Jewish American Soldiers: Stories from WWII is about Jewish WWII veterans, who tell their personal narrative. The war transformed American Jews in many ways. Deborah Dash Moore, author of GI Jews, said, “it was the formative experience for young Jewish men and since then, there hasn't been any such formative experience that cuts across class, that cuts across region, that cuts across religious belief.” The veterans were fighting a battle on three fronts: against the American enemies, against fascism and the Nazis, and a personal battle against Anti-Semitism.
Some of these veterans were not used to being in the South, where many of these training camps were located. In some of these small towns there were signs that said, “Jews not welcome.” Bennett Lyons, a veteran from Brooklyn said it was, “foreign country down south to Jews from New York.” German-born Irving Bienstock, who was a religious Jew, described one experience that happened in basic training that still haunts him today. His account begins with his commanding officer doing bunk checks and “[H]e looks into my foot locker and he sees my tefillin in there. He asked me, “Is that GI issued? So I said, “No sir.” He said get rid of it, you've got 48 hours to get rid of it.”
For some it was their first time in an airplane. Jerry Levin, a flight engineer recounted his experience, “I had never flown in an airplane until that time and they put me in an open cockpit back with a 50-caliber machine gun.” These young men felt they had to prove themselves as fighters worthy of respect by their comrades. These Jewish veterans were responsible for bombing Hitler’s oil supplies in Vienna, Austria, breaking enemy codes, all while keeping their traditions such as celebrating Rosh Hashanah or Passover at base camp. For Alan Goldberg, who was in General Patton’s Third Army, his faith got him through the war. “The principles that we are taught are the universal principles of life and you find it in Judaism and that is why I'm thankful that I'm Jewish.”
These men fought on enemy lines for their families, who were persecuted by the Nazis. Without them, many of us would not be here today.