Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Albert Bitton

He would shift his body into the car, riding shotgun alongside my father. Slinging his backpack to the floor, it would invariably rest between his feet as he leaned back, trying to get comfortable. The scent of his cologne wafted through the car and we noticed that he had taken pains with his hair. Dark-featured, good-looking Albert Bitton had arrived.

My father would sometimes joke with him and Albert would goodnaturedly respond. We onlookers would squirm, feeling as though we were intruding on his private brooding time, reserved, we thought, for all teenagers. Despite the fact that we would sometimes get to school late, he never complained. He'd simply throw his backpack over one shoulder and go loping across the parking lot, never asking to be dropped off closer to the building, not letting one word of reproach pass his lips.

He was a wrestler. He was very proud of that fact, a member of the Ida Crown Jewish Academy wrestling team, competing against others and glad of his victories. Some days he would have his sports bag with him, and we eagerly anticipated stories of his matches, curious to know of his successes, waiting to hear whatever he would tell us.

I can't say I knew him, because all I did was ride in the same gold Town & Country minivan with him on our way to school. But today I am glad I knew even that much of him.

You see, Albert Bitton chose to join the United States Army. He finished high school and upped and joined, enlisting in time to be deployed to Iraq, where he worked as a Medic.

Today, Albert Bitton was killed.

I didn't know him. I cannot praise his good nature, his kindhearted actions, everything that is beautiful in him. I did not know him to see that, though I am sure many of his friends can praise him, and will do so. But by the very virtue of his actions, by the very fact that he chose to enlist, to serve his country and his people, doing so at a time where he must have known what the cost could be, I can know a little of him. I can know that this was a brave man, and he died in pursuit of helping others, healing them and bandaging their wounds. I can know that it takes a strong man to face his own death, to realize that possibility and go forward anyway. It takes a man with a sense of courage, strength and decency, a man with self-respect. It takes a man of honor to serve his country when the task has not been forced on him, and it is his own choice. It takes a man with the courage to choose his own death.

And so, I respect Albert Bitton. I admire that courage, that strength, that desire to serve. And at the same time I feel so low, as though I were doubled over from the force of a blow. We talk about the War in Iraq and we view it politically. We talk about strategies and allow easy words to leave our mouths. But we don't understand.

In the words of Mr. Dachille, who delivered the Commencement Address at North Shore Country Day, my highschool:

"Whatever your views of U.S. foreign policy or the war, I relate this story in order to make this appeal: Please be grateful that there are men and women who are willing to leave their spouses, their children, their jobs and their friends and go in harm's way for you. The good news is that there are thousands of them. And I am not just referring to military personnel who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. I am also talking about all of those who have made a commitment to nurture, to protect, and to serve others. I am talking about policemen, firemen, doctors, nurses and yes - teachers. "

Today I am grateful in a way that I have never been before, because I could not have comprehended before.

And so Albert, because I believe you can hear me, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I am sure that I am not alone in this. All over the world, there are people who are grateful to you, though they do not know your name, and they may not know your story. But they know what you represent to them, and therefore they are grateful.

Thank you, Albert.
May you now know nothing but joy.

45 comments:

former Chicagoan said...

What a powerful tribute to Albert!
Thank you,Chana.

Anonymous said...

May he rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

עוד יבוא שלום עלינו

Erachet said...

Baruch dayan emet - thank you for writing this.

Anonymous said...

We are all in this together...Albert had a gentle spirit...he will not be forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Albert was a loving son and a brother. He will be missed

dustfinger said...

Today I was at school when his sister got the news, and she ran out of the room, bursting into tears. She left, and an all school assembly was immediately announced. We all reacted, and especially me because I was very close friends with her at one point, and I knew her brother as well. Albert will be missed.

Baruch Dayan HaEmes.

dustfinger said...

Albert's name was Amichai. This shows how brave he truly was.

Amichai means "My nation is alive" and that's what he did. He defended the American nation.

Please have him in mind when you learn Torah and say brachos.

Thank you.

shuuly said...

http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/14801/Shomer+Shabbos+US+Soldier+Killed+In+Iraq.html

Very nice story written on Yeshiva World News.

May he rest in peace.

Irina Tsukerman said...

Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

Anonymous said...

This hurts a lot. I don't know who Albert is but even one Jew that is no longer with us is one too much. May we no parent, friend or relative ever have to experience such pain.

