We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I shared a lunch table at Jimbos – great vegetarian dishes -- the other day with a young Israeli mother, living in the US now, her career being the dancing styles of India.We discussed our younger adventurous feelings of immortality when traveling to places we wouldn’t now, and how we naturally as parents protectively shelter our children from following – even knowing too much about – our younger selves.She’d served in the Israeli Defense Force, as most Israelis do, and wasn’t startled, as most American Jews are, when I told her I’d volunteered for the US Marine Corps and served in Vietnam.
At my, of course politically liberal, synagogue, to my knowledge there’s only one other former Marine, a NavalAcademy grad, who served in Iraq.Otherwise, there’s a very small group who send packages to our troops serving in combat zones.There’s organizations within our faith who foster support for Jews currently serving, such as this one. But, the oldest veterans organization in America, the Jewish War Veterans, is primarily composed of ancient WWII vets. Jews who served of my generation haven’t joined the JWV, still stung by its turning against support during Vietnam, and otherwise feeling we have better things to do with our time.
Yet, this stirring sitedetailing of the over 1-million Jews who have served in our military, many earning the highest medals and commendations for valor (for example: General Douglas MacArthur in one of his speeches said, “I am proud to join in saluting the memory of fallen American heroes of Jewish faith.”), doesn’t mention how relatively few Jews serve today. An estimate has fewer than 15,000 Jews serving today in our 1.4-million armed services (about 1% versus our 2.1% of Americans who are Jewish), out of our US population of about 5.3-million.I think the number is an underestimate, but in order of magnitude not far off.Compare this photo of Jews in our WWI American Expeditionary Force celebrating the Passover Seder in Paris in 1919, with the size of this grouping at a Seder in Fallujah, Iraq.
Less the case here in San Diego than elsewhere, the ultra-liberal droning of most Rabbis from the Bimah (elevated platform) and anti-military/anti-war attitudes of most congregations alienates many Jews, about 25% of whom are politically conservative.Most American Jews, who once were one or two steps removed from knowing first-hand the need to fight oppressions abroad, are now risen to prominence and relative well-being and comforts.They vote overwhelmingly for candidates opposed to US efforts and sacrifices to fight the same jihadist and Iranian and Saudi funded existential enemies of the US and of Israel.They have little clue of the tough Jewswho excelled, even as leading mobsters.
In Israel, where extraordinary concentrations of hard work and brilliance has created one of the world’s most advanced miracles, still our brothers and sisters serve for survival, even excelling at practicing heightened moral sensitivities in war (see this excellent review of the performance and issues by a British commander in Afghanistan speaking last month at Jerusalem’s Center for International Affairs on “Hamas, The Gaza War And Accountability Under International Law”).Yet, supposed guardians of international law practice a one-sided view when it comes to Israel, waging a “legal war” against Israel, Human Rights Watch even touting it to gain funding from Saudi Arabia. Today, in America, although a small minority among Jews, there’s well-funded Jewish “peace” groups, like J-Street, very secular but of Jewish heritage, who echo such slanderous and disastrous memes.Even Obama-endorsing Mort Zuckerman called it the “J Street Jive” and our most liberal Reform movement president Eric Yoffe, who says “I am a dove myself,” called its posture on the Gaza operations “morally deficient, profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment and also appallingly naïve.”
In 1967’s deepest worry during the initial reversals in the then latest seemingly overwhelming attack upon Israel, at the heavily Jewish Brooklyn College, where anti-Vietnam sentiment was as widespread as elsewhere on American campuses, there was a long line at Hillel to volunteer to fight in the IDF.We were rejected as untrained and a likely hindrance.To my knowledge, I’m the only one who upon graduation the next year volunteered and joined the USMC and served in Vietnam.
Today, even among the staunchest American Christian allies of Israel, there’s increasingly widespread dismay, even sometimes oozing into disgust, at the unwillingness of so many prominent Jews and of so many Jewish voters to stand up to the weaker-willed and hostile within Obama’s administration who jeopardize Israel as willingly as they excuse Iran’s oppressors.
So, back to my lunch the other day.In my dotage, I have two young sons, who will ultimately make their own decisions in life, including whether to serve in our armed forces.My luncheon companion’s young daughter will not have that choice, should they return to Israel, and must serve in the IDF.In either case, whether here or there, Jews cannot avoid facing up to whether we will live up to the painful lessons of our forebears, and fight for what’s not only right but the survival and triumph of our deepest roots – now too often relegated by comforts earned and won by the blood of our older members of the faith – as Rabbi Hillel famously said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”Or, are we to be “out to lunch”?
At the very least, when next lunching at a sports bar or such, if you see a young soldier, Marine or sailor, buy him a beer and say “thanks for serving.”
Although an erroneous libel, as most aren't Jews, anti-war propagandists have inferred the "neocon-Jewish conspiracy." Nonetheless, think a moment, many of the leading lights of conservative thought in America are Jewish. Again, think a moment, even against the tide generally, and particularly among Jews, 25% did vote for McCain. -- Another think a moment: I was raised in the socialism of my family, which was the turn-of-the-century socialism of defending the little guy against what was, then, oppressive Big Business. Today, that same defense of the little guy tradition is remembered and understood by many of us to be against oppressive Big Government.