Replacing the Crosses on the Gravestones of American Jews Who Died Fighting Fascism

May 30, 2023 | Jamie Betesh Carter
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Yesterday, Americans recalled the sacrifices of their compatriots who, from the Revolutionary War until the present day, have given their lives to defend their country. Jamie Betesh Carter reports on the accomplishments of Operation Benjamin, an organization dedicated to making sure the memory of the Jews among them is properly preserved:

Shalom Lamm, Operation Benjamin’s CEO, grew up in Manhattan and always had an obsession with U.S. military history, so much so that while working full time and raising five children he went back to school and received a master’s degree in American military history. Around the same time, a rabbi and Lamm’s close friend named Jacob J. Schacter led a small tour through France, where he visited the Normandy American Cemetery. He returned from the trip and let Lamm know that while he was very moved by the experience, he expected to see more Stars of David in the cemetery.

Lamm and Schacter assumed that many fallen Jewish soldiers were mistakenly buried under Latin crosses, and conducted an experiment to see if their theory was true. . . . “It turns out there are thirteen World War II cemeteries, and in at least twelve of them there are hundreds of Jewish soldiers buried under crosses, mistakenly,” [said Lamm]. It was then, in 2020, that Operation Benjamin was created. . . . Lamm left his career in real estate to become CEO of this new nonprofit. Lamm estimates that there are between 400 and 500 Jewish soldiers mistakenly buried under crosses. Their goal is to find Jewish soldiers at American military cemeteries, and give them a proper Jewish burial and headstone.

This month, for Memorial Day 2023, Operation Benjamin will be leading a mission of over 60 participants to correct historical errors at the Normandy American Cemetery and Brittany American Cemetery in France. Soon they’ll be working to change the graves of American Jewish soldiers buried in Italy and England. “We’ve changed 23 headstones so far, and we have another 30 or so that are under active investigation,” said Lamm. “And as we go through those, we will continue further and further.”

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