Anonymous said...

Why would a Jew chose to fight for the usa when they can come to Israel and defend the Jews here?

In the future, if you have a jewish friend who needs to serve a country , please direct them to the Holy Land, We need all the help we can get!!

The Chlorine Junkie said...

Thanks for writing this Chana,
A powerful and fitting tribute to Albert.
Ya'el

Jack said...

Baruch dayan emet

Scraps said...

Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

Thank you for sharing this with us, Chana. May his neshama know only peace.

Anonymous said...

"Why would a Jew chose to fight for the usa when they can come to Israel and defend the Jews here?

In the future, if you have a jewish friend who needs to serve a country , please direct them to the Holy Land, We need all the help we can get!!"

How could you say such an insestive thing at a time like this?! What he did helped America which has a very large Jewish population! He is not only an American hero but a hero for the Jewish people as well I hope you think before you say aomething like that again.

Anonymous said...

to February 21, 2008 4:02 AM:

I hear your point, but wrong time and place.

May the family of brave Amichai be comforted from amongst all the mourners of Zion.

B. Wolf

an admirer of yours said...

Chana,this is a beautifully written piece!
May Albert rest in peace.

Lion of Zion said...

may his memory serve as a source of inspiration for chicago's young jews.

(and not that i have ever favored blog censorship, but could you please delete the comment by anon 4:02 am)

Schiller, David said...

I don't know who the fucking asshole is who made a comment about how Jews shouldn't bother serving America when Israel exists. Unfortunately, he didn't have the fucking balls or dick to sign his own name. I guess we know that he isn't serving in Tzahal or anywhere else for that matter if he can't even sign his own name. Coward.

This American hero had the balls and courage to do what thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of American Jews haven't done. Put his life on the line for his country.

His blood is not even cold in the ground before some dickhead hiding behind a video screen has the gall to ridicule his heroism.

He fought for the USA, a backer of Israel time and time again, not Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. I truly pity that a Jew could be so insensitive and so Fucked up.

Semper Fidelis Albert Bitton and God's speed!

Respectfully,
Ensign David S. Schiller,
United States Navy

Micah said...

While it's sad that he died, unfortunately, it's not the end. Our government wants to continue this war for no reason and cost more of our lives. The war must stop. Now for many, the loss has become personal. I believe in the military. I do not believe in the war though. The only benefit of the war has been lining the pockets of big corporations with our tax dollars as well as the blood of our fellow citizens. Please, if you can, try to do something about it.

Chana said...

This is the comment of someone who styles himself Jackb111. I have reposted it with one omission, which I deem necessary.

*

A half brother I never met...
A half brother I never knew...
I got the news this evening and although we never met, I felt his pain before he joined the army.
I assume we had many things in common.
We both ran away and found a home in the army when we were young. Only difference was my time was in peace time and his was during war.
Albert, I am sorry we never did get to meet...my heart goes out to you and may you rest in peace...your brother Jack

jackb111 said...

I agree with your comments Ensign David

jackie said...

Baruch dayan ha'emes. Thank you for your touching tribute, Chana.

Whatever a person's political stances, we should all pray for the safety and success of American soldiers overseas, and hope that their service and sacrifice makes the world a safer place.

To his family, HaMakom yinachem eschem.

Albert's former classmate said...

Chana,thank you for this tribute to Albert. Baruch dayan emet. The family is expecting to have a memorial service/funeral either on02/26-27/2008-an fyi.

Ben said...

Touching Chaya.
Baruch Dayan Emet

ilene said...

I found out about Albert's death last night. I was shocked. The last time I saw him was our father's house 3 1/2 years ago. I remembered him playing soccer in the park behind his home with my son and daughter. I am his half sister. Our father was married before and he has 3 1/2 sisters and a 1/2 brother. I am so sorry they never got a chance to meet him. He was such a wonderful person.

Dad..Sylvia, I am so sorry for your loss. I pray that you can find a way somehow to remember him for his life and not for his death.
My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Love Ilene

Chana said...

Actually, this isn't Chana.

Chana took the extraordinary step of giving me her signin info, and instructed me to place her blog in moderation mode until after shabbos. She didn't have time to do this before shabbos started on the east coast.

Lashon Hara will not be tolerated on this blog.

