GI Jews - Jewish Americans in World War II

GI Jews - Jewish Americans in World War II

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 9:00pm - 10:30pm

Photo: Group around Jewish chaplain's flag, Written on back: "end of war for 104th Inf. 1945."

Credit: Courtesy of National Museum of American Jewish Military History

This feature-length documentary spotlighting the little-known story of the more than 550,000 Jewish Americans who served their country in all branches of the military during World War II.

Filmmaker Lisa Ades (American Experience: Miss America) brings the struggles of these brave men and women to life through first-hand experiences that reveal their fight against fascism, as well as their more personal war to liberate loved ones in Europe. After years of battle, these pioneering servicemen and women emerged transformed: more profoundly American, more deeply Jewish, and determined to continue the fight for equality and tolerance at home. GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II airs Monday, August 20, 2018 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV. It will also air Sunday, August 26, 2018 at 1 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

GI Jews features more than 25 original interviews with veterans who speak candidly about the impact of their wartime experiences: Mel Brooks, who served in the Army; Henry Kissinger, a refugee from Nazi Germany who was drafted into the Army; Carl Reiner, the son of Jewish immigrants, who traveled throughout the Pacific theater with the Special Services Entertainment Unit; the late Bea Cohen, who was a member of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in England; and Max Fuchs, who served in the 1st infantry division and was the cantor at a Jewish service in Aachen, Germany, broadcast by NBC in 1944.

In addition to battling the enemy, Jewish Americans fought a second, more private battle against anti-Semitism within the ranks. They sought to observe their religion far from home while enduring slurs and even violence from their fellow servicemen, and often felt forced to prove their courage and patriotism. Fighting together in the trenches, at sea, in the air and in war offices, American servicemen and women forged deep friendships across religious lines, and learned to set aside their differences for the greater good. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, America’s Jewish community was now the largest in the world, and by the end of World War II, the United States had begun to embrace its Jewish citizens as true Americans. With their new responsibility as international leaders, many Jews became passionate about postwar culture and politics, fighting for justice and social change.

This program is part of WXXI’s Veterans Connection, an initiative designed to help bridge military and veteran needs with community support and awareness. WXXI and the Little Theatre have pulled together a Veterans Affairs Task Force to create a community platform, raise awareness about veteran issues, and connect veterans with resources.

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