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August 10, 1990 - Image 25

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-08-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

MEN
GILL

first Jewish organization to boycott Ger-
man goods during World War II; in 1963,
it became the only national veterans group
to join in Martin Luther King Jr.'s March
on Washington; and in 1985, the JWV, in
response to President Ronald Reagan's visit
to the Bitburg Cemetery, where former
Nazis are buried, rallied other veterans to
hold a ceremony honoring soldiers who
died fighting fascism.
But politics are always set aside for a
regular JWV project:
greeting the men, women
and children about to
become American citizens.
Each Monday morning,
JWV Americanism Officer
Bert Ellstein can be found
standing in front of a large
American flag inside the
Federal Building down-
town. He wears a blue-and-
white hat with the JWV in-
signia, and a pin linking the
flags of Israel and the
United States. A loud fan
hums in the background,
and dozens of adults and
children listen carefully as
Mr. Ellstein discusses their
upcoming citizenship. He
passes out copies of the Bill
of Rights.
Mr. Ellstein was especial-
ly moved by a naturalization
ceremony last month, when
he helped 84 adults and one
child from 26 coun-
tries — many of them Arab
nations — become American
citizens.
Some of the men and
women were dressed
elegantly; others wore T-
shirts and thongs. Mr. Ells-
tein walked with them to
the courtroom of Judge
Gerald Rosen, where the im-
migrants raised their right hands and
pledged allegiance to the United States.
"You don't need any training to do what
I do," says Mr. Ellstein, a Michigan native
who served with the Navy in the South
Pacific. "You just have to know how to be
a little friendly."
After the swearing-in, the new citizens
came to shake hands with the judge; others
asked for his autograph. Mr. Ellstein
watched with pride as families took photos
and made videos.
"It does my heart good," he says. "I like
to greet these people, welcome them, help
them — no matter where they're from."
That's the same way JWV volunteers
feel when they visit at the Allen Park
Veterans Hospital.
The Jewish vets regularly hold
numerous programs for veterans around
the state. They have picnics, Christmas

and Chanukah parties. The women's aux-
iliaries visit the Oakland County
Children's Village, the Ann Arbor Medical
Center and the Northland Nursing Home,
among other projects.
Leading the troops at the Allen Park
hospital is JWV Commander Katz, who
serves juice to the veterans who've
gathered for bingo in a 9th-floor room.
He and a handful of men and women, all
wearing JWV caps, come every other

cessantly, dropping soft ashes into trays at-
tached to the side of their chairs.
Mr. Katz and other men take turns spin-
ning the bingo machine, which makes a
heavy pattering sound like horses' hooves
on a stone road. The volunteers move slow-
ly around the room, helping disabled men
move the numbers on their bingo cards.
They give a gentle pat on the back to
winners.
"These vets in the hospital, a lot of
these guys never get any
visitors," Mr. Katz says.
"We bring them small gifts,
and they are ever so happy
to see us."
The gifts are usually
quarters, given to bingo
winners and everyone who
comes to play the game.
"That's where your
money goes," Mr. Schwartz
says. "That's your dimes
and quarters for the pop-
pies."

F

rom the time he was
a little boy Michael
Bennett wanted
wings of silver. He loved
planes, soaring through the
sky, engines and motors and
racing into the clouds.
When he was 26, he found
those wings on a ship sta-
tioned outside Vietnam.
Born in Detroit, Mr. Ben-
nett, one of the younger
JWV members, holds a
master's degree from Har-
vard University. He wanted
to attend medical school;
"unfortunately, the draft
board had other plans." He
joined the Marine Corps.
Mr. Bennett, now 44,
entered officer candidate
school in 1967. He calls it
"12 weeks of hell." He ran obstacle courses
and marched through the thick, red clay
of the Virginia hills. In the afternoon,
when the sun was so hot you could hardly
breathe and the humidity was at its
thickest, Mr. Bennett and the other men
sat for instruction in small huts. Every 10
minutes or so, one could hear a loud crack
as instructors tapped sleeping soldiers on
their "chrome domes," or helmets.
Mr. Bennett was one of 2,300 men to
enter officer candidate school and one of
700 who finished.
Upon completing the program, Mr. Ben-
nett was accepted for naval aviator train-
ing in Pensacola, Fla., where he graduated
at the top of his class. He taught primary
jet training to young pilots for one year
in Florida and trained on the F-4
Phantom in California before being as-
signed, in June 1969, to a flight squadron

.

month to host the game.
Lillian Stein, president of the Lt. Roy
Green Auxiliary #529, wouldn't miss this
evening for anything.
"It's a duty to come here:' she says.
"These are war heroes; the war never
stopped for these men. If I can give them
a little peace of mind, I'm only too happy
to do it.
"We owe these men something;' she
says. "There are some things you just have
to do."
Many of the vets are in wheelchairs.
They're older men, some of whom bear the
most terrible reminders of the war: stumps
of legs blown off by land mines, and
wounds that never heal. They smoke in-

Ely Katz, Jack Schwartz, Bernard Gross: "We
worried about our children. That's why we
fought."

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

25

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