Comments posted on Friday night / Saturday will appear on Saturday night / Sunday morning.

Thank you for respecting her wishes.

Anonymous said...

Chana -
What a tremendously inspiring tribute. As the father of two ICJA students who knew Albert and were very directly touched by his death, I too have been touched. As I have thought about this over the past few days I have asked myself why did this young man, with so much to live for, and his whole life ahead of him have to die in this fashion. And as I read your words, and those that many others have written it has been even harder to accept. I also read of how more recently he had been having a more difficult time of things over in Iraq.

As I sat in Shul this morning and our Rabbi spoke briefly about Albert I began to think, and I came to the following conclusion: Here is a young man who relatively late in his short life had come to embrace Hashem more fully, whose Neshama was so good an holy that Hashem perhaps wished to prevent that Neshama from becoming polluted by all that is going on in the world today and decided that it would be better that it be with Him in Shemayim.

I can only hope and pray that this is the case, and that he is truly in a better place, and that his family, friends and all that knew him are comforted by this thought and should know no more sorrow.

Steven Cohn

a former classmate said...

Albert had a gentle soul. He was a good and caring friend,too. May he rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Chana - it's such a beautiful tribute.

In the spirit of your intolerance of lashon hora, can you please edit the post by Ensign David who, in righteous anger, used language that doesn't befit a Jewish neshama, even an angry and torn one.

I want to show this to my kids, and I can't as it's written.

Thanks.

Schiller, David said...

To whom it may concern,

I would like to defend my comments, which I will not apologize for.

You may not know me, but I generally do not "swear like a sailor" (at least when amongst civilians). I am generally mild mannered and quiet, however, what was posted previously which I rebuked, had no place being said.

Whether this, or any individual believes what was said about wasting one’s life and blood for the United States is unfortunately, only the minor issue at hand. If he believed such ungrateful and treasonous things, but kept it to himself, that at least would’ve been human. However, he did not. Albert Bitton was a medic in the US Army and was killed in action. His body had not even been brought home at the time of those remarks. His family had not even begun to sit Shiva for him. His blood was still warm, so to speak, before someone couldn't bare to hold their tongue. There was NO sensitivity towards Albert's family, friends, and his own honor, which he bought at his own life. And yet, this person has the AUDACITY to mock his sacrifice, to spit on his name with a flippant remark worthy of treason.

Perhaps you remember when the Palestinians not only killed those Israeli soldiers, but jumped on their corpses and then gleefully displayed their bloodied hands to the cameras? Or perhaps you remember the footage of when our pilots were dragged naked through the streets of Mogadishu and beaten to a point of not even being humanly recognizable? That’s what was done here in a sense, in it's total lack of sensitivity.

The response to such comments can not be a simple “That is improper behavior at this time.” It deserves a far far more cutting rebuke. Nor can the response be censorship. Let people see the truth and address it within their communities and find out how and why someone could believe and act in suck a wicked way.

To specifically respond to your points, my response was not lashon hora. I wrote the truth as I saw fit. I did not spread baseless rumors and say things without any substantiation. And as to my excessive use of “colorful metaphors”, it was harsh and vulgar. And that was the point, to respond in force and say the brutal truth, which he deserved without an iota of reservation. As to that language not being worthy of a Jewish Neshama, then your argument is not with me. Your argument is with the animal who forced such retribution and dehumanization from my lips. Whether you decide to show this blog to your children or not is your own decision. That is after all, what America is all about and what Albert died to protect. The choice is yours, but perhaps you might allow them to see everything with open eyes, explain why my comments were made, and let them make their own decisions of whether my response was appropriate or not.
With warmest regards.

Respectfully,
David

Anonymous said...

Thank David Schiller for your rightful comments. I am truly proud to be your sister. Anyone so low as to speak Lashon Harah over the dead deserves to eternally rot in gehanom for their evil words and behavior. He clearly missed the point. One young Jew risks his life for others and places himself in harms way to heal and help...and then dies sanctifying G-d's name, and another Jew behaves in such a low unfathomable way that no human being should ever act or speak. How dare he judge?! I would like to see him show the kind of bravery Amichai and so many others do! I respect and admire you, Amichai, and all the others fighting for our freedom. YOU are true heros. Truly...It takes a very special individual to commit themselves to fighting on behalf of other complete strangers. I pray that Hashem send peace, love, and complete consolation to the family of Albert Bitton. May his memory be a blessing. May his soul be wrapped eternally in peace with all the other righteous souls of our soldiers who fought for us in America and in our country, Eretz Yisrael. May they dwell in the glory of G-d in heaven forever. I am genuinely humbled.

