A Memorial to the American Soldier

In the last few years, Shalom Lamm has spent much time devoted to honoring Jewish-American soldiers who fought and died in WWII. Through Operation Benjamin, Shalom Lamm assisted families with having the markers on the graves of soldiers who fought changed to reflect their heritage.

Through Operation Benjamin, family members of fallen WWII soldiers were able to participate in a ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial that would honor their sacrifice by changing Christian grave markers to the Star of David to reflect their Jewish faith. The Cemetery is a beautiful monument comprised of 152 acres located on a plateau visible from a panoramic view.

The accompanying chapel is a white masonry building complete with sculpture and mosaic located in the middle of the cemetery. Twenty-five mosaic maps are located within the hemicycles and narrate the events of the battles that occurred in the Philippines and New Guinea.

Visit any time of the year, and the scene is picturesque and quiet, one that encourages reflective thought. However, one is easily transported back almost 57 years to the Battle of New Guinea, a battle where many soldiers lost their lives.

The Battle was a concerted effort of the Allied Forces and lasted a year-between January 1943 and January 1944. Described as a nightmare, the hostile terrain was filled a million with natural enemies, including the heat, monsoon rains, the morass of mangroves, and poorly constructed infrastructure.

Then, various diseases such as scrub typhus, dengue fever, and dysentery made the environment hostile. Shortages of supplies in a battle that often left the Allied Forces scrambling created the conditions for completing an impossible mission.

The scenes are similar to the excitement of an army advancing and retreating, artillery firing off and explosions filling the air as soldiers scramble and fight. Eventually, the Allied Forces overwhelmed the Japanese soldiers and won the battle, and the memorial in Manila would be a testament to the courage and sacrifice of the American GI.

Grave of Arthur Waldman Now Marked with the Star of David

The Origins and Work of Operation Benjamin

A founder of the Hatzoloh Medical Rescue Squad in Manhattan, Shalom Lamm also served on the board of directors for Camp Morasha, The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and Yeshiva College. Following decades of work in the construction industry, Shalom Lamm founded Operation Benjamin.

Created to honor Jewish soldiers who gave their lives in World War II as part of the US military, Operation Benjamin takes its name from Private Benjamin Garadetsky. The project discovered that Garadetsky lay in a grave in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial under a Latin Cross, marking him a Christian, despite his Jewish roots.

Operation Benjamin helped facilitate the paperwork required for replacement of that gravestone with a Star of David. That ceremony took place in the summer of 2018.

Since then, Operation Benjamin has collaborated with the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to identify other Jews who also received grave markers not reflecting their true faith. Most recently, in February of 2020, the organization had the Star of David placed on the graves of five such soldiers located throughout the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.

Who Was Benjamin Barney Garadetsky?

Shalom Lamm is a successful real estate executive from New York. Throughout his career, he oversaw the works of almost 10,000 apartments across all five boroughs of the city. Outside of his professional work, Shalom Lamm is one of the leaders of Operation Benjamin, an initiative that aims to replace Latin crosses on the graves of Jewish American soldiers who fell in World War II with Star of David.

Benjamin Barney Garadetsky, the soldier after whom the project was named, was a Private First Class of the 66th Regiment of the 2nd Armored Division that was deployed in Normandy. The project was first named the Normandy Heritage Project, and Garadetsky’s grave was the first to receive a gravestone with Star of David in 2018.

Garadetsky’s original name was Boruch Reigorodeczki. He was born in 1914 in Zhytomyr, a village in modern-day Ukraine, and his family moved to the United States while Regorodeczki was a child. He joined the army in 1941 and died in 1944 in Normandy, aged 30.

Garadetsky served in 2nd Armored Division, nicknamed “Hell on Wheels,” which was formed in 1940 and saw battle on two continents and in ten countries. He also died a member of the 2nd Armored division.