Jewish War Veterans honored
By Marvin Glassman
Two events honored Jewish War Veterans who fought in World War II on Memorial Day and a few days earlier at a Jewish American Heritage Month event, both in Broward County.
On Memorial Day, a special Town of Davie knighting ceremony in honor of four war veterans (two of them being Jewish) took place at the Bergeron Rodeo Grounds.
On May 27, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston) jointly honored Broward Jewish War Veterans and Holocaust survivors at a Jewish American Heritage Month event for Broward County high school students at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie.
Staff Sergeant Morton Kalin, 95, of Aventura and the late Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Loewenthal were the two Jewish War Veterans knighted with the Order of Saint George Medal on Memorial Day.
The medal is in recognition of both Kalin as a top tier cavalryman and Loewenthal for his leadership in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Kalin is among the last survivors of the 112th Cavalry Regiment that served in several Pacific campaigns in World War II. Kalin earned a Bronze Star and served (on horseback) from 1942-45, based in New Guinea.
"I hope no one forgets the sacrifice soldiers made for our country. I was honored to be in the cavalry and as a Jew, I was treated equally with no prejudice," said Kalin, who wore a cavalry uniform at the ceremony.
"While I was in the Pacific, I had no idea that millions of Jews perished in the Holocaust. I was shocked to learn what happened in Europe when I returned home following the war."
Following World War II, Kalin lived in Springfield, MA and is married to his wife Sylvia for 68 years. Kalin moved to Aventura in 1971. His son Ron attended the ceremony.
"My dad was a true cowboy and I am so proud of all he accomplished," said Ron Kalin.
Loewenthal earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart in World War II and passed away in 1989.
He earned his Silver Star for being commander as lieutenant of his platoon of tank destroyers in 1944, supporting an infantry attack in Italy. Loewenthal's efforts forced the German troops to withdraw, although he was severely burned and received the Purple Heart for his injuries. Loewenthal was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1960 as a member of the Army Reserves.
His daughter Leslie, who resides in Miami, took part in the knighting ceremony, accepting the Order of Saint George Medal on behalf of her father.
"I wish my father was here to receive the award. It's incredibly touching and befitting because I'm so proud of my father. He was so incredibly proud of his service to our country," said Loewenthal.
According to his daughter, Daniel Loewenthal's father was a rabbi in Brooklyn and Loewenthal raised his family in Maryland following World War II.
The Broward Jewish War Veterans and Holocaust survivors shared many stories of courage and endurance in World War II to the estimated 80 Broward high school honors and Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) students at the Jewish American Heritage Month event.
Many of the students were sitting in tables in which either a veteran or survivor addressed the students in small group discussions in rotation.
The JAHM event took place to inform the students, most whom are not Jewish (according to a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz), about the many contributions of Jewish Americans in the history of the United States.
"Most Americans not living in large metropolitan cities like New York or in South Florida may have never met a Jew at any time. Jews are a very small population in our country. Inevitably, what is unfamiliar could lead to fear and anti-Semitism," said Wasserman Schultz in addressing the students, Holocaust survivors and Jewish War Veterans.
"It is through education and the celebration of the achievements of Jewish Americans that will end the bigotry," added Wasserman Schultz, who cited a legacy of extraordinary Jewish Americans, such as songwriter Irving Berlin and Julius Rosenwald, the founder of Sears, Roebuck and Company.
Wasserman Schultz is credited, along with late Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) and the Jewish Museum of Florida, with founding the annual JAHM celebrations beginning in 2006.
Among the many Broward Holocaust survivors and Jewish War Veterans discussing their stories of courage and endurance were survivors Norman Frajman and Roman Haar, Jewish War Veterans Morton Brooks and Richard Rosenzweig (currently a Deerfield Beach city commissioner), among others.
Brooks shared the horrors of going overseas as a soldier in Europe and the hardships of becoming a prisoner of war in a German camp.
"I knew later that the Germans planned to work the prisoners to death, even though it was against the rules of the Geneva Convention," said Brooks.
Frajman spoke of enduring the pain of knowing that he lost 126 family members in the Holocaust and his journey of surviving four concentration camps as a young boy.
"Three words can sum up the experience. Hell on Earth," said Frajman, 86, of Boynton Beach.
"The positive is that you (the students) now know the truth of the Holocaust and must make sure that you never forget what you learned."
The students were moved by the experience and shared that their understanding of the Holocaust and World War II was different from what they learned from the history books they learn in school.
"Understanding the Holocaust is so deeply ingrained in me now, by hearing the stories of the many survivors I met today," said 16-year-old Eric Standen, who is in a high school ROTC program.
"This is not the first time I heard of the Holocaust, but this is the first time that I can put a picture in my mind when I hear of a Holocaust survivor," said Ali Arshad, 16, of McArthur High School in Hollywood.
To learn more about Jewish American Heritage Month, go to www.jewishamericanheritagemonth.us