Sunday, Feb. 15, 9 am–3 pm
Can you believe it’s already time for Operation Hamantaschen? The triangle- shaped cookies that Jews worldwide associated with the holiday of Purim give this annual Jewish community event its name.
At Operation Hamantaschen, toddlers, teens, hipsters and seniors will come together at the Simon Family JCC to roll, cut, fill, and taste-test the freshly baked treats. They’ll also help pack the cookies to send to United States Jewish military service men and women, and to Jewish Family Service of Tidewater clients.
Operation Hamantaschen is not only fun, but it’s a mitzvah—a good deed, too. People of all ages and backgrounds gather to support one of the most fundamental of Judaic values—taking care of each other.
The cookies will be mailed to Jewish military members serving in the armed forces, so they can enjoy a “taste of home” and know they’re being thought of during the Purim celebration on March 5. JFS’ kosher food pantry and other JFS programs will also benefit from the goodies baked at the event.
“This is the fourth year of Operation Hamantaschen, and we feel it’s important to let those who serve know that we appreciate what they do—and it’s a way we can show they’re not forgotten,” says Stephanie Steerman, chair of Operation Hamantaschen and a member of the Young Adult Division of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.
Rabbi Yoni Warren, a Hebrew Academy of Tidewater alumnus, a former JCC camp counselor, and a current Navy Chaplain, was one of last year’s hamantaschen recipients.
“The food was great! It gave me an emotional feeling about home, and about the entire story of Purim,” says Warren, who was surprised with the box of cookies while deployed overseas. “The fact that I could celebrate the holiday of Purim with hamantaschen from my hometown was truly an emotional experience.”
Warren, who in March will take over as Chaplain at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, says he is proud to hear this community tradition will continue.
Baking for the troops is just one of the good deeds that will occur during Operation Hamantaschen. Participants will also have the opportunity to write and decorate letters to be sent along with the sweets.
Yet another mitzvah will focus on sending letters to Lone Soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces, thanking them for serving and protecting the State of Israel.
From all over the world, many of these soldiers are American. They’re called Lone Soldiers because they’re not Israeli, and usually don’t have any family in Israel. The decision to serve in the IDF is their own, and it can sometimes be tougher than they imagined. And it can be lonely.
“It may sound silly, but receiving a letter from anyone, especially from the states, really keeps us alive over here. It’s the truth,” says Nathan Mandel, a Lone Soldier from Portland who has friends in YAD.
Sending notes of support and thanks to these volunteer soldiers, Mandel says, means so much, and will be appreciated more than this community can imagine.
Operation Hamantaschen chair Steerman, a mother of three (her older daughters attend HAT and Strelitz Early Childhood Center and her son is not yet one), feels that is a great event for all ages, and the lessons learned about giving to others can be invaluable.
“We may not be giving to a charity, but we are devoting our time and giving support to our Jewish community and military men and women, which is an important aspect of tzedakah,” Steerman says. “I want my children to understand the importance of community—and of being here for each other.”
Operation Hamantaschen is a free, collaborative event, open to all in the community, presented by YAD and the Simon Family JCC’s Department of Children and Family programs. The day is split into two shifts for planning purposes (i.e., how many dozens of eggs and pounds of flour will be needed); participants are asked to register in advance.
To sign up for a shift, or for more information, visit JewishVA.org/operationh, or call 757-965-6138.
by Benyamin Yaffe