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Jake Auchincloss, right, shown serving in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan. / Courtesy photo

Jewish leaders to speak at virtual Veterans Day event

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Jewish leaders to speak at virtual Veterans Day event

Jake Auchincloss, right, shown serving in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan. / Courtesy photo

Jewish political and community leaders will be participating in a local event commemorating Veterans Day this year.

Congressman Jake Auchincloss – whose district includes Brookline and Newton – is the featured speaker at a virtual commemoration sponsored by the Lappin Foundation on Thursday night, the day before the holiday on Nov. 11. Harvey Weiner, the former national commander of the Jewish War Veterans, also will speak at the event.

Weiner is a Vietnam War combat veteran, who, as an Army Captain, was an intelligence advisor to the Vietnamese. His combat experience included small raids, night ambushes, mortar and rocket attacks, sniper fire and land mines. He was the recipient of the Bronze Star (M) among other decorations.

On the holiday itself, the decorated Vietnam War combat veteran – who like Auchincloss is from Newton – will give a talk to the fifth-grade Hebrew school class at Temple Isaiah in Lexington.

In remarks from a speech given last week at a temple in Brookline, Auchincloss spoke about his military service with the Marine Corps, including in Afghanistan.

Referencing the political situation in the country since his election to Congress two years ago, he said, “The Marine Corps taught me that in conditions like this, of high stakes and fast decision-making, individuals do not rise to the occasion. They fall to their level of training. My training – my upbringing – is deeply informed by Judaism and the Jewish community.”

In these remarks, Auchincloss also discussed his maternal grandfather, Dr. Melvin Glimcher, who enlisted in the Marines during World War II. Glimcher’s parents fled pogroms in Russia. He himself was raised in Chelsea, in impoverished conditions. Glimcher studied biomedical engineering at Purdue University and went on to make a career as a groundbreaking orthopedic surgeon.

Asked how it feels to have Auchincloss as a featured speaker, Lappin Foundation executive director Deborah Coltin said, “I feel very honored. What I especially admire and respect about him is that he’s a young speaker [34], he’s the youngest featured speaker we have had.

“He’s now a public servant in his role as a congressman. I think people will find it interesting.”

The annual event had been in-person before the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to Auchincloss and Weiner, speakers will include former Army chaplain Rabbi Myron Geller, the longtime spiritual leader at Gloucester’s Temple Ahavat Achim.

“Our mission is to enhance Jewish identity across generations,” Coltin said. “Certainly, commemorating and celebrating Jewish war veterans fulfills our mission, to enhance people’s identity by learning how people served our country. It’s really inspiring. These kinds of stories build Jewish pride.”

On Veterans Day, former JWV national commander Weiner will share his stories with the next generation at Temple Isaiah.

“The teacher gave me a list of questions,” said Weiner. “What did I do, what was my rank, what did I feel about this, what happened afterwards? … I’ve done this before at Temple Isaiah. The kids are extremely interested, they really are. We ask about their parents, grandparents – did they serve, what did they do?

Like Auchincloss, Weiner has a history of military service in his family. An uncle fought in World War I, while Weiner’s father served with the Coast Guard Reserve at the Charlestown Navy Yard during World War II. Weiner’s brother was in the Navy during the Korean War era.

“I followed in the semi-family tradition,” Weiner said.

He was on active duty from November 1968 to November 1970, including a tour in Vietnam from May 1969 to May 1970.

Asked about suggestions for how to honor veterans today, Weiner replied, “I think my suggestion would be to contribute a financial contribution to the Massachusetts Department of the Jewish War Veterans, which sponsors dozens of scholarships each year.” He added, “We have a museum in Washington of American Jewish military history that could also use financial contributions, in honor of a specific veteran, to that institution.”

Weiner had two pieces of advice for the students at Temple Isaiah about approaching a veteran. One is to thank them for their service. As for the other?

“Don’t be intimidated just because the veteran is substantially older than the fifth-grader,” he said. Θ

To register for the free event, go to lappinfoundation.org.

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