Honoring Our Veterans

Major Stuart Adam Wolfer z”l

Major Stuart Adam Wolfer z”l

In April 2008, SAR parent Beverly Wolfer Nerenberg was working with her daughter Leah’s 3rd Grade class on sending Passover care packages to Jewish American troops serving in locations all over the world.  Beverly’s brother, Major Stuart Adam Wolfer, was serving in Iraq, and learning about him enabled the 3rd Graders to appreciate - in a personal way - the U.S. troops serving far from home to ensure their freedom here in the United States.  The 3rd graders were busily collecting Pesach supplies and writing cards. Tragically, before the packages could be packed and sent, Major Wolfer z”l was killed in action.  To honor his memory, the 3rd Grade class, along with their teachers and parents Bryna Landes and Gloria Schneider, packed the Pesach packages.  A few weeks later, on Memorial Day 2008, SAR Academy’s first formal Memorial Day program took place.

In the decade since, SAR’s programs to enhance our students’ awareness of the sacrifice of our U.S. military have grown and developed in a multitude of ways. This commitment builds perfectly upon SAR’s legacy of teaching our children to appreciate their unique roles as Jewish Americans.

Throughout the year, SAR includes U.S. Troops as a priority in its chesed initiatives. In the Chesed Tent at SAR Academy and in Sophomore year at SAR High School, students pack packages with sweet treats and even sweeter notes of gratitude, along with key staples such as special antimicrobial socks, or holiday items specifically for Jewish troops.

At SAR Academy, Veterans Day has been celebrated by inviting family members who are Veterans to participate in a school-wide program. There is a beautiful intergenerational atmosphere in the building as grandparents proudly sporting their old military garb and friends and relatives in uniform join the entire school on the steps to express hakarat hatov, gratitude, to those who serve. After the program, soldiers and veterans are invited to the grades to meet with the students. Vietnam Veteran and SAR grandparent Bob Zitter says that the children want to know about “life as a soldier,” including asking, “did you have kosher food?”  A Wall of Honor, filled with the names and photos of SAR family and community members who have served in the U.S. military, serves as an inspiration for our students. Veteran and SAR grandparent Gene Richter shares that he “cherishes the thought that the children will never forget what the veterans have done.”

As SAR High School juniors, Aaron Liberman ‘14 and Josh Katz ‘14 were inspired to create a program, as Aaron says, “to acknowledge the United States for enabling us to live our lives here as Jews.” Their SAR High School teachers and administrators empowered them to imagine and create a program that would be meaningful to them. Under the guidance of Associate Principal Nancy Lerea and Beverly Wolfer Nerenberg, they created SAR High School’s first Veterans Day program, which included inspiring speakers and a Color Guard marching through the school.  Aaron and Josh were overwhelmed by the way in which the program was appreciated by students and teachers alike, and an important SAR High School annual tradition was born. Today, Josh serves in the Naval ROTC, and SAR is so proud of his decision to serve, as we are of all of our alumni who give of themselves to serve and protect others.

This year, the Veterans Day program at SAR High School included a prayer for the safety of the United States Armed Forces. It was led by Adam Nerenberg, the nephew of Major Stuart Adam Wolfer z”l, who also spoke about his uncle’s life and service. Major Wolfer’s z”l memory will forever serve as an inspiration for the SAR community.

My decision to join ROTC and eventually the United States military was influenced in many ways by my time as a student at SAR. In particular, SAR imbued in me an appreciation for service and instilled values of tikun olam. I am grateful for the foundational values SAR and a Jewish education gave me, and I carry those values with me to the military and beyond.

I view serving as a Jew in the United States Army as an incredible honor and, most importantly, as a unique opportunity. There aren’t many Jews in the United States Army, and I am frequently asked questions about my religion. My presence not only gives me the chance to mold soldiers’ view of the Jewish community, but also allows me to change the way people across the country and across the world view the Jewish community. I believe it is important for American Jews to give back to our country and to the communities that have supported us, and I am honored every day to be able to do so.
— Jonah Smart HS '16
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