Combined Arms

When I was a teenager back in the 1980’s, there was a man who began attending my synagogue with his young family. He was Israeli and he was doing a Doctorate at one of the great universities in Toronto (which I later attended). He was taking a break from professional army service as a senior officer in the IDF, which he intended to return to. 

He and I ended up sitting next to each other most Shabbats, and we talked alot about my favorite subject, military history. He was a great source of understanding for me. I had already consumed a great deal of information from the books I had been reading on the subject since I was six (!!) but he and I discussed things beyond theory or history, like the realities of the battlefield, the role of intelligence and logistics, and the vitality of good morale. 

One conversation ended with me asking him a question, and he giving me an answer that made me proud. I asked, after talking about the needs for and strengths of the various elements of modern armies, how it seemed that an army that could bring to bear all of these elements (infantry, armor, artillery, air power, and good tactical intelligence, with good engineering and logistics) at the right time and place would have a great advantage on the battlefield. He said “You would make an excellent officer in the IDF. If you decide to make aliyah, look me up.” and then we proceeded to discuss how the application of combined arms was the difference between successful and unsuccessful modern armies. 

As I’ve watched the war in Ukraine since February of 2022, and as I have read Russian and Ukrainian battlefield reports. It seems the Russians still haven’t figured out something a curious teenager like me understood almost forty years ago. They haven’t applied combined arms thinking and Ukraine has. Their lack of success in their invasion is evident.

I could go on about this, but I want to point out that there is a lesson to be learned here for us. Confronting any challenge needs a comprehensive approach, an understanding of what resources are needed and available, deployment of the right people with the appropriate tools or skills at the right time, and a recognition that the team as a whole is much more likely to succeed than any one of its disparate parts. The key is getting everyone to work together effectively. 

We have many challenges here in Rockland. Your Federation looks at these challenges and uses both data and analysis to see where we can have a substantial impact (and where we cannot), who and what we need to bring to the table, and how we deploy a comprehensive approach rather than a piecemeal one that dilutes our effectiveness. 

Here’s an example. We’ve got many manifestations of antisemitism here. Our comprehensive approach means we support and direct education against hate, we work with law enforcement where needed and with elected officials, school superintendents, and other vulnerable communities to respond to acts of hate or violence. We mobilize the community to raise its voice. We act and invest to make sure our Jewish institutions are as secure as we can help make them. We monitor social media and legacy media and develop opportunities to proactively promote goodwill and understanding. We work with our local, regional and national partners to understand the threats around us. And we develop opportunities for our community, especially our young people, to be inspired in their Jewish identity, which is the best response of all to antisemitism. 

There isn’t one limited or standard response. There’s a comprehensive one. That is the kind of approach within our means that we apply to all the challenges we face. Of course resources are critical and our generous donors make it possible to act. In an increasingly complex world there is no better alternative for success. It’s fortunate that the Russian military - and other violent actors closer to home -  still can’t effectively deploy a ‘combined arms’ approach. But we can, and we do.