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Commack exhibit focuses on women in the military

Artwork from the 1940s shows women who advanced

Artwork from the 1940s shows women who advanced in the ranks of the military during World War II at the "Women in the Military" exhibit at the Suffolk Y JCC in Commack. (Dec. 24, 2012) (Credit: Erin Geismar)

Danile Spokony knew her mother had served in the military, but her mom never said much about it.

That is, until Spokony or her sister would uncover some memorabilia -- once it was Japanese currency, once a photo of their mother in Australia cradling two koalas in her arms -- and it would spark a conversation.

Her mother, Ruth Rubinstein, joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary when she was 25 and served during World War II.


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“To me, she is just an amazing woman,” said Spokony, 52, who grew up in Wantagh and now lives in Elliott City, Md. “To think that a woman volunteered to join the military and go on her own back then, I was just pretty proud of her.”

So Spokony jumped at the chance to have the story of her mother’s service publicized as part of the “Women in the Military” exhibit at the Suffolk County Y Jewish Community Center in Commack.

Rubinstein, now 93 and living in an assisted living facility in Oyster Bay, loaned her Army uniform, photos from her journeys and other memorabilia to the exhibit, which also features artwork documenting the history of women in the military and a small section dedicated to memorializing female service members who have died at war.

Alan Freedman, associate executive director at the JCC, who organizes many of the exhibits at the center, said he likes to present information that might surprise people -- like the history of Jews in the military and now, specifically, women.

“People are surprised,” he said. “They walk around here, and they say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’ ”

The exhibit was scheduled to close Wednesday, but Freedman said it has been popular enough that he will likely extend it for a couple of weeks.

The exhibit documents a history of women’s involvement in the military as early as World War I to present day that exceeds the idea of “Rosie the Riveter” and helping out at home. It shows that from early on, women served as mechanics, truck drivers, telephone operators, munition makers and decoders like Rubinstein, who worked with the Signals Intelligence Section.

Spokony, whose sister Etta Tritthart, 50, lives in Oyster Bay, said the exhibit was important.

“She’s just my mother,” Spokony said. “But especially when Veterans Day or those other holidays come around, you think, ‘This woman served our country.’ ”

For more information, call the JCC at 631-462-9800 or contact Alan Freedman at afreedman@syjcc.org.

Above: Artwork from the 1940s shows women who advanced in the ranks of the military during World War II at the "Women in the Military" exhibit at the Suffolk County Y JCC in Commack. (Dec. 24, 2012)

Tags: Commack , Suffolk County , Y Jewish Community , women , military

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