Jewish War Veterans celebrate 127 years

Nation’s longest-running veterans organization wants more members


It’s been 127 years since a small group of Jewish Civil War veterans got together to discuss antisemitism and the lack of Jewish servicemen in the military.

That was 1896. Today, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America is still going as the longest-running veterans organization in the country. And it brought together members of Jewish War Veterans Post 652 — which includes members from all across Nassau County — to get back to basics and talk about hate.

“Their singular purpose was to show the world that, despite words of the contrary, Jews have always been part of the fabric of the United States of America since its inception,” said Gary Glick, commander of the Jewish War Veterans Department of New York. “We were hopeful following World War II and the defeat of Nazi Germany would be the end of antisemitism and hate for some time. But it continues to raise its ugly head quite often, and we are presently witnessing another period of this vital phenomenon, even in our own country.”

Members gathered at Central Synagogue–Beth Emeth in Rockville Centre last week to not only celebrate, but also to reflect. Hatred appears to be at its highest levels since World War II — something even Nelson Mellitz, the national commander of the Jewish War Veterans, told a joint session of Congress earlier this month, explaining that the level of discrimination is the worst it has ever been in his lifetime.

“We will defend the rights of everybody in the United States, and we will continue to do so,” Mellitz said. “As antisemitism continues to grow in the United States, the JWV asks you, congress members, to specifically help defend our country’s freedoms, and go forward and fight antisemitism and all forms of hate and bigotry, wherever it exists.”

Even today, however, Jews make up a small fraction of the military. A 2009 survey from the Military Leadership Diversity Commission revealed just 1 percent of soldiers identified as Jewish, compared to 2 percent in the general population.

During World War I, the Jewish War Veterans established the Jewish chaplaincy in the military, and fought to include the Star of David on the graves of Jewish soldiers.

Prior to the start of World War II, the group also helped lead a protest march and boycott of Nazi Germany and its goods, and would campaign for the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act, which led to several Nazi leaders in America being deported.

The organization continued its efforts long after the wars were over, too. It campaigned to include religious and racial protections in the GI Bill, stood against the Ku Klux Klan and the John Birch Society during the Cold War era, and even established a National Museum of Jewish Military History.

At the local level, it advocates for fellow veterans and help get them benefits they often were unaware they were eligible for. Following the coronavirus pandemic, several veterans had become more isolated, during which time Glick and others worked to connect with them and help get them the care they needed.

Yet, despite the organization’s stoic history, the Nassau County chapter has seen a steady drop in membership in more recent years. It’s primarily from a failed attempts to publicize the group’s existence, Glick says, fearing this could spell the end of the Jewish War Veterans unless someone takes action.

“Complacency will get absolutely nothing accomplished,” Glick said. “If you want to be the last of the JWV, sit back and enjoy your bagels and lox and we will drift into sunset unnoticed. We need to work together to be successful, and I’m hopeful to see some positive movement in this direction.”

Eric Spinner, commander of Jewish War Veterans Post 652 in Bellmore — and member of American Legion Post 1033 in Elmont — said that as many veterans get older, the number of people joining the post have gotten smaller. Currently, the Nassau organization boasts nearly 120 members, which has steadily declined over recent years.

“I didn’t know about it until two years ago,” Spinner said. “That’s when I joined.”

Spinner hopes by informing more people about the Jewish War Veterans and what it does to help provide services and recover medals for all veterans, that more people will be inclined to join their group.

“We welcome new Jewish veterans to our ranks,” Spinner said, “and we welcome patrons, too, who are not veterans, but who support our goals and aims.”

The post also welcomes anyone from the community willing to donate to help fund its cause.

To learn more about the organization, its history, and ways you can help, visit

And for more information on the national group, visit