In 1945, U.S. Army soldier Julian “Bud” Batlan fought in the Battle of the Bulge, followed by several more weeks of intense combat. He emerged from World War II as a captain with a Silver Star awarded for Gallantry in Action for leading his platoon in an assault on a heavily defended German machinegun position and a Bronze Star for Valor in other action. His command, part of the First Infantry Division, received a Presidential Unit Citation. Batlan earned two Purple Hearts for wounds received in battle.
That same year Bob Schwartz was in elementary school in New York City. Later, he joined the National Guard and served eight years stateside. Though never subjected to a long tour of active duty, he faithfully attending meetings and training sessions, a member of the vital forces providing backup to the regular Army.
Yet both men, divided by age and the nature of their service, came together in 1986 with about 30 other former soldiers, sailors, and Marines to form Jewish War Veterans (JWV) of America Post 972, in Marlboro. On Sunday, Nov. 5, the post — now named for Lt. Seth Dvorin, son of the late Richard Dvorin, who was also a member — will celebrate its 30th anniversary at a brunch at Marlboro Jewish Center. Seth Dvorin died in Iraq in 2004, during his second deployment, when a roadside bomb detonated as his platoon made a routine stop near the town of Iskandariyah.
Schwartz, 80, credits Batlan, who died at age 87 in 2010, with being the prime mover in getting the post off the ground. “Seeking participation, he personally visited virtually every synagogue and Jewish organization in the area, in both Monmouth and Middlesex counties,” said Schwartz. “I was a member of Congregation Sons of Israel in Manalapan. When I heard his pitch at a men’s club meeting, I was impressed and became a founding member of the post.
“Today, and for the past 15 years or more,” Schwartz added, “I’ve served as quartermaster, which means I’m in charge of the treasury, as well as watching over our small inventory of products, including caps, shirts, badges, and so on.”
Schwartz, whose civilian career included a succession of executive positions with Macy’s department stores, extolled the JWV post for fostering camaraderie among members, as well as for its community service.
“Every summer, we hold two barbecues for residents at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home in Menlo Park,” he said. “Also, in the fall, we host those residents at an outing to Freehold Raceway. We are available to attend funerals in honor of former service men and women. And we contribute to such causes as the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C., the West Point Jewish Chapel Fund, and Marlboro Jewish Center, which has provided us with a rent-free home ever since our inception.”
Today, Post 972 has about 70 members, representing veterans of every major conflict since World War II and virtually every branch of service, Schwartz said.
Like Batlan, Bernie Rothenberg, now 91-and-a-half (“Don’t forget the half,” he insisted), fought in Germany in 1945. During the waning weeks of the war in Europe, he was with the 271st Infantry Regiment’s Company C when its soldiers saw combat in the towns of Leipzig and Eilenburg. He said he was also with them at the liberation of the last remnant of prisoners at the Leipzig-Thekla concentration camp, a sub-camp of Buchenwald.
“We were a day late,” he lamented in a phone interview. “The day before, the guards had rounded up 300 inmates in a single barracks building and lit it on fire. When we arrived, there were fewer than 100 other prisoners left alive.”
Rothenberg, who now serves as the JWV post’s adjutant, said most of the German civilians he encountered were surprisingly friendly. “No one would admit to being a Nazi,” he said.
Plans for the post’s 30th anniversary celebration began more than a year ago when Tom Renna was its commander, the position now held by Jack Small.
Other officers, in addition to Small, Rothenberg, and Schwartz, are Jack Linder, senior vice commander and chaplain; Ira Brodsky, junior vice commander and officer of the day; Allen Faulk, judge advocate, past commander, past national commander; Jeff Sohn, past commander and state junior vice commander; and Allen Gurvitz, newsletter editor. All except Faulk, who was a Marine, served in the U.S. Army.
Small said that the post has invited the mayors of Marlboro and Manalapan to speak at the brunch, as well as a representative from the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, which is believed to be the nation’s oldest active veterans’ organization.
Rabbi Michael Pont, religious leader of Marlboro Jewish Center, will be a featured speaker. “For the past 30 years we have been fortunate to have them as a permanent presence at our synagogue building,” Pont said. “The historical events they have seen and sometimes helped to create are great teaching tools for our Hebrew school students.
“I am proud to appear before a group that does so much good work.”