Jewish Outreach Media Campaign
P.O. Box 111
Town of Lumberland, NY 12770
A COLLECTION OF STORIES THAT HAVE SOMETHING GOOD TO SAY.
(YOU ARE WELCOME TO E-MAIL US YOURS.)
1. This story came to me in an e-mail, as is.
"Do you know what a Protestant B is? I know what a Protestant is, and I know what a Catholic is, and I know what a Jew is . . . but until recently, I had never heard of a Protestant B. I learned what a Protestant B is from an essay by Debra Darvick, that appeared in an issue of Hadassah Magazine. It is a chapter from a book she is working on about the American Jewish experience. And this essay is about the experience of Retired Army Major Mike Englander, who now lives in Newport News, Virginia, and who is now a Judaic silversmith. This is his story:
Consequently, I also got wind of the Department of Defense "dog tag dilemma" vis-à-vis Jewish personnel. Then, as now, Saudi law forbade Jews to enter the country. But our Secretary of Defense flat out told the King of Saudi Arabia, "We have Jews in our military. They've trained with their units and they're going. Blink and look the other way."
With Kuwait occupied and the Iraqis at his border, King Faud did the practical thing. We shipped out, but there was still the issue of classification. Normally the dog tags of Jewish servicemen are imprinted with the word "Jewish." But Defense, fearing that this would put Jewish soldiers at further risk should they be captured on Iraqi soil, substituted the classification, "Protestant B," on the tags. I didn't like the whole idea of classifying Jews as Protestant anything and so I decided to leave my dog tag alone. I figured if I were captured, it was in God's hands. Changing my tags was tantamount to denying my religion and I couldn't swallow that. In September, l990 I went off to defend a country that I was prohibited from entering. The "Jewish" on my dog tag remained as clear and unmistakable as the American star on the hood of every Army truck.
My feelings were tied to the looming war and my desire to get with God before the unknown descended in the clouds of battle. It sounds corny, but as we downed the latkes and cookies and wiped the last of the apple sauce from our plates, everyone grew quiet, keenly aware of the link with history, thinking of what we were about to do and what had been done by soldiers like us so long ago. The trooper beside me stared ahead at nothing in particular, absent-mindedly fingering his dog tag. "How'd you classify?" I asked, nodding to my tag. Silently, he withdrew the metal rectangle and its beaded chain from beneath his shirt and held it out for me to read. Like mine, his read, "Jewish."
Somewhere in a military depot someplace, I am sure that there must be boxes and boxes of dog tags, still in their wrappers, all marked "Protestant B."
The South Bronx in 1950 was the home of a large and thriving community, predominantly Jewish. In the 1950s the Bronx offered synagogues, mikvas, kosher bakeries, and kosher butchers - all the comforts one would expect from an observant Orthodox Jewish community.
The baby boom of the postwar years happily resulted in many new young parents. As a matter of course, the South Bronx had its own baby equipment store.
Sickser's was located on the corner of Westchester and Fox, and specialized in "everything for the baby" as its slogan ran. The inventory began with cribs, baby carriages, playpens, high chairs, changing tables, and toys. It went way beyond these to everything a baby could want or need.
Mr. Sickser, assisted by his son-in-law Lou Kirshner, ran a profitable business out of the needs of the rapidly expanding child population.
The language of the store was primarily Yiddish, but Sickser's was a place where not only Jewish families but also many non-Jewish ones could acquire the necessary for their newly arrived bundles of joy.
Business was particularly busy one spring day, so much so that Mr. Sickser and his son-in-law could not handle the unexpected throng of customers. Desperate for help, Mr. Sickser ran out of the store and stopped the first youth he spotted on the street.
"Young man," he panted, "how would you like to make a little extra money? I need some help in the store. You want to work a little?" The tall, lanky black boy flashed a toothy smile back. "Yes, sir, I'd like some work."
"Well then, let's get started."
The boy followed his new employer into the store. Mr. Sickser was immediately impressed with the boy's good manners and demeanor. As the days went by and he came again and again to lend his help, Mr. Sickser and Lou both became increasingly impressed with the youth's diligence, punctuality and readiness to learn.
Eventually Mr. Sickser made him a regular employee at the store. It was gratifying to find an employee with an almost soldier-like willingness to perform even the most menial of tasks, and to perform them well.
