SOMERS, N.Y. – Even though Somers Jewish War Veterans Post 46 gave its final farewell Sunday, members of the decades-old group said they are not done serving just yet. Wherever there is a veteran in need, longtime commander Larry Kaufman said, they will be there.
“We did a lot of good stuff and we helped a lot of people and we’re still doing it,” Kaufman said, “with protocol, without protocol.”
Post 46, chartered Sept. 14, 1997, as an extension of the Mount Vernon Jewish War Veterans, officially disbanded earlier this week following its final meeting at the Somers Library. The reason: dwindling membership because of veterans moving away or dying. The Mount Vernon post suffered the same fate, and the only remaining Jewish War Veterans post in the area is in White Plains.
The Somers post began modestly, with 20 men and one woman being inducted at town hall. In a few years, membership had grown to about 100 men and two women, said Marilyn Kaufman, Larry’s wife. Monthly meetings of the post were initially held on the second floor of Astoria Bank, but moved to the library when it outgrew that space. The post would often welcome guest speakers to these monthly meetings.
During its 20 years, members of the post proudly marched in the town’s Veterans Day and Memorial Day parades. The post also adopted a mile stretch of road on Route 202, where members often donned yellow vests and cleaned litter from the roadside.
Post 46 also donated canned goods, coffee and tea for a food pantry serving veterans; delivered clothes and reading material to the veterans hospital in Montrose; annually awarded a cash gift to a senior at Somers High School; and spoke out against hate crimes whenever they occurred.
“We were never silent,” Marilyn Kaufman said.
The post held monthly meetings at the Somers Library. In addition to informative guest speakers and good company, the meetings also almost always featured bagels and lox.
The final meeting was very much like all the others, only with a little more reminiscing. Mike Kaplowitz, chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, a Somers resident and lifetime member of Post 46, said that the veterans and their fearless leader probably accomplished more than they realized.
“You have veterans that you’ve never met that you have possibly touched,” Kaplowitz said. “You made their lives better because of your efforts.”
Kaplowitz presented Kaufman with a proclamation, declaring Tuesday, May 3, 2017, as Larry Kaufman Day in Westchester County. The sentiment from those in attendance was that without Larry Kaufman, there would not have been a Post 46.
“At some point, it takes those leaders to stand up that we all get to follow,” Kaplowitz said. “I have proudly followed you for many years.”
Town Supervisor Rick Morrissey also presented a proclamation, declaring April 30, 2017, as Jewish War Veterans Day in the town of Somers. Morrissey said the post has succeeded in fulfilling the needs of both veterans and the greater Somers community.
“It is with a heavy heart that we say farewell to this fine veterans group,” Morrissey said.
Marilyn Kaufman thanked everyone in the room for their support, including the many women who assisted in arranging meetings and events who will never have their names on any official membership list. Years ago, she said, a woman asked when Post 46 was going to create a women’s auxiliary group. Her response? “It’s never going to happen.”
“We don’t need a hat,” Marilyn Kaufman said. “We don’t need a title. We are there. I believe everyone who is sitting here today and everyone who can’t be here today made this post. We didn’t all have to wear a hat. We didn’t all have to be a member. But we all worked because we were proud.”
Her husband was the third and final commander of the group, following Mel Miller and George Shuster. Marilyn recalled the day that Larry Kaufman took over for Miller.
“They came with two boxes,” she said. “I thought, ‘That’s no big deal.’ I don’t how [the boxes have] taken over a garage and a second bedroom.”
Though relieved to have her garage back, Marilyn said she is sad to see Post 46 end.
“We stood proud of being an American, being a Jew, being a member of the Somers community,” she said. “We have always been there. We may no longer meet, but we still hold it in our heart and we will carry it forward.”
Her husband agreed: “There are veterans and they need our help and I’m not going to quit helping them.”