Julie Bernsen Brook

Dear Readers, 

In The American Israelite October 1st issue Rabbi Paul Steinberg writes that we ought to “store up the sentiments of gratitude and devotion acquired” during the High Holidays, extending the feelings of the season until we reach another holiday. Each week, while reading The American Israelite, I’m in awe of the quiet personal sacrifices made by men and women of earlier generations and the energy of new emerging leaders. I am so grateful for their passion and devotion to their chosen missions and causes.

This Rosh Hashanah Barry and I were fortunate to have our three children and their spouses home as we celebrated the Jewish New Year on our back porch. When I looked around the room I saw happy couples and a delicious feast. The night was perfect, until I announced “its time for Kiddush!”

“Wait…” I hear my daughter-in-law Jaclyn implore. The porch got quiet.

Jackie began to weep as she confirmed some bad news no one wanted to hear. And so it goes 5780 went out with a roar of raw emotions as the lights faded in what felt like the end of a seasonal television show. What will 5781 bring?

Let me tell you about my daughter-in-law Jaclyn Jean Serpico. Jackie, as she’s affectionately called, earned a BA from The Ohio State University (OSU) in History and Sexuality Studies, a Masters in Public Health and Women's Studies from OSU and is currently a 2nd Year Moritz Scholar at the Mortiz College of Law at OSU – all on full academic scholarships. She just won the National 2020 Excellence in Organizing Award for If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice and was recognized by Rewire News Group as one of seven law students carrying Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy forward. Currently she volunteers as a Board Fellow at Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. There isn’t a person who knows Jackie who wouldn’t say she’s just a “great gal” and I agree. Her interests and work focuses on equity and justice, she has been volunteering for various policy and political issues and ever campaigning for civil liberties. Jackie is going to make changes; she’s going to bring a revolution and she will do so by being devoted to those who need it most – she truly is carrying the torch for which I am grateful. 

Last week in the October 8th issue of The American Israelite, in Ted’s and my favorite section “From the Pages”, Page 18, among the many snippets about men and women who have served and supported our community and country, there were two that stood out:

75 Years Ago

Pfc. Norvin (this was the spelling in the 1945 paper but his name is actually Narvin) Emden, 24, son of Mrs. Elizabeth Emden, had a share in the development of the VY (and this may have actually been the VT) radio-fuse, compared with the atomic bomb and radar as World War II’s outstanding scientific achievement. 

50 Years Ago

Dr. Bernard Hertzman, son of Mr. and Mrs. Hyman Hertzman, 5117 Newfield Avenue, was sworn into the 311th field Hospital unit by Lt. Col. Robert H. Poe.

 

Two Jewish soldiers, two different wars, both making life-changing sacrifices devoted to our country and our Jewish community; for whom I am very grateful.

Narvin Emden z”l was born and raised in Cincinnati. In 1943, while still only a junior (and honor student) at Walnut Hills High School, he was called to service. Following his basic training he was sent to Penn State College for advanced training, attaining his “high scholastic records,” thus graduating high school.  As an honor student excelling in math and chemistry Narvin was selected for work with the radio-fuse. 

After the War, Narvin Emden attended UC, later graduating from UC Law School. He married the late Ruth Cohen z”l, an artist from Indiana and became President of Foundation Savings and Loan. Together Narvin and Ruth had 4 children: Lisa (Heldman), Faith (Pittinger), Craig and Julie, along with 8 grandchildren. According to Lisa, “anyone of my dad’s generation would tell you they got their first loan from my dad. His motto was I make house calls. He was a great guy, everyone says he was just a great guy.”  In fact when speaking with Buddy Hertzman, his comment on Narvin was “he was a great guy!”

Narvin and Ruth were active members at Adath Israel Congregation and together they received The Kovod Society Award for their volunteerism at the JCC. In the September 24th issue of The American Israelite, Assistant Editor Carol Hershenson wrote “ The Kovod Award recognizes members of the JCC who have distinguished themselves through unselfish, committed service to the JCC over a period of years and who are leaders in the Jewish Community.” Narvin was a quiet leader who helped many and left behind a legacy of generosity. A day after Ted and I spoke about Mr. Emden on the Let There Be Light podcast, Ruth Emden passed away. May their memories be a blessing.

And then there’s Bernard Hertzman, MD, aptly called Buddy by all who know and adore him. As a 26-year-old UC Medical School graduate and surgical intern at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas he was aware his draft status was in “limbo”. His number was neither high nor low putting him in a precarious position when applying for residency programs. Buddy knew no residency program wanted to accept an intern who might be called into active duty at a moment’s notice. 

After taking his army physical Buddy decided it would be best if he volunteered at the recruiting office next door. He could serve his country; do his duty and then return to finish his training. As luck would have it, the recruiter was a kindly soul who told him to wait, informing him that in six weeks he’d receive a letter explaining that the Army had opened the Reserves for physicians. As it turns out, the recruiter was right! Buddy joined the Reserves, taking an extra year of surgery in anticipation of entering the UC Urology program. 

While in the reserves Buddy took his Army service in stride, accepting the work, making the best of it. He was already married to Anita (Kravitz) when he entered the service and likes to tell the story that his late brother-in-law Mitch Gaswirth z”l, an enlisted man, was serving at the same unit in Sharonville. Despite having a family relationship Buddy, as a captain was discouraged from mingling with the enlisted fellows, like Mitch. He still laughs about it today. 

Buddy and Anita have three daughters, Jennifer, Stephanie and Jillian and a number of grandchildren. They, too, are longtime members at Adath Israel Congregation and contributors to the welfare of Jewish Cincinnati. Buddy spent his career practicing Urology at Jewish Hospital. He’s taken care of many Jewish community members, saved lives and helped lots of couples avoid unwanted pregnancies with his skill at vasectomies. Anita can often be found volunteering at the Adath Israel Gift Shop and before that she was a pre-school teacher. In fact Anita was our oldest son, Loren’s first teacher.

So I hope I have brought light to the stories of these men and women who have served our Jewish community by practicing their Jewish values in quiet ways to enhance, save and protect the lives of others — making impacts where it’s needed most. Let’s show our gratitude by following their example and using our Jewish values to devote ourselves to our community and country, using our skills to help those who need it most.

 

You can email Julie Brook about “Let There Be Light” at  lettherebelight@americanisraelite.com.

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