For centuries, Jewish Americans have served their country as part of its armed forces. Historical records tell of brave individuals such as Asher Levy, a Jewish colonist in New Amsterdam who battled anti-Semitism to earn his place among the colony’s guards in 1654. Today, his and other patriots’ efforts are continued by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America (JWV), a nonprofit dedicated to honoring and supporting the Jewish veterans of America’s military. In addition to its central mission, JWV has been at the forefront of the fight against anti-Semitism, the education of the American people regarding Jewish patriotism, and a variety of other initiatives.
JWV was founded in 1896 as the Hebrew Union Veterans by 63 Jewish veterans of the Civil War. By 1912, the organization had expanded to include the Hebrew Veterans of the War with Spain and had successfully lobbied the New York State Congress to allow Jews to serve as commissioned officers in the state’s National Guard. Throughout the next century, the organization served as a vital advocate for Jewish veterans’ interests, achieving such successes as obtaining Star of David Markers for the graves of Jewish service members, as well as assisting in the passage of the GI Bill of Rights of 1944 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Perhaps the most visible sign of JWV’s work is the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, an institution that was chartered in 1958. Located only blocks away from the White House, the museum offers exhibits on such topics as the incredible work Jewish soldiers performed in the aftermath of World War II in supporting the European Jews who had survived the Holocaust, as well as permanent exhibitions on patriots like Rabbi Joshua L. Goldberg and Uriah P. Levy. The museum is also home to the Hall of Heroes, a permanent fixture at the museum that honors the servicemen and women who have earned the Congressional Medal of Honor