By Alan D Paley, USAF, National Commander of JWV
My name is Alan D Paley. I am a United States Air Force veteran and currently serve as the 90th National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America (JWV). JWV is the longest-serving VSO in the country and recently celebrated its 126th anniversary on March 15, 2022. I am pleased to share our Veterans Service Organization (VSO) history, mission, and advocacy efforts with you, so we can look for ways to work together to highlight the service of Jewish uniformed service members and veterans.
JWV supports the military and veterans by participating in Veterans Day and Memorial Day events and by volunteering at Department of Defense military bases and Department of Veterans Affairs locations (including medical facilities, regional offices, and cemeteries) across the country. JWV’s message is strong and clear: we fight for military and veterans benefits and services; advocate on their behalf with elected officials and Federal departments; and combat anti-Semitism wherever and whenever it appears.
History – Celebrating 126 Years
JWV was founded on Sunday, March 15, 1896. On that day, 63 Union veterans of the Jewish faith gathered at the Lexington Avenue Opera House in New York City to form the Hebrew Union Veterans Association in response to a series of antiSemitic comments that Jews did not serve in the Civil War. In fact, Jews served during the Revolutionary War and all subsequent conflicts to the present day.
During the next 25 years, several smaller Jewish Veteran organizations were formed. These groups consolidated and in 1929, JWV officially adopted the name we go by today—The Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America.
In 1951, JWV’s national headquarters moved from New York to Washington, DC to gain better visibility and increase its impact in gaining rights for the unique needs of veterans. Congress recognized the importance of JWV as a Veterans Service Organization by issuing a Congressional charter in 1984.
JWV’s leadership also recognized the need to bring the stories of Jewish servicemen and women to the public because if Jews do not tell our stories or share our message, who will?
To that end, the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, located near Dupont Circle, was chartered in 1958. The museum is dedicated to recognizing, preserving and commemorating the service, heroism, and sacrifices of Jewish men and women who have contributed to the peace and freedom of America. I urge you to tour the museum on your next visit to Washington, DC. I am sure you will be surprised to learn about the military history of members of the Jewish faith.
JWV’s Unique Mission
JWV’s mission is to affirm that Jewish men and women serve honorably and heroically in the uniformed services of the United States of America during peacetime and war. JWV defends the rights and benefits of all service members and veterans, fights anti-Semitism, and supports the State of Israel.
A central goal of JWV’s mission is advocacy through our direct outreach to members of Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Defense (DOD), and the White House. JWV serves as the eyes and ears to Congress and the Executive Branch for our members and all veterans. These interactions highlight JWV’s concerns for veterans, the military, and Israel.
JWV continues to support the State of Israel since its founding. Members call on our elected officials at all levels to maintain this indispensable alliance. In April 2023, JWV will lead our 33rd JWV Allied Mission to Israel. The JWV Mission to Israel brings non-Jewish veteran leaders to Israel and provides them with firsthand knowledge of America’s ally in the Middle East. The trip includes Jewish veterans who connect with the participants and educate them on how Israel benefits the United States and the world at large.
Advocacy – a Leader in the VSO Community
JWV provides leadership to and promotes issues relating to veterans and uniformed service members through multiple coalitions including The Military Coalition (TMC) and The National Military Veterans Alliance (NMVA). They are credited with enacting legislation to improve and establish new benefits and health care services for veterans and service members, support increases to VA and DOD budgets, and preserve existing services and benefits.
Our National Executive Director, Ken Greenberg serves as committee co-chair of the TMC Retired Affairs and Veterans Committee and is the co-director of NMVA. In these roles, Ken’s unique leadership positions support JWV and enables him to advocate for veterans and service members to Congress, the VA, DOD, and the White House.
It is because of JWV that US veterans and service members can take advantage of numerous unique benefits that are only available to this demographic. Veterans, active duty, and reserve component members (Reservists and National Guard) can take advantage of specifically provided benefits including education and the GI Bill, job training, and the ability to transition skills from the military to civilian life. JWV will continue to assure that issues facing veterans and service members from all eras remain at the forefront of the organization’s efforts.
One of the highlights of my term as commander was serving as the VSO host and keynote speaker at the National Veterans Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery this past November. It was a true honor for JWV to speak for all VSOs on the national stage. JWV’s message remains strong— that as veterans and service members we must be vigilant and continue to ensure that the freedoms, benefits, and services that we enjoy today remain for future generations to come.
In addition, JWV:
- Continues to work with the Jewish Welfare Board to ensure that all the religious needs of Jewish uniformed service members are met, as well as helping newly discharged service members connect with their local JCCs.
- Supports the DoD and VA Transition Assistance Programs (TAPS).
- Provides financial relief when one of our members deals with a hurricane, tornado, fire, or other natural disaster.
- Sponsors and financially supports scouting, recognizing those persons who have attained the rank of Eagle Scout.
- Supports Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs throughout high schools all over the country.
- Decorates the graves of our fallen comrades with flags on both Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
I call on each of you to take action. Make your voices heard on issues that veterans and military members continue to face, including ending homelessness, increasing access to healthcare, delivering mental health care, and addressing toxic exposure and other health concerns in a comprehensive way.
JWV is the “Jewish Voice for Veterans and the Veteran’s Voice for Jews.” We have been your voice for 126 years and will continue to be that voice on issues important to veterans, uniformed service members, and the Jewish community.
JWV Membership and Partnering
JWV wants to partner with the Aleph Institute and provide whatever help and support we can. We want the Aleph Institute to partner with us as well. We encourage you to reach out to those Jewish members in the military and veterans in your community to encourage them to join JWV. There is no cost to be a JWV member while serving active duty.
As a JWV member, your voice will be heard in Congress, at the VA, DOD and the White House.
Together we can continue the proud tradition of Jewish patriotic service to our country by emphasizing the efforts of Jews in service, speaking out against anti-Semitism, protecting veteran benefits and services earned, and supporting Israel.
You can visit our website at http://www.jwv.org to become a member or patron, find local JWV members to connect with, and learn about JWV activities and actions. For additional membership information, please contact Ben Kane. ([email protected]).
I strongly encourage you to sign up for JWV’s weekly newsletter; all you have to do is provide JWV with an email address. The content of the weekly newsletter and quarterly newspaper, The Jewish Veteran, will provide you with a wealth of veteran, military, and Jewish community information. To learn more about these publications, reach out to Cara Rinkoff ([email protected]). You can also follow JWV at www.facebook.com/JewishWarVeterans and https://twitter.com/jewishwarvets.
As members of the Jewish faith and US military, we are reminded that we are responsible for one another. I ask that you consider joining JWV as members, and together our voices will become louder and stronger, going “from strength to strength.”
Originally published in the Tishrei 5783 Jewish-American Warrior