A Jewish Marine’s Story of Observance During World War II

Before his death, Bernard Heller (1919-2009) instructed his heirs to have the following inscribed on his tombstone: “I served in the U.S. Marine Corps in WWII as a staff sgt. I managed to put on t’filin every day even during combat in the Pacific and refrained from eating meat the entire time. The Almighty helped me to survive.” In honor of Memorial Day, Mordechai Lightstone tells Haller’s story:

Haller’s religious commitment in the Marines didn’t come easy. When one cook found out that the Jewish staff sergeant was avoiding meat, he began adding lard to the vegetables he served out of spite. When Haller found out, he switched to eating only raw vegetables.

Harassment came in other ways as well. To avoid attracting undue attention from his fellow Marines, Haller would put on t’filin when no one else was around. Still, they taunted him with slurs, referring to him as “Benny the Heeb.” . . . But as time went by and they saw Haller’s courage under fire, the harassment faded.

Haller shipped out to the Pacific theater in 1942, fighting in the battles of Saipan and Guam. Later, he was stationed in the Philippines. . . . Haller seldom spoke about his experience during the war, but his son recalls a time when, years later in the Bronx, his father awakened from a traumatic dream in the night and screamed for his rifle. Unspoken was the understanding that this particular nightmare was one of many the elder Haller regularly experienced.

Read more at Chabad.org

More about: American Jewish History, Jews in the military, Judaism, World War II

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy