JWV’s Art Fishman adds another accolade for his work with veterans.
World War II Jewish War Veteran (JWV) Art Fishman, 95, never tires in the giving of his time and energy in support of his fellow veterans, both in and out of the Jewish community. And I never tire of writing about my dear friend — at least a dozen times in the JN, if you’re keeping track, two times as a cover boy.
Art is a member of JWV Shapiro-Rose Post 510. He’s their past commander and is the JWV Dept. of Michigan Sr. Vice Commander Emeritus, and now you can officially call him the “Michigan Veteran of the Year.”
The prestigious award was bestowed upon Art by the Commanders Group of Michigan (CGM). The group is made up of 14 congressionally chartered veterans’ organizations in the state whose mission is to advocate for the well-being of veterans and their families. The honor is given to the individual who has contributed most to that calling.
According to the Commanders Group selection committee, while credit is given for service by a veteran in years past, greater credit goes for accomplishments in the most recent year. And in 2022, 95-year-old Art Fishman, a JWV member for 55 years, has been as busy as ever working on behalf of his beloved comrades.
The “Michigan Veteran of the Year” honor was presented to Art on Sunday, Sept. 18, during a special ceremony at the Zekelman Holocaust Center. On hand was a large gathering of JWV post members and leadership of the JWV Dept. of Michigan, with newly elected department commander Mark Weiss and Post 135 commander Donald Schenk offering congratulatory remarks.
Art’s greatest joy was being able to be surrounded by his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and loving friends to witness the festivities. That was the sentiment he shared with WDIV Local 4 News reporter Kim DeGiulio who was on hand to cover the event. (Search “Art Fishman Veteran of the Year” on WDIV’s YouTube channel.)
The JWV Dept. of Michigan nominated Art for the award with the CGM selection committee deliberating over several candidates using a 10-point rating system in each of 10 categories of achievement.
Committee chairman, Master Sergeant Phil Smith, USMC, Retired, himself a past Michigan Veteran of the Year awardee, presented Art with the official declaration. Smith served in Vietnam and is also a veteran of the Desert Storm era.
In reflecting on Art’s legacy Smith said, “I think everybody on the select committee had the same opinion of Art. He’s a 95-year-old veteran doing everything possible to help veterans and their families. Wherever his heart is, that’s what he sets out to do. He’s got more energy than guys that are 50, even 40 years old. He just keeps going.”
Support from All Over
Numerous letters of endorsements were received by the CGM in the lead-up to their voting for the award, including from Kate Melcher, executive director of Fisher House of Michigan.
The Fisher House Foundation builds comfort homes where military and veteran families can stay free of charge while loved ones are hospitalized in nearby VA medical centers. One residence is currently open in Ann Arbor and news is forthcoming on a Detroit location.
“Art is the veteran community’s greatest ambassador and is a state treasure,” said Melcher. “His calendar would exhaust those of us half his age.”
That calendar has included his participation as a storyteller at Fisher House’s annual “Stories of Service” program.
In his support of Art’s nomination, JWV Department of Michigan Sr. Vice Commander Bill Glogower wrote that his rapid ascent through the ranks of the JWV “was all because of Art’s mentoring and leadership.”
Past Commander of the Department, Ed Hirsch, adds: “It is a fitting honor for this man who has selflessly served all veterans, without regard to race, creed, ethnic background or military service.”
Most of my phone conversations with Art Fishman begin like this: “Muskovitz,” he says with a little bit of a rush in his distinctive gravelly tone, “let me call you later buddy,” as he informs me he is out the door to any number of veteran, community or temple functions or meetings.
Art coordinates and appears with the JWV Honor Guard at Jewish comrades’ funerals. Due to restricted attendance during COVID, Art has, at times, been the lone representative of the JWV, charged with handing over the traditional folded American flag to the spouse or a family member of the deceased.
Art also arranges the Memorial Day ceremonies at Machpelah and Hebrew Memorial cemeteries, which includes helping ensure Jewish veterans’ graves are marked with an American flag on the holiday. He has even enlisted the help of youngsters in the Jewish community who volunteer to clean veterans’ gravesites and headstones.
