MILWAUKEE — The winter holidays are often a time for thoughts of family, including for military families who may have felt the pain of an empty chair while gathering with loved ones.
To help mark this time of year, the War Memorial Center, 750 North Lincoln Memorial Drive, creates an in-door annual holiday display. Typically, that display has consisted of lit up branches for a “Christmas tree feel,” but this year, Dan Buttery, the center’s president and CEO, is expanding it to include a menorah.
“The display is not just about Christmas, it is about Chanukah, too, and the holidays in general, including Thanksgiving — just that whole time of year when people are gathering,” Buttery said recently. “It is a very special time of year for any family who has experienced a loved one being away from home or in the line of duty … Last year, they lit up branches, but this year I really wanted to add the menorah so we could have more of a Judeo-Christian focus.”
A gift to the center
Buttery was able to secure the menorah for the display thanks to Arleen Peltz, who, in addition to serving as a holocaust educator, is active in the Milwaukee County veterans’ community.
Peltz and Buttery met at the memorial center after Peltz was honored with the Americanism award from the Jewish War Veterans Department of Wisconsin during its annual Americanism breakfast.
Pelz, a lifetime member of the Jewish War Veterans Guten Auxiliary, was introduced to Buttery, and while they were talking Buttery mentioned that the center wanted to add a menorah to its holiday display. A buyer for the Jewish Ovation Home, Peltz told Buttery that she might be able to help with the endeavor.
“I said, ‘Let me talk to the CEO (of Ovation), we would probably like to donate one.’ I called Michael Sattell, and he said ‘of course,’” Peltz recalled. “Because we are in lockdown, we got one of the employees go into a storeroom to find one. That is how it all started. When (Dan) learned he was going to be receiving a menorah from us, he was very touched. He really was.”
Asked why she wanted to help, Pelz, the recent past chair of the board of directors for the Nathan and Esther Peltz Holocaust Educator Resource Center, said: “Why not? I think it is a beautiful menorah. It is meaningful to them, and it is meaningful to use to be able to donate it.”
Recognizing Jewish veterans
While a welcome gesture, the addition of the menorah to the War Memorial Center’s holiday display, is not the only move the center has made to recognize Jewish service men and women and their families.
Buttery recently hosted a pair of virtual programs with the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, one of which included the story of Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient, Matthew Rosenblum. The center’s On the Homefront exhibit also includes 10 stories from its Honor Roll of WWII war dead, including the stories of two Jewish service men, including Medal of Honor recipient Benjamin Salomon.
Those interested in searching for information about Milwaukee County’s war dead, can do so at the War Memorial Center’s Honor Roll Searchable Database at WarMemorialCenter.org/Honor-Roll-Database. The database is the only searchable database of Milwaukee County’s war dead from World War II through the present.