As Samuel Kaye stood singing the National Anthem at a tribute to him and other veterans at the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County, he was, he said, deeply moved by the images playing on a video screen above him.
“While we were singing, we noticed old World War II video footage playing,” said Kaye, a Belmar resident. “It was really touching to stand here free so many years later.”
Kaye, 86, was one of 12 veterans honored at the June 13 program held in conjunction with the exhibit “Living Voices: A Tribute to Monmouth County’s Jewish World War II Veterans.” On display through next fall at the Freehold museum, the exhibit features interviews with, in addition to Kaye, veterans Norman Cohen of Manalapan, Nathan Handlin of Marlboro, Aaron Kutz of Manalapan, Henry Lapidus of Freehold, Alvin Schoenfeld of Marlboro, Ted Siegel of Marlboro, Allen Sperling of Marlboro, Herbert Tanzman of Long Branch, Samuel Warm of Ocean Township, Bernard Weinstein of Freehold, and the late Aaron Schlisserman of Ocean Township (who passed away in April).
The video portion of the exhibit also includes the wartime stories of three civilians: Patricia Seligman of Marlboro, who told her child’s-eye view of her life in England during the war; David Metz of Freehold, who talked about working on his family’s farm; and Doris Winiker of Marlboro, whose letters to her husband were published in Since You Went Away: World War II Letters from American Women on the Home Front (1991).
Among the artifacts featured in “Living Voices” are posters, antique radios, military models, JWV objects and artifacts, film posters, and sheet music. Cochaired by Georgine Eberight of Manalapan, Sid Marshall of Neptune, and David Halbstein of Freehold, the exhibit is the first internally curated show since the museum opened in June 2008.
“We wanted to honor the many contributions of our Monmouth County Jewish veterans and to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the end of the war,” said executive director Michael Berman. “This museum was created to recognize Jewish pride and accomplishments, and absolutely nothing stands for Jewish pride better than our veterans.”
Capturing those veterans’ stories to share with future generations is critical, Berman said. “Time marches on and waits for no one. Sadly, this was illustrated to us firsthand when one of our honorees, Aaron Schlisserman, passed away not long after his interview was recorded,” he said. “This exhibit is dedicated to keeping their voices alive.”
Many family members of the honorees were in attendance at the tribute, including Schlisserman’s wife, Esther, and their children. The event included a musical presentation of the World War II American songbook by Vic Schiappo and Jamian Berkal of Manalapan, Beth Burns of Howell, and Brenda Schofield of Marlboro.
For honoree Herbert Tanzman of Long Branch, 88, the tribute triggered bittersweet memories. Tanzman served in the U.S. Navy Air Corps until his honorable discharge in 1946. The event, he said, “reminds me of my fellow soldiers who were killed in duty. Out of my crew of 10, only three returned home.”
Susan Shavelson of Cherry Hill said she was honored to watch as her father, Allen Sperling, 83, was recognized. “He tells us stories all the time about the war and what he went through. He is still in touch with his army buddies and attends reunions nearly every year,” she said. “Thanks to him and his fellow soldiers, we are free today, and this is a really big deal.”