May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Support Kosher Troops, and Get Kosher Food to Jewish Heroes

“You’re moving where?!” I remember a friend asking in shock when I told her I was moving to Biloxi, Mississippi. It’s not on the list of top 10 locations to start your Jewish marriage, but my marriage was going to be anything but ordinary. My husband had just been commissioned into the U.S. Air Force and his first duty station was Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.

That first year was like nothing I could have expected. One of the most memorable moments was our first Pesach. Due to my husband’s schedule, we had to stay in Mississippi and couldn’t go to our parents. I was 23, newly married, seven months pregnant, and making Pesach for the first time. To make matters harder, I was making Pesach in Biloxi, Mississippi! It’s not a place where there is a ton of kosher-for-Pesach products. I was terrified.

And then I got a call from Sara Fuerst.

Sara Fuerst and Ava Hamburger are the co-founders of Koshertroops, an organization that helps get food to Jewish members of the U.S. Armed Forces. For each Yom Tov, Koshertroops and their volunteers put together packages and send them all over the world, even to places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

When Sara called me, she asked what I needed for Pesach. Two weeks later, there were five huge boxes at my doorstep. Matzah, tea, baked goods, spices, nosh, matzah meal and so much more had been lovingly packaged and sent. I couldn’t hold back my smile.

Each Yom Tov hundreds of boxes are sent to over 70 different places worldwide with food specific to that Yom Tov. For Rosh Hashanah they send out jars of honey, honey cakes and cookies, challah and pomegranates, just to name a few. Around Chanukah, donuts, gelt, Chanukah candles and decorations are among the items in those boxes. Delicious hamantashen and mishloach manot in military-themed containers come just in time for Purim. And then there’s Pesach. Pesach time is difficult to begin with, but even more so for those who live out in the middle of nowhere. The large boxes that come around April are filled with grape juice, gefilta fish, matzah, chrein, macaroons, matzah ball soup, fresh horseradish, and tons and tons of pesachdik snacks. Finally, for Shavuot, the boxes are filled with wonderful dairy treats like cheesecakes and cheese snacks.

Koshertroops was started in 2008. If you spoke to a Jewish service member before then they would talk about the struggle it was to get kosher foods around the holidays. Getting things like matzah and grape juice was a constant challenge back then, forget finding hamantashen or honey cakes! Koshertroops was a huge game changer! No longer did chaplains have to worry about where to get food for their communities while deployed. Families, like mine, that were not stationed near frum communities now were getting delivered all those things they just couldn’t get. Since 2008, Koshertroops has sent out over 87,000 packages!

As is the norm in the military, we moved around a few times. After Mississippi we moved to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. The nearest frum community was three hours away. Getting those Koshertroops boxes each Yom Tov filled me with so much joy. I used to joke that Koshertroops didn’t just send food, they sent smiles. Whenever I saw those boxes on the porch, my face instantly lit up with a huge grin. As our family grew, the kids got excited with those boxes as well. My children didn’t have Jewish friends. They didn’t see other menorahs in the windows, or hear the shofar being blown. But when they got to open a Koshertroops box and pull out all the Yom Tov-themed items inside, they giggled with glee. They colored the Chanukah banners, spun the graggers, and enjoyed eating matzah on Pesach-themed plates. All of these were in Koshertroops boxes, along with so much more.

Even after moving to Denver, and being part of a Jewish community, Koshertroops was still there to help us when it was needed. A few times my husband was sent out-of-state to air force training sessions, which could last weeks or months. Twice these training classes weren’t near Jewish communities. Koshertroops helped my husband out, sending him boxes of food. Once, when he had to go right after Pesach, they delivered the boxes beforehand so he would have food as soon as he arrived. Sara and Ava always try to go the extra length to help those who are serving this country.

As a military wife, one of the most common questions I get is, “What’s the hardest part of being in the military? It must be the food, right?” Yes, the food part is very difficult, but it’s definitely not the hardest part. The hardest part is the feeling of loneliness, especially around the Yomim Tovim. While the Koshertroops packages gave us much-needed food, they really gave us more. They gave us a reminder that we weren’t alone. They gave us a sense of community. They nourished not only our bodies but our neshamos.

Koshertroops is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Please support them at https://thechesedfund.com/koshertroopsinc/rosh-hashanah.

For more information or volunteer opportunities, please visit their website, www.Koshertroops.com.

Shifra Yehudis Stitzer is a military wife.

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