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Jewish war Veterans honor Americans lost in combat

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The Kings County Council Jewish War Veterans presented a special service at the Salem Fields Cemetery, 775 Jamaica Avenue, in honor of the Civil War dead, as well as those who served in other conflicts, including World War I, World War II, the Spanish American War, Korea and Vietnam.

The Kings County Council Honor Guard presented arms at the cemetery, the burial place for several prominent German−Jewish families of New York City, including members of the Fox family, founders of 20th Century Fox Film Corp., and the Guggenheim family of mining, newspaper and museum fame.

Junior Vice Commander Jerome Greenfield delivered the address, Post member Stanley Tanzer pronounced the official benediction, and Taps was played in memory of the fallen Jewish warriors.

Following the replacement of American flags at the Veterans Grove, the Kings County Council−JWV traveled to Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Glendale, Queens, where they visited a special section of headstones, part of the Workmens’ Circle section, and held a similar ceremony of reverence.

In 1900, Maurice Simmons, commander for the Hebrew Union Veterans Association, appealed to the general public and their own members on behalf of a monument they hoped to build to honor their fallen brethren in the Civil War.

There were approximately 7,000 of the Jewish faith who served the Union cause and, of those, approximately 1,096 served from the New York area. Commander Simmons was helped in his project by distinguished Jewish philanthropists and business leaders of the day, including Jacob Schiff, Lyman Bloomingdale of the well−known store, financier James Seligman, and Nathan Straus of the A&S (Abraham and Straus) store.

Temple Emanuel agreed to dedicate part of their Salem Fields Cemetery for this project. Four years later, a magnificent monument was erected, with a shaft 50 feet high topped by a ball and an eagle. The inscription on the monument reads, “In memory of the soldiers of the Hebrew faith who responded to the call of their country, and gave their lives for its salvation during the dark days of its need, so that the nation might live, 1861−1865.”

Several members, including Benjamin Batlan Levy, were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for this conflict.

In front of the monument is a tableau erected by the Veterans Corp 69th Regiment Inc. in memory of the soldiers of Hebrew faith who served with the 165th Infantry (old 69th New York in WWI) and laid down their lives in the service of their country. It is estimated that 250,000 Jews served in WWI.

The New York County JWV is sponsoring the current 69th Infantry, and they estimate approximately 5,000 soldiers of Jewish faith serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Other headstones include a marker for the Spanish American War, Cuba and Puerto Rico, and a second marker includes WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

Plans are being made to include a marker for Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s been estimated that 500,000 Jews served in WWII, Korea had 30,000, and Vietnam had 250,000, according to experts in Washington of the National Museum of American Jewish Military History.

According to Brooklyn professor E.A. Livingston, in his book, “President Lincoln’s Third Largest City: Brooklyn and the Civil War,” Brooklyn was the third largest city in America at that time, and was very pro−Union. In fact, President Lincoln asked that the soldiers and equipment from Fort Sumter in South Carolina be moved to safety at Fort Hamilton. He also states that Abraham Abraham, of the Abraham & Straus store, purchased a bust of President Lincoln a few days before his assassination. When he learned of the assassination, he put this sculpture in the store and draped it in black to show sympathy for the Union cause.

Experts state that Abraham Lincoln might not have been nominated for President if preacher Henry Ward Beecher had not decided to personally champion Lincoln and take his campaign speech to Cooper Union in Manhattan.

The Jewish community in Brooklyn at that time was very enthusiastic about joining the military and considered it a great privilege to defend their new country.

The Veterans Grove has yearly visits, and many others come to admire this monument, the largest one in the United States dedicated to the Civil War cause. New York City was the gateway for many immigrants who came to the United States in the 19th century, and were immediately impressed with the freedom and opportunity in their new homeland, and volunteered to protect these rights.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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