From 2002
(William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History)

The saga of Barney Ross is spectacular, a story of pride for all Americans.

Veterans Day is Thursday. Every year, Nov. 11 is the day we honor all who have served in America’s armed forces.

Originally, this federal holiday was known as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of combat in World War I, on the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918. About 225,000 American Jews served in WWI.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Alene and Graham Landau Archivist Chair

The name of this day of remembrance was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. By that time, another 500,000 Jews had served in World War II.

To say the least, over the years, hundreds of thousands of American Jews have served in every branch of the military and fought in every war in which the United States was involved. Moreover, Jews have enlisted in higher per-capita numbers than the Jewish proportion of the American population at-large.

As you might imagine, the pages of the Detroit Jewish Chronicle and the JN in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History hold many articles about annual Armistice and Veterans Day celebrations, to say nothing of reports about the activities of various Jewish War Veterans posts and contemporary stories of Jews on duty. 

From 1943
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

I was struck by a remarkable article for Veterans Day that was the cover story for the Nov. 8, 2002, issue of the JN: “Remembering a Fighter.” This referred to the story of Barney Ross, one of the best boxers in history and a bona fide war hero. In 2002, the story of Ross was kept alive by his cousin, Al Rasof, who had himself served as a radioman and gunner on a B-17 Bomber during World War II. 

Although not well-known today, Barney Ross, along with baseball great Hank Greenberg, was one of the two most famous athletes of the 1930s. Born Dov-Ber “Beryl” David Rosofsky, Ross was a superb boxer and was the first to hold world titles in three weight divisions. He retired in 1938, but his fighting spirit led him to join the Marines in 1942 after the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

From 2014
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

One night during the fierce and famous battle of Guadalcanal, Ross and three wounded Marines were trapped by Japanese soldiers. Severely wounded himself, he fought and killed 12 of the enemy, and then carried one 230-pound comrade to safety after the fight. Ross weighed about 140 pounds. He received the Silver Star for his bravery.

The saga of Barney Ross is spectacular, a story of pride for all Americans. But around us today are many men and women who have served in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines. For great reading about veterans, see the writings of Alan Muskovitz. For example, in the Nov. 6, 2014, JN, he wrote about two Jewish WWII vets, Marty Meyers and Art Fishman, on a “Honor Flight” to Washington, D.C. And see the Judy Greenwald report about Marty Levine and Ted Gittleman speaking to students at Farber Hebrew Day School about the importance of service to America (Nov. 24, 2016). I could list hundreds of other articles from the Archive.

So, if you know a veteran, let them know that you appreciate their service to America.   

From 2016
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.

Previous articleJewish War Veterans Work to Pay Tribute to Those Who Fought for Our Freedom
Next articleAnn Arbor Federation Celebrates 2022 Annual Community Campaign