A father of one of the students in the high school, a chaplain at the base, encouraged the idea for the package drive, which all the students in the school can participate in.
Andrew Cohen is stationed at the Balad Air Force Base; the busiest base for the U.S. military, it currently has about 20,000 active personnel.
“Our students got together and basically wanted to do something to thank those soldiers that are serving and protecting us,” said Adam Reinherz, director of student affairs for the Hillel Academy. “The students are packing care packages, which we will send over for Chanuka to show our appreciation.”
The packages will be filled with cards, letters and drawings done by the students at the academy. They will be sent to Cohen at the base. He will then distribute all of the students’ work to the other Jewish soldiers at the base.
Hillel Academy hopes that the packages will get to the soldiers by the first night of Chanuka, but it knows that that might not be possible.
“We’re hoping it gets there the first night, but Chanuka is eight nights, so we just hope it gets there during the holiday,” Reinherz said.
Rabbi Nosson Sachs visited the Balad base about a year ago and was told just how much the gifts mean to the soldiers, even if they are from people they don’t know.
“Soldiers really enjoy stuff from children,” Reinherz said. “We just really want to communicate how much the kids appreciate what the soldiers are doing.”
Reinherz said that the packages for Chanuka fall at a perfect time. With the whole story about Chanuka being that there was enough oil to light the menora and bring warmth to those long ago, hopefully these cards will bring warmth to the soldiers.
“From something so small you can create such great warmth,” he said. “Our students are hoping that their small cards can help out on those dark days.”
(Mike Zoller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)