Kids help Jewish soldier light her own menorah
At dusk on Saturday Jewish people around the suburbs will celebrate Hanukkah with food, prayers and the lighting of the first candle on the menorah. About 10 hours earlier, Capt. Becky Moschel will have done the same thing half a world away on her base in Afghanistan — thanks to some help from her Northwest suburban synagogue.
Moschel, 25, of Lincolnshire, is in the midst of a six-month Army deployment and won't be home to celebrate the eight-day Jewish holiday with her family.
She's grateful for the package from religious school students at her synagogue, which included a homemade menorah, candles, food and cards.
"One of the highlights of this deployment for me was receiving the wonderful care package from the children of Anshe Tikvah," Moschel wrote in an email. "It really means a lot to be receiving support from back home and certainly makes the time go by easier."
She added that she can't wait to come home and thank her congregation for their prayers and support during her deployment.
Moschel is a graduate of West Point and was just promoted to captain last week, an event her fellow soldiers marked with a small ceremony and pizza as a special treat.
"It's extremely important that the kids understand what's going on in the world and to help the soldiers who are protecting us," said Fraya Feferman, director of religious education at Anshe Tikvah.
Feferman taught her students from third to seventh grades about the Festival of Lights, celebrating the battle of the ancient Maccabees and how a small bit of oil miraculously burned for eight nights.
"The holiday brings light in horrible times, so we had each student make a candle with a note so Becky could light them in Afghanistan and be connected to the holiday and be connected to us back home," Feferman said. The notes included Hanukkah wishes, including "Come home safely" and "Thank you for defending our country."
Moschel said her Jewish faith has more significance while she is overseas, and that the military has been supportive of different faiths, allowing soldiers to observe religious holidays. While at West Point, Moschel went to Shabbat services every Friday and sang in the Jewish choir.
"She heard a call to duty that a lot of people don't hear," said her father, Bruce.
But having Moschel away from home is hard on her family, especially during the holidays.
"There's a lot of Christmas attention with people doing things for the troops for Christmas, but not necessarily for Hanukkah," said Becky's mom, Evie. "It's a time for family and community; it's not about the presents."
Moschel will be home on leave in late January or early February, which her family is already looking forward to.
"We miss her terribly," Evie said. "When she was first deployed I was getting up two or three times a night just to check the headlines. You get used to that, too."
As they gather to celebrate Hanukkah, Evie and Feferman said they'll say a special prayer for Becky's safety and think of her lighting her own menorah thousands of miles away.
"We want the lights of Hanukkah to shine throughout all the world," Feferman said. "Everyone should be safe and happy and peaceful this time of year."
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