For years, Art has spearheaded the JWV’s annual Christmas Day bus trip to the Battle Creek VA Medical Center, where members present gifts and play bingo with veterans who can’t be home for the holiday.
For the past 10 years, Art has given of his time generously on behalf of The Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial. The tribute honors the Michigan servicemen and women who fought on the warfront and those who supported the war effort on the homefront, like Rosie the Riveter. In 2017, Art was awarded the organization’s Victory Award at their annual gala.
Just this past April 7, Art played an integral role in the planning and execution of the memorial’s groundbreaking ceremony in Memorial Park in Royal Oak.
“He was part of the event committee contributing in several ways,” said memorial president John Maten in his letter of endorsement to the Commanders Group, “that included publicity, gathering sponsors, securing the donation of sound equipment, as well as being our WWII sounding board.” The event received global press coverage.
On Flag Day, June 14, Art made his yearly trek with his fellow post members to the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Howell to participate in their annual flag burning ceremony. The event provides an opportunity to respectfully dispose of aging or tattered flags as prescribed by the U.S. Flag Code.
Without fail, over the 4th of July holiday weekend, you’re guaranteed to find Art facilitating the participation of the JWV in community parades throughout the Metro Detroit area — this year marching in Oak Park.
And what can only be a fitting conclusion to a busy year for our veteran community’s biggest cheerleader, the Metro Detroit Veterans Coalition, sponsors of Detroit’s annual Veterans Day Parade, has named Art Fishman, one of their very own board members, as this year’s Grand Marshall.
Proud Legacy of Service
When he’s not helping veterans, Art is helping me. I’ve had the privilege of featuring many stories about our Michigan JWV in the pages of the JN, but I couldn’t have captured the full breadth of those stories without the help of JWV’s official PR man and photographer, you guessed it, Art Fishman. Art, in turn, regularly makes sure those stories are submitted to and covered by The Jewish Veteran, the quarterly newspaper published by the national JWV based in Washington, D.C.
Art served in both the Army Air Corp and Navy. Included among his tours of duty during WWII, Fireman First Class Arthur Fishman participated in the Yangtze River Patrol mine sweeping mission in the Port of Shanghai aboard the destroyer USS Robinson. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his efforts.
Of his role during WWII, Art deflects any attention directed at himself; instead, he pays homage to those who paid the ultimate price. As he said to the hundreds of people in attendance at The Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial groundbreaking in April: “Remember the heroes that are not here. They are the ones we dedicate this day to.”
The fact is, Art served his country well during WWII, but he has dedicated the last 50-plus years in service to his fellow veterans. As I stated to Channel 4 reporter Kim DeGiulio: “Art just wants to do the common good for as many veterans as he can, that’s the difference. He just never stops.” For his efforts, folks affectionately refer to Art as the “Energizer Bunny.”
In between his current tours of duty on behalf of veterans, you’ll find Art organizing any number of events at Temple Shir Shalom, including his ongoing usher duties during the High Holidays.
The temple feted Art on March 4, 2017, on his 90th birthday at an event fittingly titled “Artful Living,” which I wrote about in the Feb. 23, 2017, JN. At the time, Rabbi Michael Moskowitz described Art as being “part of the fabric of Temple Shir Shalom. He is the first to offer his support, is tireless in his commitment and boundless in his energy.”
I’ve witnessed Art being on the receiving end of many well-deserved honors over the years, but from my vantage point, this “Michigan Veteran of the Year” honor seems to hold a special place in his heart.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Art. “I honestly can’t adequately describe the gratitude I have for my fellow Jewish War Veterans who nominated me for this incredible honor. I work hard on everything I do, but I never do it alone. My fellow members of the JWV and all the veteran organizations I have come to be associated with, we stand shoulder to shoulder, one and all, working for the betterment of those who have served our nation. In the process I have been blessed with years of endearing friendships and a camaraderie that is second to none.”
Congratulations Art! Your being honored as the “Michigan Veteran of the Year” shines yet another bright light on the JWV, who, since 1896, have been bound their motto of being “a Jewish voice for veterans, a veteran’s voice for Jews.”