Monday, May 28, 2018

A Memorial Day Look At The Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, the United States’ most noted military burial ground, was established in May 1864. At that time, and for half a century thereafter, military tombstones bore no markers distinguishing people of different faith, and so the Jewish soldiers who had the honor of an Arlington burial passed into history unidentified as Jews.

In the early 1990s, a man named Kenneth Poch learned of the Jewish Civil War soldiers buried in Arlington through Mel Young’s book Where They Lie: Someone Should Say Kaddish. A Brooklyn native living in Reston, VA, Poch went to Arlington to visit the graves of those soldiers and realized that all around him, within the mass of white grave markers, there was a history that needed to be recorded and made public. For the next ten years, until he succumbed to ALS in December 2003, Poch researched and recorded the fascinating stories of the Jews buried at Arlington.

Some of these soldiers died in war, such as Private First Class Robert Cohen, who was shot in the woods by the Nazis along with 85 other American Prisoners of War, and Sergeant Major Lawrence Freedman (nicknamed “Super Jew”), who was killed in Somalia in 1993.

Other soldiers were buried at Arlington after long, productive post-war years. These include Sir Moses Ezekiel, a Confederate soldier who became a famous sculptor and was knighted both in Italy and Germany, and Rear Admiral Bertram Korn, the highest ranking Jewish chaplain in U.S. military history.

In addition to soldiers, the graves of Arlington include burial sites for military nurses such as Lieutenant Colonel Rae Landy, and astronauts, including Judith Resnick of the Challenger Mission.

Upon his death, Poch’s incredible collection of research files were donated to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington.

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