Nachman S. Arnoff; and Rabbi Frank Goldenberg;
  • Cold War Era: Rabbi Solomon Rosen; Rabbi Samuel Rosen;
  • Vietnam and Southeast Asia: Rabbi Meir Engel; Rabbi Joseph Hoenig; Rabbi Morton H. Singer; Rabbi David Sobel.

Recently, when I attended a private tour, “Journey on the Silk Road” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Cynthia John, who’d created this tour, referred to the Holy Roman Empire (quoting Voltaire, says my young friend) as “not holy, not Roman, and not even an empire.”  Later, I asked John to elaborate but she only had time to say that the Mongols, who’d transformed far-flung agrarian societies into an urban one based on commerce, were an example of a real empire.  Nobody loves his emperor, but people have managed to forge strong allegiances to other entities, whether a religious icon, a culture, or a sports team.

My Rabbi has said that one can deduce much about other people’s values by their passions.  So, what do we know about people who wear apparel– even religious garb– emblazoned with an athletic team’s name? That they value sportsmanship or the thrill of victory (or maybe the agony of supporting the underdog team)?  Just how different are the various teams from each other?  A similar example of artificial distinction occurred during the recent political discussions about gerrymandering in my state, when I heard one woman express her wishes thus: we should just use rectangles in drawing our electoral districts, because then we would be sure that they are fair (or at least, not subject to political jockeying for power).  When I was first introduced to maps as a child, the states with the straight lines were the easiest to remember and to draw.  But, they do not connote any real distinction between the bordering states.  More socially relevant were the rivers and mountains which may have contributed to variations in dialect, climate, and terrain.  

At the museum ceremony, Rabbi Lance Sussman of Keneseth Israel Congregation spoke about the historical role of Jews in the American military, from Asher Levy petitioning to serve in the militia in New Amsterdam in 1657 (appeal initially denied, later granted) to the Jews who served in the American Revolution to a Jew being in the first graduating class at West Point (one of two graduates!).  In World War II, there were 500,000 Jews in the American Army, compared to a half million Jews who were conscripted in the Soviet Army.  One overlooked fact by revisionists who question the minor public role of American Jewry in the rescue of Jews from Nazi-controlled lands is that American Jews served at double the percentage of its share of the national population.  Their view was that the best way to help was to ensure victory for the Allieds, to defeat the Nazis.  These Jews served with bravery and distinction.  Of the 14 rabbis honored, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode was one of four chaplains (including Reverend George L. Fox, Reverend Clark V. Poling, and Father John P. Washington) who gave up their lifejackets when their ship, the USS Dorchester foundered and later sank in 1943.  They were honored as “the Four Immortal Chaplains” and were depicted on a U.S. postal stamp in 1943.

We do not have mandatory military service, so most Americans feel distant from our soldiers and other members of the armed forces.  A contrasting case in point was the Israeli public’s view of the release of Gilad Shalit, held captive as a political prisoner in Gaza for 5 1/2 years by Hamas militants.  Israelis overwhelmingly approved of the deal that exchanged one Israeli soldier for 1,027 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners.  With mandatory national service, every Israeli is but one degree of separation from an active Israeli soldier.  The negotiations for Shalit’s release were based on a tacit promise to all Israeli parents that their government would watch over their soldiers.  Their government would not forget them in captivity or in memorial.