Veterans Day is recognized Nov. 11 of each year. Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day, was established in November 1919 when President Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words:
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.” In 1954, it evolved from a remembrance of those who died in World World I to a day to honor all American veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs describes the day’s purpose as “a celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”
Today, outside of the military and veterans’ groups, and a few mostly older citizens, the day is rarely remembered by the majority of the population other than a notation on a calendar and seeing a news story. This is most unfortunate. With the help of Major Matt Cohen—an Orthodox Jewish U.S. Army officer, combat veteran, and member of Beth Israel Synagogue—the Omaha community can observe Veterans Day in a unique fashion. Major Cohen invites the community to join him on Sunday evening, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m. in the Beth Israel Zoom Room for a special presentation.
Matt will be giving a middot class showing a tie to the character traits of military personnel, both people with whom he has served and historic military figures, to tenets emphasized in middot. Middot are Jewish values or virtues, the study of which is a cornerstone in Judaism. Character development is stressed in the Torah with the goal of always striving to become a better person. Living middot will help a person to live as a mensch. While middot are uniquely Jewish, anyone, Jewish or not, can and should follow middot because they are universal virtues.
“Through serving in the military for over 14 years, I have seen others exemplify the values and virtues that make good, strong leaders and soldiers,” shares Cohen. “During the class, I will talk about those who have demonstrated exceptional characteristics and traits under some of the most challenging circumstances,” he continued. He commented that this has been a difficult year on so many levels for everyone. “Focusing on developing one’s own self will ameliorate worries of health and politics and can truly provide everyone something positive on which to focus.” He added that offering the class just five days after the election should give hope to everyone, no matter the outcome. “Improving and deepening our relationships with our Creator and those around us is far bigger than any of the partisan debates in the political arena,” he says.
After attending the United States Military Academy, more commonly known as West Point, Matt has served three overseas and five stateside postings. He, his wife Jenny, and their four children moved to Omaha in the summer of 2019 and are active Beth Israel members.