Sisters surprise mom with plaque honoring late WWII Vet grandfather

The Jewish National Fund-USA’s Wall of Honor acknowledges Jewish soldiers throughout history, living and deceased, who loyally served in defense of their home countries.

 Sarah Herman (left) and Rachel Herman (right) with their grandfather's plaque (photo credit: JNF-USA)
Sarah Herman (left) and Rachel Herman (right) with their grandfather's plaque
(photo credit: JNF-USA)

For Sarah, Rachel, and Deborah Herman, family comes first. The sisters, who are triplets, have always been close with each other and with their mother Jeanne. Together the family shares a deep love of Israel and strong Jewish values. All three sisters have had years of experience with Jewish National Fund-USA. Sarah is President of the Los Angeles chapter of JNFuture, JNF-USA’s community of young professionals ages 22-40. Rachel serves as Chair of JNFuture Women for Israel, and Deborah is a JNFuture Root Society member. “We have fundraised for JNF-USA since we were kids,” said Sarah. “However, it wasn’t until adulthood that we gained a better understanding of the vast reach that JNF-USA has in programming and initiatives.”

One program in particular is a dedication opportunity at Jewish National Fund-USA’s Wall of Honor which acknowledges Jewish soldiers throughout history, living and deceased, who loyally served in defense of their home countries. It is located at Ammunition Hill, a historic battleground in Jerusalem that saw some of the fiercest fighting during the Six-Day War before the liberation of Jerusalem. The organization supports Ammunition Hill as part of its heritage preservation efforts in Israel.

Sarah, Rachel, and Deborah took this opportunity to surprise their mother by honoring her father and their grandfather, Morton H. Goldberg, with a plaque at the Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill to commemorate his service in World War II. After purchasing the plaque, they began organizing the dedication ceremony to surprise Jeanne. "We worked closely with Jewish National Fund-USA CEO Russell Robinson, and their team based both in Los Angeles and in Israel, to make the virtual dedication as special as possible. The experience went beyond what we could have imagined! We prepared a beautiful slideshow of our grandfather from his time in the United States Army and shared some sentiments with the family about why we chose this meaningful gift. An exciting part was the broadcast of the plaque's unveiling live from Jerusalem, which made everyone feel as though we were there presenting it to our mom in person,” said Deborah.

The idea first occurred to them when they heard Alon Wald, Head of Operations at Ammunition Hill, speak about his own family history and personal connection. During the presentation, Alon mentioned that the Wall of Honor was not just for Israeli soldiers, but for any Jewish soldier who served their country honorably. “Given the recent passing of our grandfather in June 2021, we thought the timing was perfect to honor his memory and WWII service with this beautiful gift for our mom,” said Rachel.

Alon, Russell, and Jewish National Fund-USA Executive Director, Greater Los Angeles Lou Rosenberg were all eager to help in the preparation. “Our mom thought she was joining a Zoom and that I was speaking on behalf of a virtual event,” said Sarah. “She knew that we had purchased a plaque on Ammunition Hill,” added Rachel, “but did not think the plaque would be ready until the following year. We decided to surprise her with the plaque, pictures, and virtual dedication with our whole extended family.”

Jeanne was greeted by the organization’s leadership and her family and friends, all ready to celebrate her father’s incredible service in the United States Armed Forces. “The surprise on our mom’s face when she logged into the virtual dedication was the best part of the ceremony,” Rachel said.

“Not only did she have a chance to recount her own memories and experiences of Israel in her young adulthood and beyond, but she was deeply moved by the plaque and the thoughtfulness of Russell and other leadership in executing the plaque presentation with videos and slides. It was incredibly special to have the whole family present including our 94-year-old grandmother,” added Deborah.

As for Jeanne, she greatly appreciated the recognition of her father as both a soldier and an advocate of Israel. “The generation of WWII soldiers had a profound effect on America as they laid the foundation for the freedoms we share here at home,” she said. “Although not a religious man and one of few words, my father was always vocal about his love for Judaism and for Israel and his keen understanding of why Israel must forever exist as a homeland for the Jewish People.” '

Last June, Sarah and Rachel visited Israel and went to Ammunition Hill, where they were greeted by Jewish National Fund-USA staff and were surprised to be part of a second dedication, this time in person, honoring the memory of their grandfather.

Click here to learn more about Ammunition Hill, as well as Jewish National Fund-USA’s other heritage site preservation efforts.