Our Fallen

Editorial

Published February 09, 2011, issue of February 18, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Read ‘Profiles of Our Fallen’ and Watch a Related Video.

America is entering its 10th year of war, but outside certain neighborhoods and communities, it is hard to tell. Afghanistan and Iraq are worlds away, the missions there cloudy and complicated, and the absence of military conscription means the sacrifice is inequitably distributed. We all are paying the mammoth costs of these conflicts: A September 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service put the total federal price tag since 9/11 at $1.12 trillion. But the human toll escapes most attention.

And yet the casualties are real: 5,775 dead so far, men and women who volunteered to serve in wars that have largely been financed by federal debt and largely fought beyond the nation’s consciousness. In the Jewish community, there is often more focus on those Americans who enlist in the Israel Defense Forces than those who have chosen to fight under the stars and stripes. It’s an unspoken, uncomfortable truth: the IDF is the Jewish military. About 650 of the “lone soldiers” currently serving in the IDF are dual American-Israeli citizens, and there are untold numbers of foreign volunteers.

By contrast, of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, only 1,500 are Jewish, 1% of the total currently deployed there.

How can we forget those American Jews who have fought in these wars, and the 37 who have died? How can we ignore or minimize their sacrifice? Part of the answer lies in the complex attitude toward these wars, burdened as they are with faulty missions and uncertain outcomes. What are we hoping to accomplish in Afghanistan? Why did we invade Iraq in the first place? The imperative to defend Israel is clear and — in the minds of some, holy — while our wars just seem intractable.

Listen to the family members of the fallen, and those explanations become empty excuses. “I think people are surprised to learn that Jews serve in the military in America because people think that any Jew interested in serving in the military is going to serve in the IDF,” says Beverly Wolfer-Nerenberg, whose brother, Stuart, was killed in Baghdad. “I think that people overlook the fact that Jews living in this country are patriotic and do have a sense of duty and gratitude and are grateful for what this country has given to us over the years.”

The truth is, we overlook that fact in ourselves. In some of the painful interviews collected for this week’s “Profiles of Our Fallen” feature, we heard from parents initially worried and embarrassed about their childrens’ choice. Melinda Kane, whose son, Jeremy, died in Afghanistan, described “the stigma that a nice Jewish boy from Cherry Hill would want to go into the military. It was really unheard of and sadly I was afraid that people would judge my son for being a certain way that was not who he was.”

Instead, when she asked Jeremy why he chose to enlist here, he responded: “It doesn’t matter whether I fight for the Israelis or the Americans. We’re all battling the same thing.”

However we, as Americans, proceed in our efforts to restore stability and some form of self-governance to Iraq and Afghanistan, we owe it those on the front lines to respect and honor their choices. And as we express concern for the IDF in our synagogues and communities, we cannot forget the many Jews who serve with the U.S. military, just as bravely and with just as much at stake.


Read ‘Profiles of Our Fallen’ and Watch a Related Video.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.