Back when I first started Jews in Green, one of my self-imposed missions was to send care packages to deployed Jews. While we had some early success with that, it ended up being too much of a challenge to consistently come through for those in need. What we really needed was a dedicated organization whose entire focus is arranging for kosher care packages to our deployed Jewish servicemembers; an organization who could engage sponsors to participate in the giving. If only such an organization existed…
Enter Kosher Troops (www.koshertroops.com). Born of their own desire to help out Jewish servicemembers, their organization grew out of a chesed project for a bat mitzvah. After receiving a flood of support, the humble project grew into a full fledged operation run by the bat mitzvah’s mother, Sara Fuerst and her friend Ava Hamburger. From their website:
What began as a small campaign is now one that reaches several hundred troops around the globe. We found that there is a strong desire for Americans to show their appreciation and gratitude to those serving our country and protecting our freedom as well as a desire for our troops to be connected to the traditions they celebrate back home. The overwhelming positive response we have received from both the donors and the service members has led to the creation of koshertroops.com. Kosher Troops is now a 501 (c) not for profit organization where people can donate money, products, food and write letters that will be sent directly to the troops and service members.
Kosher Troops now sends packages to Jewish soldiers stationed around the world, including kosher meals and staples of kosher products to supplement what they are getting from the military. Kosher Troops also sends at least 300 traditional- themed holiday baskets before each Yom Tov. It’s not just for holidays either. On a weekly basis, Kosher Troops sends Shabbat packages to Jewish troops that include challah, grape juice, bentchers, candles, and more. Occasionally, they have partnered with the Jewish War Veterans, which has a warehouse in Nyack, New York, where they graciously allow Kosher Troops to store their bigger shipments as they come in. Otherwise, the Hamburgers’ garage acts as a temporary storage facility.
Many of the items included in the care packages are supplied by donors including Joburg Kosher Beef Jerky, Amazing Savings, Kedem, Osem, Franczoz Bakery, Joyva, Zadie’s Bakery, King Zak Paper Goods and The Challah Fairy’s challot which are picked up and vacuum packed by Kosher Troops volunteers. NCSY bentchers, which were originally requested by an Army chaplain, have been donated in the past by the Orthodox Union and are included in the packages as well.
Kosher Troops has fulfilled requests for items such as mezuzot, tallit, tefillin, tzitzit, siddurim and bentchers. They have even sent coffee makers around the world, as well as popcorn machines, and even cholent pots complete with beans, barley and all other necessary ingredients for making cholent!
It’s not just about packages either. Kosher Troops sends letters and cards to troops as well. They have countless stories of friendships and connections made through their program.
There are certainly established channels for obtaining Jewish supplies and kosher items in the military, but there is something special about receiving stuff from individuals and groups like this. A big yeshar koach to Kosher Troops for what they do. If you want to support their operation, head on over to their website and consider donating or volunteering to help out.
*Hat tip to Hamodia, who wrote an excellent article about Kosher Troops in their print edition.