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In 1896, a group of Jewish Civil War veterans organized the Hebrew Union Veterans, later renamed Jewish War Veterans of America. Almost a century later, in 1994, 13 Sun Lakes Jewish veterans and patrons reactivated the JWV Copper State Post 619.
Twelve of the 13 men are veterans, serving in World War II, Europe, Korea and Vietnam. They were the lucky ones who came back to their homes and families. But they knew so many who did not have the resources they needed after their service. So for the last 25 years, they have led their Sun Lakes Post in raising funds for veterans’ causes.
This year, they will celebrate 25 years of service with a gala luncheon on Sunday, April 7, at Oakwood Country Club in Sun Lakes. The luncheon will honor the founding members and feature 10 organizations the JWV supports. To purchase tickets, contact Adrian Bendick at 480-510-1733 by March 25.
The 13 founders include Richard Askinazi, David Davidson, Aaron Dolin, Irvin Feller, Sam Fierstein, Harvey Friedberg, Sy Greber, Milton Gross, Norman Lefton, Sam Meister, Sam Morris, Irwin Plafker and Peter Relyea.
Recently, several of the men shared stories about the work they’re most proud of with JWV.
Richard Askinazi was the second post commander in Sun Lakes and went on to serve in regional and national positions. He fondly remembers starting a program to give loans to veterans to help them when they completed their service.
Aaron Dolin and his wife Joy led the Clipper Club, collecting coupons from newspapers and magazines and sending them to military bases overseas. Service people can use these manufacturer coupons at base exchanges for up to six months past the expiration date.
Irv Feller joined JWV in 1946. When he arrived in Arizona, he organized the post’s Honor Guard. Now the Honor Guard stands watch at the funerals of Jewish war veterans and presents a flag to each family.
Of all the projects he’s worked on with Post 619, Sam Morris is most proud of the donations made to Veterans hospitals. He remembers the day they donated 15 televisions to the Prescott Veterans Hospital, the first ones the hospital ever had.
While not a veteran, Irwin Plafker has always been passionate about veterans’ causes. So he was eager to become a JWV patron when asked by a friend. He recalls selling poppies with his wife to raise money for the post. While at a grocery store one day, a young child came up to his wife and said, “I don’t have any money, but can I give you a hug?”
Post 619 has enriched the lives of so many veterans through their support of local organizations. They always welcome new members. “So much help is needed,” Askinazi says. “I would love to see more people join our post to help support our veterans.” If you are interested in membership, contact Bob Brooks at 480-558-1827 or Ron Siegel at 480-773-6461.