David Zwerin’s 90th birthday was spent surrounded by camaraderie and laughs.
It was a celebratory meeting for the Jewish War Veterans Post 652. Dozens of former service members packed the basement of Congregation Ohav Shalom in Merrick on Dec. 19 as Zwerin, a former commander of the post, capped off another decade.
A Korean War veteran, Zwerin served from May 25, 1951 to May 13, 1953. That year, he joined the Jewish War Veterans Post 116 in Laurelton, he said, before becoming a member of the Merrick post and later serving as commander.
At the meeting, the kinship between the veterans was on full display — quips were shouted and fun was poked between friends, always accompanied by a roomful of laughter.
“To me, the post means serving your fellow veterans,” Zwerin told the Herald Life. “You have to take care of them — it’s important for the community.”
Zwerin enjoyed the day alongside a longtime friend, whom he served with during the war but did not reconnect with until years later. He and Irving Liebowitz were stationed near La Rochelle in France and became acquainted by their New York roots. After their shipment back to the United States, however, they did not meet again until Liebowitz happened to be traveling through Laurelton. There, he spotted someone familiar crossing the street.
“I asked, ‘Who is that?’… That’s David Zwerin!” Liebowitz said. He then told Zwerin about Merrick’s own JWV Post and large Jewish population, and Zwerin moved shortly after.
“It’s like we met almost by accident,” Liebowitz said. “Next time we met was in Merrick, and he lived just a few blocks away.” Since then, the two have seen each other almost every week, he added.
Liebowitz also recalled Zwerin being “the driving force of the post.” As the former president of the synagogue where the post operates, Zwerin helped bring the chapter to nearly 100 members.
Zwerin’s sons, Andy and Alan, also attended the celebratory meeting. Both grew up in Merrick and went to the Levy Lakeside, Brookside and John F. Kennedy schools. “The post is his life,” Alan said.
Zwerin, who also served as commander to the New York State JWV Post, was never a leader “because of a title or position of power,” Andy said. “He truly believes in serving the ‘we.’”
“And that’s basically the way I live my life,” Alan said.
The two brothers reflected on the life lessons passed down by Zwerin. Andy was an advocate for marriage equality in New York, a passion “inspired by my father,” he said. Both have also coached or created various sports teams for youth and serve their local synagogues.
During the meeting, State Sen. John Brooks, a Seaford Democrat, and a representative from the office of Rep. Kathleen Rice bestowed Zwerin with honors recognizing his service to Jewish veterans.
Before slicing into his cake, Zwerin took the microphone — “See you at 120!” he told the crowd.