Rabbi Wirtschafter: TAI feels a particularly heavy loss this Veterans Day

The past 10 months have been a difficult year for TAI’s remaining World War II veterans and their families. During that time, we bade farewell to five men who served during the war and went on to live well into their 90s or beyond.

Lester Waldman, James Levenson Sr., Harold Baker, Jerry Wurmser and Dan Yarus were remarkable men

who answered the call of duty in wartime and the needs of their community in peacetime. They started or continued family businesses. They loved their wives and children, and they supported our congregation. Listening to the eulogized at their memorials and watching the flag being folded at their interments, one could not help but feel the mixed emotions of pride in all that they achieved and sadness in the reality of their departures. In fighting fascism, making the world safe for democracy and returning home to contribute to peace and prosperity, they truly were “the greatest generation.”

   At several points in the coming year, TAI and other houses of worship  will be paying tribute to our veterans, both those who are gone and those who remain. On Nov. 9, the Sabbath immediately before Veterans Day, we will have a special service honoring those who served in any branch of our nation’s military, including the Guard and Reserve. Music, prayers and the message for the evening will revolve around the theme of bravery, patriotism and loyalty. Similar themes will be addressed May 24, 2019, at our Memorial Day Family Shabbat, which will include a complimentary dinner before services. (Family Shabbats are not just for Religious School families;all are welcome to attend.) The third and final major event is once again bittersweet because one can only imagine what it would have meant to the five men named above. June 6 will be the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, heralding a huge turning point in the war and the beginning of the end for the Third Reich. A gathering at Central Christian Church takes place each year at noon on the anniversary of D-Day, and plans are underway to make the 75th particularly meaningful. We plan to show the recent documentary “GI Jews,” based on the book of the same by Deborah Dash Moore, at an adult education night before the June 6 gathering.

   Of course, memory is not enough, and no words can sufficiently recognize the sacrifices our soldiers and veterans have made and continue to make. We need to remain engaged on mental health and other core veterans’ benefits, including education, housing, employment and debt relief.  We owe those who served and their families no less.