The Alliance’s 2016 Annual Campaign Community-Wide Event kicked off with two receptions for Annual Campaign donors. One welcomed Silver Circle members, those who have given for 25 consecutive years. The other celebrated the Double Chai Society, those who give $360 or more annually.

Event co-chairs Lezli and Jamie Pious then welcomed the audience. They were followed by Sharon Gaines, Alliance Board chair, who reminded the crowd about the vitality of the community and the Dwares JCC. “Together we are making a difference,” she said.

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the only national Vietnam veterans organization congressionally chartered and exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans.

From now until Dec. 31,  life membership dues are $100. Membership is open to armed forces veterans who served on active duty (for other than training purposes) in the Republic of Vietnam between Feb. 28, 1961, and May 15, 1975, or in ANY active duty location between Aug. 6, 1964 and May 7, 1975.

This special rate is available to new members and existing VVA members who wish to upgrade to life membership.

Go to and download the membership application. DD form 214 must be included with the application.

On Veterans Day, as we remember and salute those who serve, I want to relate my experiences, along with those of my lifelong friend Murray Gereboff, and my son-in-law Jack Cleff. As Jews in the military, not everyone had the same experiences. Here are our stories:

I entered basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, in June 1967. There was very little Jewishness in basic training. Teamwork was important. Two Jewish events stand out. At the onset of basic, I was presented with a Siddur given by the National Jewish Welfare Board. I used this Siddur then and still use it now. On the last Sunday of basic, The JCC of San Antonio sponsored a brunch and invited all Jewish personnel.

I then went to Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois, for technical training to become a weather observer.

At Chanute, there was a Jewish chaplain or lay leader who led Shabbat services. Personnel permanently at Chanute also attended. This was important because they owned vehicles and were able to provide transportation to High Holy Day services and meals at the University of Illinois Hillel.

At an early point in my military career, I remember attending a Veterans Day event at which I had the good fortune to converse with a World War II veteran, a man who had survived the D-Day invasion at Normandy. This man thanked me for my service, a sentiment that left me conflicted. Sure, I had been to combat, but my experience flying over Iraq and Afghanistan paled when compared to his harrowing tales.  After all, my sorties were flown during an unprecedented period of American airpower in which dominance of the skies was all but assured, while this WW II veteran had to face his own mortality on a daily basis. Yet this individual, perhaps sensing my trepidation, reassured me that service in today’s military was equally challenging, for entirely different reasons. 

Today’s military members, as he put it, were in our current war for the long haul. Unlike previous conflicts, which saw intense periods of violence that resolved relatively quickly, our current “War on Terror” has been continuing unabated since Sept. 11, 2001, representing more than 14 of my nearly 17 years of service. By contrast, American involvement in World War II lasted only four years and even our military involvement in Vietnam subsided in a shorter period than our present conflict.

Planning your retirement income is like putting together a puzzle with many different pieces. One of the first steps in the process is to identify all potential income sources and estimate how much you can expect each one to provide.

Social Security

According to the Social Security Administration, more than 70 percent of Americans choose to take early Social Security benefits rather than wait until full retirement age. And they say that almost 9 of 10 people aged 65 or older receive Social Security benefits. However, most retirees also rely on other sources of income.

For a rough estimate of the annual benefit to which you would be entitled at various retirement ages, you can use the calculator on the Social Security website, Your Social Security retirement benefit is calculated using a formula that takes into account your 35 highest earnings years. How much you receive ultimately depends on a number of factors, including when you start taking benefits. You can begin doing so as early as age 62. However, your benefit may be 20 percent to 30 percent less than if you waited until full retirement age (65 to 67, depending on the year you were born). Benefits increase each year that you delay taking benefits until you reach age 70.