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    Jewish service members keep their faith while on deployment in Afghanistan

    Jewish and Muslim Sailors at Passover

    Photo By Cmdr. Jesse Ehrenfeld | Lt. Cmdr. Mahmoud Ahmed and Lt. Cmdr. Jesse Ehrenfeld share a moment together at a...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    NATO Role III Multinational Medical Unit

    KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Although far from home, and few in number, deployed Jewish service members in Afghanistan continue to celebrate their traditions by observing holidays, adhering to dietary laws, and practicing their faith. This week is Passover, an eight day celebration that celebrates freedom and the escape of the Jewish people from ancient Egyptian slavery.

    Gathered together at the NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit on Kandahar Airfield, a group of about a dozen service members celebrated together on April 3 with a traditional Seder, that included eating unleavened bread (“matzah”), tasting bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of grape juice—in place of four cups of wine. During the service, they recalled the story of Moses and the Jewish Exodus from Egypt.

    “There aren’t many of us out here, but it’s great to come together, meet other people and celebrate Passover,” remarked an Air Force Major, who attended the Seder.

    Army Rabbi Karyn Berger, stationed at Bagram AFB, officiated at the Seder. A native of Fort Hood, Texas, she is currently deployed in Afghanistan, where she travels among forward operation bases to spend time with Jewish troops.

    “Passover is a time for celebrating our journey from slavery to freedom,” she said. “It’s fitting that we are here now, working together to ensure the Afghan people get the same opportunity.”

    Adhering to traditions isn’t always easy.

    “Our mission or operational requirements make it challenging,” commented Lt. Cmdr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, a Navy physician from Nashville, Tennessee, also deployed in Kandahar. “Sharing our traditions with other Jews helps ease the difficulties of being away from our families during the holidays. Plus, we have plenty of gefilte fish and kosher for Passover meals ready-to-eat or MREs” he continued.

    Also in attendance at the Seder in Kandahar were several non-Jewish individuals. Lt. Cmdr. Mahmoud Ahmed, a Navy psychiatrist from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, who is Muslim, came to learn about Passover and spend time with friends. “Here in Afghanistan, deployed together, we are a family. And there is nothing more important than celebrating with friends, supporting each other, and learning about each other’s traditions.”

    While Passover will end on the evening of Saturday, April 11, for Rabbi Berger and these service members, their faith will not. “The Torah [Bible] teaches us that Passover marks the redemption from slavery. Our sages, and real life, teaches us that our journey to freedom is ongoing. You can’t just celebrate for one night. It is an ongoing journey that each of us engages in for our entire life.”

    For more information about Passover or the availability of religious services, contact your local chaplain.



    Date Taken: 04.04.2015
    Date Posted: 04.04.2015 03:18
    Story ID: 159140
    Hometown: EAU CLAIRE, WI, US
    Hometown: FORT HOOD, TX, US
    Hometown: NASHVILLE, TN, US

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