Veteran’s Day, 2012: Rabbi Abraham Avrech, My Favorite Veteran

My father, Rabbi Abraham Avrech. An Army Chaplain in the 42nd Rainbow Division, my father served this great nation through World War II, The Korean War and Vietnam. Retired as a full Colonel, my father often speaks of his Chaplaincy as the most important and fulfilling of his long and distinguished Rabbinic career.

Today we honor our veterans—the living and the dead.

Take a moment to ponder the enormous sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes and their families.

Millions and millions of people all over the world are forever in their debt.

Keep in mind that the U.S.military has freed more people on this earth from tyranny and evil than any other force. Certainly, American servicemen have done more for the cause of freedom and democracy than any so-called peace movement.

Whenever I see the brain-dead bumper sticker, “War is not the Answer,” I cringe, for war is frequently the only answer, the only moral response to evil.

Because if the forces of good do not defeat evil, evil prevails.

My father was born in Yanuv, a small town in Poland, June 4, 1919. He is the child on the left. His grandmother holds his hand. His older brother Chaim is to the right. Chaim passed away many years ago, but he was also in the Army and served in the Pacific. My grandmother, Miriam, is the lovely woman on the right.


My grandfather, Rabbi Samuel Avrech, came alone to America, worked hard and sent money back to my grandmother, Miriam. She came to America with my father and Chaim and struggled to achieve the American dream. My father always said: “We had no idea we were poor. Everyone we knew was poor. But we were happy.” My father was quickly Americanized, becoming a fanatic baseball player. In this 1942 photo,  my father touches home after hitting a home run for his Brooklyn team.


My father conducts High Holiday services during the Korean War.


As an orthodox Jewish Chaplain, my father was frequently underestimated by his fellow officers. Dad took full advantage of this soft anti-Semitism, and cheerily accepted challenges to play ping-pong for small wages. At first, my father would fumble around, lull his opponent into a false sense of security, and then boom! he’d unleash a vicious overhead slam that left the other guy speechless — and a few bucks light. Dad was like Paul Newman in “The Hustler,” minus Piper Laurie and broken thumbs.


My father in a helicopter, 1956. As you can see, there is a coffin bolted to the chopper. My father never talked about the dead. He did tell me about young soldiers about to go into combat who talked to him about their fears. My father is a good, compassionate man who also counseled non-Jewish soldiers in the absence of a Christian chaplain. “We were all in it together,” said my father modestly.

G-d bless my father and all our veterans, living and dead.

G-d bless the United States of America.

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  1. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted November 13, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks to all for your wonderful and generous comments. 

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  2. Posted November 12, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Amen. Your father made the great generation greater!

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  3. Posted November 12, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Thank your father for his service for us, Robert. I always enjoy reading your posts about him, but I always get the “Father Abraham had many sons…” song stuck in my head. (Probably because I still have preschool-aged kids).
    You said your father never talked about the dead. I’ve always thought it would be an interesting movie to focus on the Graves Registration Service (GRS is now called Mortuary Affairs) point of view. I remember “China Beach” used to have a character in GRS, but it certainly wasn’t a focus of the show. It could certainly showcase that “war is hell” as well as the reverence shown to our war dead. Now, go write it. 🙂

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    • Posted November 13, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Btw, the character was Pvt Samuel Beckett… and I still can’t see CSI without thinking Marg Helgenberger is a former hooker from Viet Nam! 🙂

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  4. kishke
    Posted November 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    I love the baseball picture. A perfect shot. Like a poem.

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  5. D_mnFinn
    Posted November 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for tribute to your father and his service.
    Than you to your father and the many Americans who have answered the call to serve.
    I have a hard time trying list all in my family from the Civil War to present day.
    Freedom is G-ds blessing that needs to be earned.

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  6. Jeremayakovka
    Posted November 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    G-d bless your father. A great example to all Americans.
    Canada just unveiled new monuments to those serving/served in Afghanistan.
    The soft-spoken rabbi had a bone-crushing handshake when you introduced me to him a few years ago. (That’s a compliment.)

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  7. Johnny
    Posted November 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    These posts about your father are truly great. Your love and admiration come shining through when you write about him. 

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  8. Franny
    Posted November 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Your father and his family represent the true meaning of what it is to realize the American dream.

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  9. Barry
    Posted November 11, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink


    Your father appears to be wearing eye glasses in the baseball shot but in no other. And, I love this post. Heartfelt and so true of our military.

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  10. Bill Brandt
    Posted November 11, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    My own father, WW2 veteran , was called back to Korea and doesn’t talk much of his experiences. But I suspect he saw more than one should see. 
    Robert your father sounds like a cool guy!

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