A new exhibit at the Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany celebrates the contributions of the Greater MetroWest Jewish community to the battlegrounds and home fronts of World War II.
It features newly acquired items and is being launched in observance of Jewish Heritage Month and the 70th anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 1944.
The photographs, ration stamps, military medals, and other items on display represent “the defining moments of many people in our greatest generation,” said Linda Forgosh, executive director of the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey. JHS is a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
The exhibit is divided into three parts, focusing on the contributions of three local veterans.
One is Seymour Litwack, who was born in Newark, attended Weequahic High School, and served as a private first class in the 89th Infantry Division, which fought in Germany, Belgium, and France.
After the war, he lived in Union and Short Hills, attended Rutgers University in Newark, and worked as an auditor for the State of New Jersey after the war.
Litwack, who died in December 2013 at the age of 89, bequeathed part of his personal records to JHS. “He was not a member and we did not know his name, but by the time I finished going through his records we had enough of a sense to know that his life was defined by his service in World War II,” said Forgosh.
Among his personal effects on display will be the Purple Heart he received for wounds he suffered at the Battle of the Bulge.
A second contributor was First Lieutenant Dinah Selvin, a Maplewood resident who served as a physiotherapist at a medical clinic in England during the war.
“When she died three years ago at 90, Selvin — the former director of the Juvenile Section of the Essex County Public Defender’s Office — surprised even the executor of her will,” said Forgosh. “She left most of her estate to be divided equally between the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.”
Less is known about the third participant in the exhibit, Martin Horwitz.
He is believed to have been from Newark. In 1993, the JHS received from Horwitz and his wife Carolyn a black-and-white photograph showing Horwitz and other Jewish servicemen from the United States and Canada gathered with local residents in front of a Bournemouth, England, synagogue on the Passover prior to the D-Day invasion.
In addition to the personal memorabilia, the exhibit will display written messages from then-General Dwight Eisenhower to members of the armed services alerting them to the impending D-Day invasion and announcing the end of the war in Europe. There are also several issues of Yank, the weekly magazine published by the Pentagon from 1942 to 1945.
Although the exhibit focuses on three Jewish members of the army, Forgosh said, “it wouldn’t be right to separate out the Jews from the non-Jews who served in World War II. Hardly. Fighting the war was a united effort. It had nothing to do with your religion. It changed the landscape of America, certainly in terms of women. All of a sudden they began working in factories, filling in positions where men would normally have served. It was the forerunner of women in the workplace.”
The exhibit, which opened May 18, will run until July 31.