With eight days of Hanukkah – the Jewish Festival of Lights – beginning tonight, CalVet would like to salute the memories of the 18 known Jewish Medal of Honor recipients, two of whom were from California.
Their names grace the Medal of Honor Wall at CalVet Headquarters in downtown Sacramento, and their stories are worth telling. The Medal of Honor is the United States’ highest military decoration.
1st Sergeant Sydney G. Gumpertz, a native of San Rafael, fought during World War I. On September 29, 1918, in Bois-de-Forges, France, he led an attack on a German machine gun nest that had prevented the platoon he commanded from advancing. The two soldiers with him both suffered wounds, but he continued into the nest to destroy the gun and capture the nine Germans in the crew. He received the Medal of Honor.
Gumpertz died at 91 in 1971.
Tibor Rubin survived the Holocaust in the Mauthausen concentration camp, where his parents and two sisters all died. When the Allies liberated the camp at the war’s end, 15-year-old Rubin made a vow: “I was going to go to the U.S. and join the U.S. Army and show my appreciation,” he said.
He did in 1950, and went to fight in Korea, where he defended a hill by himself for 24 hours against dozens of North Koreans while his company looked for a retreat route. He received four recommendations for the Medal of Honor. However, a vehemently anti-Semitic sergeant refused to submit them. Later that year, the North Koreans captured Rubin and others in his company. At the risk of being executed if caught, he snuck out every night to get food for his comrades and was credited with keeping as many as 40 of them alive until they were freed.
Rubin waited 55 years to receive his Medal of Honor, though. After hearing his story in 1988, Senator John McCain demanded that the Army review Rubin’s actions, along with those of other minorities discriminated against during World War II and the Korean War. Representative Robert Dornan of California and others in Congress later joined in. Rubin received his Medal of Honor in 2005.
Rubin died in 2015 in Garden Grove.
CalVet is proud to honor both of these men on our Wall of Honor.