CBE Veterans Shabbat
If you were at CBE's first annual Veterans Shabbat on November 7, 2015, you know it was a very special day as we honored veterans and active-duty service members in our congregation as well as veterans in members’ families. Veterans participated in the service along with 6th graders, who also created a Jewish War Veterans Museum for the event.
One of the many highlights of the day was the mess-hall-style luncheon, where the CBE chorale led us in singing service hymns and veterans shared a few of their experiences, including stirring thoughts from the congregation’s only surviving WWII veteran and former POW Paul Stern. Just a few of the comments about this event: “ Very moving and informative.” “Best membership event EVER.”
While all of the veterans' shared thoughts and remembrances were inspiring, perhaps the most moving was Paul Sterns' retelling of a heroic act of his commanding officer, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, who was the highest-ranking American in his POW camp during the Battle of the Bulge. Edmonds refused to identify the Jews in his unit despite a gun to his head, saying "We are all Jews." Paul mentioned briefly that he and his army buddy, Les Tanner (who later became his brother-in-law) witnessed this action and gave their testimony to Yad Vashem.
Yad Vashem Announces "Righteous Among the Nations"
On December 2nd, soon after our Veterans Shabbat in Virginia, "the Yad Vashem World Center for Holocaust Research, Documentation, Education and Commemoration announced that it would honor an American serviceman for the first time as Righteous Among the Nations. Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds of the 422nd Infantry Regiment in the United States Armed Forces died in 1985, but will posthumously receive recognition for saving Jewish American soldiers at the Stalag IXA Prisoner of War Camp in Germany." (Newsweek, December 2)
In fact Edmonds' story, and CBE member Paul Sterns' part in testifying to his courageous act, "went viral", and was covered in many articles in the American and Israeli press in early December. A sampling of the stories can be found at this link. You may also be interested to hear the story in Paul's own words, courtesy of NPR. Also the Washington Jewish Week covered the story in the December 31 edition and mentioned the context of our Veterans Shabbat.
Photos below include Paul Stern's page in the CBE Veterans Shabbat program, and Paul and Corinne Stern with Chris Edmonds, son of Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds in 2013.
CBE would like to thank Robyn Feuerberg and the many veterans, students and volunteers who organized and participated in this event, and especially the Stern/Fleeter family for helping make it very special indeed.
The event at the Israeli Embassy was certainly a night to remember for my family, and especially for my Dad, [CBE member] Paul Stern! At the Embassy, President Obama participated in a ceremony honoring two Americans and two Polish citizens posthumously with the Righteous Among the Nations Award for non-Jews who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Obama’s speech was the first speech ever given by a sitting president at the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C.
The event took place on January 27th, which was timed to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. This date carries extra special significance for our family since it is the date that my Dad’s and uncle’s lives were saved (along with 200 other Jewish POW’s) by Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, who was one of the Righteous Among the Nations Award recipients. January 27th is also my Dad’s birthday!
President Obama's historic words, the moving speeches by the Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg and NPR’s legal correspondent Nina Totenberg, and the plethora of heart-warming stories about Holocaust heroism made for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This unforgettable evening was amplified when Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer presented my Dad with a candlelit birthday cake and led all of the guests in song for his 92nd birthday!
President Obama shaking hands with my Dad and wishing him a
My parents, my brother and
Steven Spielberg chatting with my
Uncle Lester (my Mom’s brother)
My parents with NPR’s
The Israeli Ambassador (left) presenting my Dad with a candlelit