MTA Seniors were privileged to meet with Rabbi JJ Schacter, widely respected and beloved scholar at YU, grandfather of Senior Eli Knapp, and son of Rabbi Herschel Schacter, the chaplain who accompanied the US Army in liberating Buchenwald in 1945. Seniors recently completed an American History unit on World War II, and were eager to learn about Operation Benjamin, an effort led by Rabbi Schacter in memory of his father, and his friend Shalom Lamm, to correct the gravestones of Jewish American soldiers who were killed in World War II. Many of them were mistakenly identified as Christians when they were buried, and as a result, they were buried under Latin crosses. Operation Benjamin’s goal is to replace those crosses with Jewish Stars. So far, the organization has been able to correct approximately 20 of these errors, and as Rabbi Schacter explained, statistically there should be many more. During World War II more than half a million Jews served in the US Armed Services, both an incredible number and an outsized amount considering the small percentage of Americans who are Jews. Through Rabbi Schacter’s efforts, proper honor is paid to those brave Jewish Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for their country and a greater appreciation of the many Jewish Americans who served is cultivated. Talmidim were fascinated by the story of these brave Jews and enjoyed learning about this initiative to properly honor their sacrifice. They found the story to be truly empowering, as Operation Benjamin exists only because of Rabbi Schacter’s determination. He was bothered by the relatively small number of Jewish stars he found in a military cemetery in Normandy and conducted exhaustive searches to find Jewish soldiers who were improperly buried and then located their families so they could request a correction. This demonstrated the power that each person has to really make an impact on the world. MTA is grateful to Rabbi Schacter for sharing his inspiring story, which was an especially meaningful experience for his grandson, Eli. To learn more about Operation Benjamin and its incredible work, please visit


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