Monday, May 29, 2023

This Memorial Day I'm Remembering Major Stuart Adam Wolfer, z"l

I first learned about JWB Jewish Chaplains Council® (JWB) early in my tenure at the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). From time to time, its then-director, Rear Admiral Rabbi Harold Robinson, would call to invite URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie to fly with him on a fighter jet that would then land on an aircraft carrier at sea—or at least that’s what I remember hearing about those calls in the executive suite at the URJ! Not surprisingly, Rabbi Yoffie always had a conflict.

More recently I learned that the Jewish Welfare Board, the forerunner of JCC Association of North America, was formed in 1917 as a coalition of organizations to support young Jewish men headed off to fight in World War I. Over more than a century, it has stayed true to its founding, and today its Jewish military chaplains and trained lay leaders bring Jewish life and opportunities to Jewish military personnel and their families wherever in the world they are working to protect Americans and our many freedoms.

Last Thursday, JWB hosted Beverly Wolfer, who spoke to the staff of JCC Association about her brother, Army Major Stuart A. Wolfer, z”l. A Jewish day school graduate, ROTC-commissioned Army officer, and a respected soldier, leader, and friend, he was active in “B’nai Baghdad,” the military’s Jewish community where he served, until he was killed in action there in April 2008. Major Wolfer was 36 years old and left behind his wife and three children, his sister and her family, and his parents.

Throughout his military service, Wolfer’s family regularly sent him care packages, and following his death, they established the Major Stuart Adam Wolfer Institute (MSAWI), a nonprofit organization that works to ensure that his legacy of leadership, commitment to his country, and community service lives on and inspires future generations of children, adults, and leaders. In addition to continuing to send care packages to troops with help from volunteers of all ages, MSAWI raises awareness about the sacrifices troops and their families make to serve our country and recycles the stars on retired American flags (those no longer fit to fly) into tokens of honor for members of the armed forces and veterans.

Just days before Memorial Day, I was honored to learn about the life and legacy of Stuart Wolfer, chat briefly with his sister, and join my colleagues in putting together care packages that will bring some small comforts of home to Jewish-American and American troops stationed on bases, ships, and elsewhere around the world.

Today—and every day—may the soul of Stuart Adam Wolfer and all those killed in service to our country find perfect rest in the shelter of God’s wings and may their memories be for a blessing, now and always.

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