While memberships in veterans’ organizations are dropping across the board, North Bergen’s J. George Fredman Post 76 of the Jewish War Veterans is doing what it can to branch out into the community.
On Sunday, Post 76 met to plan its second visit to the Paramus Veterans Home, scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 10. The chapter initiated the event two years ago when it brought in musicians who performed selections from the Great American Songbook, a collection of Broadway music from the 19’0s, ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. The last event drew about 60 families and Post 76’s Cmdr. David Kronick is optimistic about this year’s event.
Cmdr. David Kronick presented Monsignor John J. Gilchrist with a commemorative clock at North Bergen’s Temple Beth-El in appreciation for the monsignor’s work in bridging Jews and Christians.
"It’s a fun day for everybody," he said. "They were all smiling and nostalgic [last time]."
J. George Fredman Post 76 of the Jewish War Veterans invited three county sheriffs to a farewell breakfast last month before the three deployed to Iraq. From left, Howard Barmad, Sheriff Ed Franco, Cmdr. David Kronick, Sheriff Al Cardona, Sheriff Victor Gomez, Arthur Presslaf, and Jr. Vice Cmdr. Barry Weiss.
In June, the post invited three county sheriffs to a meeting for a farewell before the three shipped off to Iraq. Sheriffs Ed Franco and Alan Cardona were deploying for the first time to Iraq while Sheriff Victor Gomez had already served.
The post presented a certificate of appreciation for the sheriffs’ service to the United States and served them breakfast.
"We look forward to their return and a welcome-home breakfast," Kronick said.
In March, Post 76 invited Monsignor John J. Gilchrist of the Archdiocese of Newark to a ceremony at North Bergen’s Temple Beth-El in honor of his work to improve Jewish-Christian relations. Gilchrist received a clock set in a wooden case and an autographed copy of "A Special Mission" by Post member and Yitzhak Rabin biographer Dan Kurzman.
"That was a very effective program," Kronick said. The monsignor is "doing great things that benefit Christian and Jew."
Kronick recalled that as a member of the state Assembly, he had once attended a Passover seder at Gilchrist’s church, Our Lady of Fatima.
Despite these big programs, Post 76 is struggling, as are most veterans groups. The majority of the members in these organizations are veterans of World War II who are in their 80s or 90s and can no longer be as active.
According to the national JWV organization, Post 76 has 55 members. But, Kronick said, membership is closer to 45, and only 10 to 15 show up at meetings. The Gilchrist event drew about 40 people.
Like other veterans groups, Post 76 has seen a drop-off in new members, beginning with the Korean War. Fewer Vietnam veterans joined than Korean vets, and Iraqi vets don’t seem to be interested at all, Kronick said.
"This is not a regular war like World War II," he said.
Because army service is not universal, the soldiers don’t feel drawn to each other, and that’s hurting veterans groups that need new blood to replenish their aging memberships.
"All these organizations are in trouble," he said. "It’s a different spirit, a different attitude [among Iraqi veterans]. They’re not motivated. They’re not joiners."
JWV chapters in West New York and Hoboken have already merged into the North Bergen branch. Eventually, Kronick believes, all posts in individual cities will have to merge into countywide chapters.
Kronick, who served in Germany during the Korean War, was an assemblyman in New Jersey’s 3’nd district from 1988 to 1994. Now he runs a printing business and manages several real estate properties, in addition to serving as commander of Post 76.