Passover Baskets Sent to Soldiers Abroad



While many American Jews will spend Passover in neighborhood synagogues or seated around the tables of family or friends, some others will attempt to celebrate the holiday in the war-torn nations of Iraq or Afghanistan. To help provide these soldiers with a meaningful experience, members of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States packaged and shipped Passover baskets to servicepeople overseas.

Now in its fourth year, the organization's "Operation Matzo Meals" program has sent 583 kosher-for-Passover gift cartons to U.S. soldiers so far this year, according to national co-chairman Bill Farber.

Valued at about $50, the cartons were made with supplies and money donated from Jewish War Veteran posts from around the country and assembled at a space in West Nyack, N.Y.

Each carton contains matzah, wine, fruit and vegetables, hard-boiled eggs and salt, as well as copies of the Haggadah, so that soldiers can recite the holiday prayers, according to Herbert Zemble, quartermaster for Philadelphia County, which has seven JWV posts.

The packages also contain greeting cards and letters from kids who attend Hebrew schools, day schools or yeshivas.

Said Farber: "The children sent cards thanking them and hoping they come back safely."

Rabbis and chaplains overseas often help run seders, using the material in the packages. The whole process offers a potential boost to a soldier's morale by giving him or her a taste of spirituality at a meaningful time of the year.

"Soldiers, when they're away from home, they have more desire to come to a religious service," said Farber, who served in World War II.

Organizers said that the food and the prayerbooks in three packages can serve 10 individuals at a seder, and also leave participants with something to take back to their barracks.

Zemble, a veteran of the Korean war, estimated that approximately 200 of the Passover packages came from money and food donated from Philadelphia.

JWV sends food and other materials to U.S. soldiers all year, and even sent packages to Israel Defense Force troops during Israel's war last summer with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The letters from Jewish servicemen and women who've received the packages during Passover and other times of the year have generally been positive.

Attested Farber: "We keep a scrapbook for each year with cards that we get back."



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