Returning from work one day, my wife wanted to tell me about one of her customers. He shops at the jewelry store she works at, coming in a couple of times a month. Way led to way and it came out that her husband was a Marine, and Jewish. Apparently this man had never met a Jew before, let alone a Jewish Marine. He HAD to meet me, she said. Could I show up one day for lunch? He’d buy! After a little prodding from my wife, I was up for once again being the duty Jew. (To steal a term from CAPT Block).
A few days later I found myself eating lunch at a deli a few stores down from where my wife works. The gentlemen in question was an older fellow, lived by himself, a little eccentric but in the end genuine. He wasn’t interested in converting me to Christianity or saving my soul, he just wanted to know more about Jews. Having never met a Jew before, his only knowledge came from stereotypes.
Why are you all so rich and successful? He asked.
I tried to explain about how the religion values education. I may have thrown in something about the fact that being persecuted again and again, from Ancient Rome to the Third Reich leaves the survivors with wits and a bias for action.
Why are so many of you doctors and lawyers?
A philosophical discussion on the religion being based on making the world a better place and the plethora of rules we layer our religion in. And did I mention we value education.
How many Jews are in the Marines.
I’m going to go with about 1 in 100. But in my father’s time there was a disproportionate number of Jews in the military. (Hey there’s a good discussion on Jews In Green about this – but this conversation happened before JIG.)
But Jews can’t fight. I mean, come on.
Tell that to the millions of Arabs who tried to push the Israelis into the sea time and time again only to have their butts kicked.
The conversation went on, repeating many of the same questions I’ve come to expect from non-Jews.
But no Jew has ever won the Medal of Honor.
Blink. Blink. I was stumped. Surely, Jews have won the Medal of Honor. But I didn’t know any off-hand. Not one to argue without the facts, I demurred, You know, I can’t say whether you’re right. Jews have a long and storied history of fighting for this country. I can’t believe a Jew has never won the Medal of Honor. But I can’t give you an example.
He had me, I think you’ll find I’m right – no Jew has ever won the Medal of Honor. He smiled at me smugly.
Lunch came to an end before long and the first thing I did when I got home was to google Jewish Medal of Honor winners. I found a great website, aptly titled Jewish Recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, run by Seymour Sy Brody off of a Florida Atlantic University server.
- Six in the Civil War. (The Medal of Honor was created during the Civil War)
- Two in the Indian Wars.
- One in the Haitian Campaign.
- Three in World War I.
- Three in World War II.
- Now one in Korea
- Two in Vietnam.
And that’s just those we know for sure. Many Jews, especially during earlier wars, probably did not let on that they were in fact Jewish.
As we are all aware, the actual name of the medal is The Medal of Honor. It’s incorrectly referred to as The Congressional Medal of Honor because Congress must award it. But forgiving the discrepancy, the website is fantastic. I printed out all 17 Medal of Honor citations and sent them with my wife to deliver the next time she saw the gentleman who believed otherwise.
My Judaism For Dummies book says this counts as Torah Study, and so I share this website and knowledge with you for the next time you are the duty Jew.