Christmas caroling, courtesy of the Yiddisha Mommas

December 23, 1991|By Greg Tasker

There's nothing unusual about hearing the strains of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" being sung before a group of veterans on the Sunday before Christmas.

But when the carolers are the Yiddisha Mommas and their husbands, members of the Star of David Post No. 292 of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, the sight might cause some pause.

That was not the case, though, among the 15 veterans -- colonels, sergeants and rank and file from the nation's conflicts since World War II -- all patients at the Perry Point VA Medical Center. They've become accustomed to the holiday visits by the post and its ladies auxiliary.

"It's a good time to teach brotherhood and show it," said Meyer Sokolow, a post member who lives in Pikesville. "When you see a smile on their faces when you walk in and when you leave, it makes it all worthwhile."

Post members have been visiting the Perry Point hospital monthly since the end of World War II. Their visits typically include bingo and refreshments.

The holiday visit includes the Yiddisha Mommas, who sing a slew of Christmas songs, ranging from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" to "White Christmas." The group of 15 women also performs Hebrew and Yiddish songs at area nursing homes throughout the year.

Like their husbands, the women's motives are spreading cheer and promoting goodwill.

"It's sad to see these guys here," said Ann Quick, a 73-year-old Baltimore resident who plays piano for the women. "They fought for us, and here they are. What do they have to do?"

Jeffrey Anderson, clinical supervisor in recreation at the hospital, said visits by groups like the Star of David veterans break up the monotony for patients, both Gentile and Jewish, who suffer from mild forms of mental illness and live in an open ward.

"You see them opening up and socializing with the volunteers," he said, noting that various organizations, including other Jewish groups, visit the center. "They like it."

Arnold H. Musick, who served in the Marines during the Korean War, was among the center's veterans who enjoyed the festivities.

"It takes our attention off other things," said Mr. Musick, 63. "It's a nice time. It shows someone does care about us."

Besides singing, the men and women served cupcakes and punch and handed out certificates for the center's canteen so veterans could buy personal items. Members plan to return Christmas Day to deliver presents collected by their post and other veterans groups.

"It's a brotherhood project," said Mr. Sokolow, 63, who served in the Army during the Korean War. "It lets our Christian brothers stay home with their families. They do the same for us on Jewish holidays."

Hyman Goldstein is likely to be among the goodwill ambassadors on Christmas. The 70-year-old Baltimorean has been making frequent trips to the center since 1946.

"It's a good feeling -- helping others," said Mr. Goldstein, a World War II veteran. "I'm grateful I'm not one of the patients and that I can help them out."

Mr. Sokolow agreed: "They fought the same wars we did. It's been tougher on them. But for the sake of the Lord, there goes me."

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