From the age of thirteen until his sophomore year in college, the young man put in from twelve to fifteen hours a week, at 50 to 75 cents an hour. Mostly, he performed general labor: assembling merchandise, unloading trucks and preparing items for shipments. He seemed, in his quiet way, to appreciate not only the steady employment but also the friendly atmosphere Mr. Sickser's store offered. Mr. Sickser and Lou learned in time about their helper's Jamaican origins, and he in turn picked up a good deal of Yiddish.
In time the young man was able to converse fairly well with his employers, and more importantly, with a number of the Jewish customers whose English was not fluent. At the age of seventeen, the young man, while still working part-time at Sickser's, began his first semester at City College of New York. He fit in just fine with his, for the most part, Jewish classmates, hardly surprising, considering that he already knew their ways and their language. But the heavy studying in the engineering and later geology courses he chose proved quite challenging. The young man would later recall that Sickser's offered the one stable point in his life those days.
In 1993, in his position as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - two years after he guided the American victory over Iraq in the Gulf War - General Colin Powell visited the Holy Land. Upon meeting Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Jerusalem, he greeted the Israeli with the words "Men kent reden Yiddish" (We can speak Yiddish). As Shamir, stunned, tried to pull himself together, the current Secretary of State continued chatting in his second-favorite language.
Colin Powell never forgot his early days working at Sickser's.
(Honestly - I LOVE that story!...)
3. May 4th, 2003 - This just in to KEHILLAH - as follows:
A little late for Passover (2003/5763), but never too late to share. This is wonderful - enjoy. (Roy)
Major Jonas Vogelhut, one of America's Best and Bravest, was kind enough to send the following report and photograph of a Passover Seder that he
attended near Baghdad. I believe that you will find Jonas' thoughtful remarks to be a religious experience as well as a significant record of
the quality and character of our warriors. [Farrel]
From: Jonas Vogelhut < email@example.com
To: Supporting our familes of active military < THEBRAVE@USCJ.ORG
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2003 16:19:50 -0400
Dear family and friends,
This morning started with a cold rain. This was a blessing, as it padded the loose sand and made for a clear, crisp day. For me and two other Jewish soldiers, the wonderful duo of Chaplain Yacovac, 3rd Infantry Division and Chaplain Waynick, 24th Support Command, gathered the necessary six security personnel and four vehicles to convoy us the 40
minutes from our classified base at Logistics Support Area Dogwood to Objective Grady for a Passover seder in the desert.
As we arrived, we were warmly greeted by ten other Jewish soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division and Chaplain (Rabbi) Carlos Huerta. Together, we made a motley group of infantrymen, pilots, medics, and
truck drivers into a minyan. Into a family. Our table was meager but festive. Dispel all rumors of Army soldiers having seder in palaces. That was not us. Our tent was small and non descript from the outside. We used mess hall provided paper plates, flatware, and cups. No meat or main course. The simple Passover supplies of Matzah, gefilte fish and
grape juice from the Aleph Institute and the Jewish Welfare Board, combined with generous packages of cookies, dried fruit, and candy mailed by Lynne from Arizona and my cousin Stephen Hirsch of Long
Island, NY constituted a table fit for a meal. We even used Army issued Louisiana hot sauce for the bitter herbs.
Rabbi Huerta motivated us all to a higher plane. Despite our soldierly harsh living conditions sleeping outside on the ground, without showers or toilets, there are always people who have it harsher. We the Jewish people were slaves once. On a similar idea, the Iraqi people were oppressed for over a generation by Saddam Hussein. And now we are both free.
The 10 plagues the Lord cast upon Pharaoh were cast upon Saddam Hussein with embargos, restrictions, war, and perhaps death. Now, like the Jews who crossed the red sea, the Iraqi people must rebuild their lives and teach their children about freedom.
During the meal, soldiers talked about missing family and friends. Back in Pasadena California, Pittsburgh PA, Phoenix Arizona, Brooklyn, New York, Orlando Florida, and other home towns across the USA. Each participant was glad to get a few moments away from their military post and remember previous seders with wives, children, parents, and friends.
1LT Abraham Falkowitz remarked "I was surprised to see this much Judaism in the middle of a war zone." Others agreed. We laughed, cried, and had fun.
The service concluded with songs and psalms, like this quote Rabbi Huerta read from Psalm 118, "The Lord is on my side, I have no fear."
Together, our unit made that tent a house. And that house a home. A piece of Judaism. A piece of America.
Objective Grady, Central Iraq
MAJ Jonas Vogelhut
Please feel free to share this with others or use for publication. Support my fellow soldiers. [photo of Seder attached] (We're working on getting the photo onto our website....)
4... (Send us your Good Stories and we will add them here...)
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