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PFC Leonard Kravitz

Supporters Say Fallen Korean War Soldier And Many Other Jewish War Heroes May Deserve Medals Of Honor

Last week, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) introduced the Leonard Kravitz Jewish War Veterans Act of 2001 before Congress. While the act seeks a re-examination of the cases of all Jewish service members who previously were denied consideration for the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest military award, there is a reason for the name it bears.

Leonard Kravitz, a boy from Brooklyn's largely Jewish Crown Heights neighborhood, took over a machine gun during a Korean War enemy attack and saved his platoon from massacre, refusing to retreat when so ordered. He was killed that day at the age of 21, and his grief-stricken family received his Distinguished Service Citation, believing it to be the final chapter in their son's brief life.

Kravitz's friend Mitch Libman couldn't let go, however. Close since childhood, Kravitz and Libman hung out together with "a gang of kids" who met every day before school at Rae's Candy Store. "We were a close-knit bunch," says Libman. They remained so, even after Libman left for college and Kravitz stayed behind. A year or two later, Leonard Kravitz enlisted in the Army and was given orders to Korea.

"The day before Leonard left, I remember standing on a street corner with him, our mothers playing mah-johngg right behind us," Libman says. "He told me he was having a kind of going-away party later and asked me to come."

Libman, who would later be drafted into the same war, didn't make it to the party. He would never see his friend Leonard again.

"Afterwards, I always wondered what made him do a thing like that?" Libman says of Kravitz's battlefield actions. He believes his friend's selfless heroics in March 1951 were "Leonard's mark on life ... what he was meant for." After hearing from several members of Kravitz's unit and learning about his heroics from firsthand sources, Mitch Libman decided to take action. He read every Medal of Honor citation and realized that some of them were identical to Kravitz's DSC citation.

Libman started looking for more information, contacting members of the Kravitz family (including musician Lenny Kravitz, son of Leonard's brother Seymour). His research included sending out requests for material through the Korean War Project Web site. Reading the citations and personal histories he received, Libman became convinced -- and convinced others -- that many Jews in the military had been denied fair consideration for the Medal of Honor.

And so a bill named in honor of one brave young man will be heard in Congress in order that many brave Jewish veterans, living and dead, may receive the proper appreciation due them and their deeds.

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