J.J. Goldberg

Memorial Day, My Very Personal National Holiday

By J.J. Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share
Uncle Morey

Sometimes you have to stand back a bit to observe how history is unfolding before your eyes. Sometimes backing away brings you even closer.

Take Memorial Day. It started after the Civil War to commemorate the war’s fallen, but soon came to honor the fallen in all America’s wars. Then in 1968, Congress moved it from May 31 to the last Monday in May, creating a long weekend and effectively transforming it from a day for honoring soldiers into a day for shopping and starting the beach season. (And this at the height of the Vietnam War!)

That, in turn, gave rise to another annual ritual: Berating each other over how Memorial Day has become a day for shopping and the beach and forgetting about the soldiers. The latest twist is the Memorial Day ritual of honoring Israel for actually remembering its soldiers on its Memorial Day. This is partly because Israel observes its Memorial Day and its Independence Day (the cost, the cause) consecutively rather than five weeks apart, like ours. Also because Israelis experience their wars more immediately and more universally (though that seems to be changing in various, distinct ways).

That said, I was pulled up short yesterday by a powerful Facebook post that brought home the immediacy of Memorial Day as a universal American experience. Deborah Winter wrote:

Just wanted to say thank you to my Uncle Raymond who died at age 23 fighting the Germans over Holland. You never got to come home, marry, have children, grow old. I thank you for your sacrifice.

And this made me think of my Uncle Morey, my mother’s kid brother.

Morey Moseson was killed in the Battle of the Bulge, the last great campaign of World War II, on February 15, 1945, three days before his 18th birthday. I never met him, but he’s been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. He was 23 months younger than my mother, and his death left a giant hole in the family that never really got filled.

The Moseson kids, Morey and Lee

My older sister was born three years later, on February 14, and was named Maurie Ann (Goldberg) in his honor. (Her initials were quickly turned into Mag, and she’s been Maggie ever since). I was born 21 months after that (and promptly addressed by my initials, like my sister), further sharpening his ongoing presence in our lives and our sense of our generation as a memorial to the previous one. We didn’t talk about him all that much, but he was always there.

For years I’ve wrestled with his memory, with the ways my siblings and I do and don’t keep him and his legacy alive. He was buried in Europe — we suspect the family couldn’t face the enormity at the time of bringing him home and standing before his grave. I took my own kids to visit his grave at the U.S. military cemetery in Luxembourg, where he’s one of 118 gleaming white stars amid an immaculate field of 5,000 white crosses. I’ve taken to saying a separate Yizkor prayer for him on the holidays. It’s been a large and very personal, private struggle.

Katie Homan

But this year, this weekend, Deborah Winter gave me a new way of remembering and honoring him, thanking him and, in a way, welcoming him home. It feels right. Part of Memorial Day is understanding what the wars meant, of making the personal universal and vice versa, and understanding that wars do end.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: World War II, Morey Moseson, Military Cemetery, Memorial Day, Luxembourg, Independence Day, Facebook, Battle of the Bulge, Deborah Winter

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.