Tag Archives: Colonel

Jew of the Week: Uzi Gal

The Machine Gun that Saved President Reagan

Uzi Gal

Uzi Gal

Uziel Guthardt Glass (1923-2002) was born in Weimar, Germany. His family fled from the Nazis to England in 1933, and from there made their way to Israel in 1936. They joined a kibbutz and changed their last name to Gal. From his youth, Gal was interested in weapons engineering, and designed his first automatic gun (which shot arrows) at age 15. At 20, now a member of the Jewish Haganah defense force, he was arrested by British troops for carrying a gun (forbidden to Jews in Israel at the time) and spent three years in prison. It was during his service in Israel’s War of Independence that he began designing a new, smaller, safer, and more effective submachine gun. In 1951, the IDF adopted his design, giving birth to the famous “Uzi” (although Gal requested that the weapon not be named after him). The weapon was also adopted by over 90 different countries, and became the most popular submachine gun in history, with over $2 billion in sales. It has been used primarily as a personal defense weapon by officers, tank infantry, and special forces units. Most famously, it was the weapon of choice for the US Secret Service – typically hidden in a small briefcase – and was used to save President Ronald Reagan from an assassination attempt in 1981. Along with other military decorations, Gal was the first person to be granted the Israel Security Award. With the high rank of Colonel, Gal retired from the IDF in 1975 in order to take care of his daughter, and moved to Philadelphia for her medical treatment. He continued designing weapons in the US until his passing due to cancer in 2002. In 2003, the Uzi was officially retired by the IDF, praised for its instrumental role in Israel’s many military victories.

Words of the Week

The truth is, we are all living in Israel. It’s just that some of us haven’t realized it yet.
– Sam Harris

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Col. Jacob Goldstein

Rabbi Goldstein (Courtesy: JEM/Chabad.org)

Rabbi Goldstein (Courtesy: JEM/Chabad.org)

Jacob Z. Goldstein (b. 1947) was born in Brooklyn to a devout Chabad family. In 1967, the Lubavitcher Rebbe instituted the Tefillin Campaign to get all Jews – especially those distant from Jewish religious practice – to regularly don tefillin. Goldstein diligently took up the cause. He was soon visiting a military base to provide tefillin for Jewish soldiers. By 1977, the base’s Catholic chaplain requested that Goldstein enlist in the army as a chaplain himself. With blessings from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Goldstein agreed. He has since served all over the world, in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, Bosnia and South Korea, Grenada, Israel, and even Cuba’s notorious Guantanamo Bay. Following the 9/11 attacks, Rabbi Goldstein was the Chief Chaplain at Ground Zero. Similarly, he was in charge of the chaplaincy in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Over the years, he has helped to permit wearing beards for religious reasons in the armed forces, bring kosher meals to American soldiers, pave the way for more Jewish chaplains, and establish holiday observances and prayer services at military bases around the globe. He has risen to the rank of Colonel, and despite the typical mandatory retirement age of 60, has remained in the armed forces for an additional eight years due to a lack of chaplains in the force. Rabbi Goldstein finally retired last month after 38 years of dedicated service. In addition to his military role, he is also the longest-serving chairman of his Community Board in New York, and has been noted as a successful local politician, and a promoter of interracial cooperation and understanding.

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Words of the Week

Fundamental to Judaism is the belief in One God, and the quest to seek unity in all things… What is truly remarkable is that this idea has also gained prominence in the sciences, particularly in recent years. Increasingly, scientific theory and research is focusing on the endeavor to express all physical phenomena in a single formula and, more importantly, to discover the singular unifying force which underlies all other forces, so that all other forces are shown to be aspects and outgrowths of this singular force…
The Lubavitcher Rebbe

Rabbi Goldstein with the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Courtesy: JEM/Chabad.org)

Jew of the Week: Ilan Ramon

An Inspiring Hero: Israel’s First Astronaut

Ilan Ramon

Ilan Ramon – Israel’s First Astronaut

Ilan Wolferman (1954-2003) was born in Ramat Gan, Israel to Holocaust survivors. At just 19 years of age, he distinguished himself in the Yom Kippur War as a brave soldier, receiving a military decoration for his service. A year later he graduated as a fighter pilot, and as customary, took on a new name, ‘Ramon’. By 1981 he was promoted to squadron commander and was the youngest pilot to participate in the covert Operation Opera – Israel’s successful hit on Iraq’s nuclear reactor. He would log over 4000 hours of flying time, 1000 of which were in an F-16. In the relative calm of the late 1980s, Ramon studied at Tel Aviv University and earned a science degree in electronics and computer engineering. Returning to the military, he became a colonel by 1994, and in 1997 was invited by NASA to serve as a payload specialist in its space shuttle program.

His mission finally came in 2003, when he spent nearly 16 days in space, working 24 hour shifts and performing over 80 successful experiments. He proudly declared that he was representing all Jews and all Israelis. Part of that meant that his space food was certified kosher, that he brought to space with him a Torah scroll and a mezuzah, and he even asked his rabbi how he should keep Shabbat in orbit, where sunrise comes every 90 minutes. Tragically, the Columbia space shuttle exploded upon re-entry into Earth, taking the life of Ramon and his fellow crewmates. Sadder still, Ramon’s son Asaf perished in a training flight in 2009. In an unbelievable miracle, 37 pages of Ilan Ramon’s diary somehow survived the crash, when virtually everything else completely disintegrated. Scientists stated there is no “rational explanation” to how this was possible. An inspiring hero, Ilan Ramon was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and his memory continues to be a shining beacon for Israel and the Jewish nation.

Words of the Week

Why [are mourners fed] lentils? Just as the lentil has no mouth, so is the mourner speechless…Just as the lentil is round, so mourning comes round to all the inhabitants of this world.
– Talmud, Bava Batra 16b