Sent: Monday, April 27, 2009 11:18 AM
To: Aleph Institute
Subject: THANK YOU! 1
Just a quick note to say thank you so very much for your invaluable help this Pesach in Iraq.
I was sent there last-minute to lead the Sederim, and you saved the day by sending supplies on such short notice.
We did biur chametz in a BBQ grill set up by the lake in front of one of Saddam Hussein's palaces. I couldn't get the flame to last, so a couple of Iraqi soldiers standing nearby came over and helped. That was a funny sight.
President Obama arrived the evening before, and we went to hear his short speech to about 600 service members in the grand foyer of the palace. While he and General Odierno were shaking hands with everyone and posing for photos, I asked Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, if he'd like to join us for the Seder, but he said he was returning to Washington just a few hours later.
The Sederim were held at Camp Victory, near the Baghdad airport. About 50 people attended the first Seder, 37 the second night -- and 22 for Shabbos on Friday night.
Most of those in attendance were in the U.S. Army -- but there were quite a number of civilian contractors, people in the Navy, Air Force, two former Special Forces commandos, even a female U.S. Marine officer. There were half-a-dozen from Brooklyn, including an Army medic who'd gone to Yeshiva of Flatbush when he was younger.
For the Seder, we had fancy plasticware to eat with; boiled potatoes for karpas, salt water made with kosher salt; freshly grated horseradish for marror; plenty of handmade shmura matzah and Army-supplied kosher wine.
For Shulchan Aruch, I served tasty gefilte fish with charain, matzah ball soup, Meal Mart & LaBriute brand beef goulash and chicken with potatoes (found in the Army Seder kits, along with the zeroa and choroses), followed by macaroons and chocolate covered matzah.
Mornings started with tasty cholov Yisroel, kosher l'Pesach iced coffee -- a great treat. On chol HaMoed, I took an armored bus to the Green Zone and got together for matzah and wine with about 8 or 9 Jewish personnel there, including an Iraqi Jewish woman who lives in Baghdad and never left. She looks after the 7 or 8 other Iraqi Jews left there.
For the last days of Pesach, I flew way down south to Tallil Airbase near the Kuwaiti border. The base sits next to ancient Ur Kasdim. Seven or eight of us drove out to "Avraham Avinu's House" on erev Yom Tov for Mincha at the site. The area was being turned back over to the Iraqis a few days later, so I figured, 3800 years after the first amidah was davened not far from here, I davened what would probably be the last one!
We walked from there to the ancient ziggurat of Ur, a giant pyramid-like pagan temple complex built 4100 years ago, the oldest man-made structure on earth, where the Midrash says Avraham discovered Hashem.
After Yom Tov ended, I flew back to Camp Victory for Shabbos, then made my way back to Kuwait, Atlanta and home a few days ago.
So again, thank you so much for your help. We couldn't have done it without you!