The Jewish War Veterans’ New Leader Brings a Lifetime of Service to the Organization
Singer, who was formerly a member of a hand-picked elite team supporting famed Vietnam War General William Westmoreland, has dedicated much of his time to volunteering — in both the veterans and Jewish communities. Before he was elected as JWV’s national commander last summer, Singer was a member of JWV Post 133 in New Jersey for 30 years.
“I naturally gravitated toward volunteering,” Singer said in an interview with JNS.org ahead of Veterans Day. “You can complain about things or you can make them better.”
Born in 1946 on a westbound freight train along the Polish-Ukrainian border, Singer spent time in Displaced Persons camps after World War II. He came to the US when he was three years old, and he grew up in Cleveland. His mother worked in a bakery and his father was a tailor; Singer would become the first member of his family to attend college. He later earned a master’s degree in industrial and operations engineering from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. An observant Jew, he now lives in Passaic, New Jersey.
Singer honed his management skills at the US Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership, which trains senior officers for command positions. He calls famed Maj. Gen. Herbert J. McChrystal “the best manager I ever had.” Now, Singer is applying his skills in the service of Jewish and non-Jewish veterans alike; he says that JWV’s primary purpose is to act “as a service organization.”
“Whether it’s visiting veterans, sending care packages to vets overseas, or cooperating with the Jewish chaplaincy, we help veterans regardless of their religion,” he said. For instance, JWV members visit veterans in nursing homes and assisted living facilities around the country.
“We help with Shabbat and Passover services and on Hanukkah we bring latkes, not just to Jewish vets but to all veterans. Volunteers don’t just push the veteran in his wheelchair, we sit down and chat with the veteran, especially those vets who don’t get a lot of visitors.”
The start of Singer’s leadership has also been marked by a focus on policy issues, with JWV this fall demanding that the Pentagon “drop all efforts” to recoup reimbursements from Army National Guardsmen after audits revealed overpayments and improper reenlistment tactics.
Singer added in a statement that America needs “to honor the commitment to the National Guardsmen, but also put a better system in place to assure that recruiters don’t oversell and overpromise. No one should be penalized for serving their country.”
JWV’s policy statements aren’t limited to issues affecting veterans. The group recently condemned the passage of the controversial resolution by the United Nations’ cultural body, UNESCO, that denied Jewish and Christian ties to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Singer said in a statement that the UNESCO measure “robs both Christians and Jews of their rightful heritage, which predates Islam by many centuries,” and he requested that President Barack Obama take action to “promote the peaceful right to worship of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Old City.”
Singer told JNS.org that under his watch, JWV will continue to focus on basic issues for veterans — including care at VA hospitals, the VA health care system and women in the military — in addition to maintaining a Jewishly relevant agenda.
“Moving forward I will continue to be a mouthpiece for the organization about key issues, and I’m also working on strengthening communication within the organization and its membership,” he said. “JWV will continue to advocate for a strong and safe Israel and work to fight antisemitism.”
In his spare time, Singer maintains an interest in history. A member of the board of directors for the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, he is quick to correct a famous author’s error about Jews and the military.
“Mark Twain said Jews didn’t serve in the Civil War. This is not true. They served honorably in every war. If you visit the Museum you can learn about famous Jews such as Uriah Levy, a naval officer and philanthropist, and Haym Salomon, who helped finance the American Revolution.”