Memorial Day in America brings the generations together in flag-decorated cemeteries, honoring the military service of our ancestors as well as our living family members—in hopes of inspiring future Americans to offer their service. This Memorial Day is solemnly special, as it marks the culmination of one young man’s desire to decorate the graves of every Jewish American veteran in all 25 Cincinnati area Jewish Cemeteries. Ethan Zied's work will be honored this Sunday during B’nai Brith’s annual event at Judge Robert S. Kraft War Memorial at Covedale Cemetery.
Ethan Zied of Springboro was inspired to do this mitzvah of honoring ancestors over seven years ago in 2016. In the process of flagging the recent grave of his grandfather, a Vietnam War veteran buried in Walnut Hills Cemetery, he discovered that there was no comprehensive list identifying other Jewish veterans he wished to honor there as well. (He had been marking veterans’ graves since his Cub Scouts days.) Ethan set out to create that Jewish veterans database as his Eagle Scout service project.
His dream and drive inspired the help of the staff of Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati, Weil Kahn Funeral Home, and Ethan's father, Eric. As the database grew over two years, local donors also stepped up to pay for creating thousands of markers.
Starting in 2019, dozens of volunteers including Ethan's family, other Scouts, friends and local community members began placing the flag-topped star markers at the grave of every U.S. veteran Ethan had identified. That exacting but inspiring hands-on work occurred over a span of three and a half years, including during the Covid pandemic, and was completed just recently.
Now, any visitor to any Jewish cemetery in Greater Cincinnati is struck by how many graves are flying the red, white and blue. It is a fact that American Jews have served in U.S. armed forces in disproportionately large numbers. JCGC grounds crew members replace worn flags daily as another of their duties when maintaining our 25 cemeteries. Donations to Jewish Cemeteries have helped fund this continuing work.
“Grave marking will continue over time as deeper archival research identifies veterans of the Civil War, World War I and other conflicts buried in our cemeteries,” explains Carrie Rhodus, Operations Director of Jewish Cemeteries. She will speak this Sunday at Covedale, reading remarks prepared by Ethan Zied to mark the official completion of his transformative project. An excerpt: “The database became the first goal in a series of goals to transform the cemeteries on Memorial Day to honor the heroes they hold, whose sacrifices can never be adequately repaid.”
Ethan has just completed his freshman year at Stanford University where he is majoring in physics. He is pictured during a May 2022 visit to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Community members who would like to honor our Jewish veterans and Ethan’s contribution may attend the B’nai B’rith ceremonies mid-morning this coming Sunday at Covedale Cemetery, on Sidney Rd.
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