Thank you Chana for sharing such a poignant essay for us to read.

Respectfully yours,

Nechama

Anonymous said...

Thank you David Schiller for your rightful comments. I am truly proud to be your sister. Anyone so low as to speak Lashon Harah over the dead deserves to eternally rot in gehanom for their evil words and behavior. He clearly missed the point. One young Jew risks his life for others and places himself in harms way to heal and help...and then dies sanctifying G-d's name, and another Jew behaves in such a low unfathomable way that no human being should ever act or speak. How dare he judge?! I would like to see him show the kind of bravery Amichai and so many others do! I respect and admire you, Amichai, and all the others fighting for our freedom. YOU are true heros. Truly...It takes a very special individual to commit themselves to fighting on behalf of other complete strangers. I pray that Hashem send peace, love, and complete consolation to the family of Albert Bitton. May his memory be a blessing. May his soul be wrapped eternally in peace with all the other righteous souls of our soldiers who fought for us in America and in our country, Eretz Yisrael. May they dwell in the glory of G-d in heaven forever. I am genuinely humbled.

Thank you Chana for sharing such a poignant essay for us to read.

shaya g said...

Chana,

a very well written piece, thank you.

I knew Albert only a little thru our shule, I know hi s father thru more regular contact. My sister though, was a friend and tells me that he really was a great person. I know from the eulogies offered at the funeral, some of my friends were moved by his Bitachon and dedication to yiddishkeit, that most of us take for granted.

To Ensign Schiller: It says "ais lamilchama, v'ais l'shalom". I actually agree with you. I believe that there is a time for harsh words that cut thru the rhetoric and pc and get people to wake up. That commenter was repulsive and you put him in his place. The nivul peh didn't bother me, although I do understand why others would be upset. Yasher Koach to you and the others who serve in both the US and Israeli army.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, David, for your powerful and wise words. I agree with you wholeheartedly. What a low-life to make a comment like that...

Thank you for your bravery. You who serve in the armed forces are quite heros.

With gratitude,

A fellow Jew

Anonymous said...

While I might have put it a bit differently, I agree with Mr. Schiller, and I would further note that it is more appropriate for an American to serve in the army of his country, America, than in the Israeli army, which, other than it defends Jews, is a totally foreign entity to which no Jew has any natural allegiance to (unless they live there, obviously).

Only Zionists (though some Zionists may be Jews, it is the Zionism that is at the root of this warped perspective, here) have the gall to say that if you're Jewish you have to give whatever talent/sacrifice to their cause rather than to your own country in gratitude of what your country has done for you.

May God wipe comfort Albert's family and may there be no more sadness and suffering.

Anonymous said...

May God comfort Albert's family and may there be no more sadness and suffering.

Anonymous said...

Albert was a really good friend of mine. I didn't even find out untill today. ='[ I am going to miss him so much. Thank you for this tribute. He wont be forgotten. He was the sweetest, funniest, most gentle spirted person I know and I won't ever forget him. I LOVE YOU ALBERT, YOU'RE ALWAYS WITH US.
RIP Albert Bitton.

Anonymous said...

A permanent memorial with Albert and all soldiers killed in Baghdad in 2008 has been established on Canticle of Christ Ministry website.

Anonymous said...

Talking with his sister Ilene, Albert was not only a brother but a hero to all he knew. His sacrifice was the ultimate sacrifice that any person could ever give. RIP Albert, you are trully loved by all who knew you and those you served.

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david huang said...

Albert was one of the best individuals I've ever had the honor of knowing. I lost touch with him around the time high school ended but I'll never forget the day I found out about his passing. It was devestating to know that such a wonderful person was gone from this.world. God bless him, he died in service of his countrymen. Still thinking about you today my friend.

donovan said...

I have been out for about 2 years now, and think about you all the time, and the rest of our brothers we lost that year, and how I still feel like im not living up to your expectations. I try every day to honor your memory and the memories of those we lost, But I always fall short of your expectations. Anyways much love man, you will always be missed and loved