It’s high time that a Mah Nishtanah be applied to Veteran’s Day. With American involvement in World War I having begun just under a century ago (April 1, 1917), it’s high time that we American Jews approach Veteran’s Day having learned about the involvement of at least one of our people who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery as a soldier.
A native of Buffalo, Ben Kaufman was raised in Brooklyn where he rooted for the Dodgers. His attendance at Syracuse University was interrupted when America entered the war.
Toward the beginning of October 1918, Sergeant Ben Kaufman and his men came under heavy fire from a German machine gun while serving in an advance detail in the Argonne. Almost immediately, two of Ben Kaufman’s men were wounded. In order to provide assistance, Sergeant Kaufman realized that he had to first silence the enemy machine gun fire. Before he could use his own weapon, Sergeant Kaufman’s arm was shattered by an enemy bullet. With his (right) arm hanging limp, Sergeant Kaufman began to advance on the enemy by lobbing grenades with his left hand. Through determination, perseverance and mazel, sergeant Kaufman managed to reach the enemy position where singlehandedly, he captured a surviving German soldier. Upon returning to American lines with his prisoner, Sergeant Kaufman managed to reveal the exact location of the enemy thereby enabling the Americans to move forward. It was after providing this information that Sergeant Kaufman fainted from loss of blood. In addition to the aforementioned Medal of Honor, Sergeant Kaufman received awards from bravery from nine foreign countries. After the war, Sergeant Kaufman became actively involved in the Jewish war Veterans serving as the national commander from 1941-1942. Ben Kaufman settled in Trenton N.J. where the Ben Kaufman Post 156 was established in his honor.
Mah Nishtanah. Meaning no disrespect to the Holocaust, we American Jews must be educated that our history did not begin on November 9, 1938 (Kristallnacht) nor did it end on May 8, 1945 (VE Day). Meaning no disrespect to the State of Israel, we American Jews must be taught that our history predates May 14, 1948 (the birth of the modern State of Israel). Isn’t it time that our children be taught about American Jewish war heroes?
Mah Nishtanah. If we can be proud that Sandy Koufax refused to pitch Game One of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, then shouldn’t we be aware that there are dozens, if not hundreds of other American Jews who are most deserving of our pride as well? Sandy Koufax is admired by Jews for what he did not do; there are so many others who deserve to be admired for what they did do!
Mah Nishtanah. Should it ever happen that we are confronted either personally or through the media that the U.S. military has disproportionately a small amount of Jews, it would be to our advantage to show that in the past, American Jews never shied away from the war effort. In fact, during World War II, there was a disproportionately large amount of Jews in the U.S. military. Stories about Ben Kaufman and others help prove the point.
This Friday is Veteran’s Day. Take a moment to recall the true meaning of Veteran’s Day. Realize that as a people, Veteran’s day has special meaning to us Jews. At the very least about, take it upon yourself to learn about one other Jew in the U.S. Military between now and next November. What could be better than applying Mah Nishtanah to Veteran’s Day?