Story by Elizabeth Applebaum
ernard Gross can feel
the souls of soldiers
every time he enters
the shrine at the
Jewish War Veterans
building in Southfield.
here," he says, walking
slowly around the dark room. "Do you get
the feeling they're looking at you? I get it
every time I walk in here. I feel their
The room is filled with photographs of
young men. Some are smiling. Some are
wearing uniforms. Some have curly hair.
Some have glasses. Some are so handsome
they almost take your breath away.
They're all dead.
The photos hang in a room used as a
shrine to Jewish vets from Michigan who
died in the wars.
For most people, thoughts of soldiers are
like wisps of dreams or the smell of a
sweetheart's long-forgotten perfume: dis-
tant, melancholy, revived only on rare
But for Mr. Gross, publicity chairman for
JWV Post 510, and other Jewish war
veterans, the memories of men who died
fighting for freedom must be kept alive.
Soldiers who linger in veterans' hospitals
must be cared for. New U.S. citizens and
Soviet Jewish veterans must be welcomed.
Money must be raised for scholarships for
deserving students. Shelters must be found
for homeless veterans. American values
must be preserved and defended.
Even with these projects, and others, in
hand, JWV members are concerned the
FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 1990
Photography by Glenn Triest
community knows little about their
organization, and they constantly fight an
image as a group of old men who do little
more than play bingo.
The local JWV numbers 1,000 members,
10 posts of male members and eight aux-
iliaries of women. Most men are World
War II veterans, though some survived
Vietnam and the Korean War. It is one of
27 JWV chapters nationwide whose pro-
jects are funded mostly through dues, bingo
The organization is reaching out to
younger Jews. In 1988, the local JWV
started two descendants' chapters, which
now have 36 members. The older JWV
At right, Jack Schwartz looks through a book
containing photographs of fallen Jewish
soldiers. A page is turned each day so all will
be remembered, if only for 24 hours a year.
members hope some of these men and
women will be around to guard their
memories, just as the vets now care for
soldiers who preceded them.
"We hope they'll carry on," says
Michigan JWV Commander Ely Katz.
"We're not going to be here forever. The
idea is for them to take over and
perpetuate what we leave for them."
The oldest activeveterans' organization
in the United States, the Jewish War
Veterans was started in 1896. It was
created because of talk at the time that
Jews were not interested in serving their
country, though over the years this has
More than 10,000 Jews — 500 of whom
were killed — served in the Civil War.
Some 5,000 Jews fought in the Spanish-
American War. A good 5 percent of the
Jewish population — 250,000 — served in
World War I; the figure for the rest of the
population is 3 percent. World War II saw
10,500 American Jews killed of 550,000
who served. And 150,000 Jews fought in
the Korean War, while another 30,000
served in Vietnam.
Pictures of some of those men are in the
Men like Gerald Shapson, who was born
in Milwaukee and studied at the Univer-
sity of Michigan. Mr. Shapson received the
Purple Heart and died in Okinawa. His
picture in the shrine is signed, "To
Men like lieutenant Philip Bernstein,
who attended Central High School and
Wayne State University. He died in Ger-
many when he was 29.