Tuesday, April 8, 2008

“Kosher for Passover” in the U.S. Army

Today I’m experiencing somewhat of déjà vu. I’ve just read the most recent post on Jewsingreen.com concerning an Orthodox chaplain -- Army Captain Shmuel Felzenberg – serving in Afghanistan. The article is by Lee Lawrence, correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor.

In describing Chaplain Felzenberg’s kosher dietary needs, Lawrence says that Felzenberg has “Army-supplied kosher meals. For holidays like Passover, the Army provides supplies, right down to Passover-approved wine.”

The U.S. Army has obviously come a long way from my time as an army officer’s wife in Munich, Germany, where the Orthodox chaplain stationed there our first year influenced my husband and me to decide to keep kosher. In those days we did not get kosher food items for Passover from the army; the items we did get were provided by the Jewish Welfare Board.

In my 1992 Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION, co-authored with Rabbi Karen L. Fox, here is what I wrote in the sidebar “Passover in the U.S. Army” in the chapter “Pesach – The Freedom Story”:

“During Passover of 1971 my husband was stationed with the U.S. Army in Munich. We’d been married a little over a year and this was the first time we would be making our own seders. Needless to say, it was a little daunting to prepare for Passover far from home in a country we perceived as hostile.

“But we had assistance. First, the Jewish Welfare Board sent “kosher for Passover” canned match ball soup, matzah and other Passover food to armed forces personnel throughout the world. We had the basics.

“Then the Jewish army chaplain in Munich instructed us on many points. For the first time we cleaned our kitchen to remove all hametz, even though at that time we didn’t have dishes just for Passover. As we cleaned there was a tremendous feeling of Jewish pride as we continued the ancient Passover ritual in post-Holocaust Germany!”

Now in 2008 with the first seder less than two weeks away (the night of Saturday, April 19, this year), I’m busy preparing for the upcoming holiday. My husband and I have been keeping kosher since our return to the United States in May of 1972. And here in Los Angeles there are so many stores carrying “kosher for Pesach” food items.

And I am truly grateful for the freedom to practice my religion openly – a privilege that Jews throughout the ages have infrequently enjoyed. As I type this post I have tears in my eyes for the Jewish military personnel who will be celebrating Pesach – the holiday of freedom – far from home in Iraq or Afghanistan. As a former Mrs. Lieutenant, I know that these deployed Jewish military personnel, along with all deployed U.S. military personnel, are protecting that freedom of religion that I hold so dear.

If you want to know how to show your appreciation to U.S. military personnel, go to my website at www.mrslieutenant.com and click on “Support Military Families.”

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