Baghdad , Iraq – Howard Perl, 48, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer, never saw himself as much of a worship leader.
Then again, he never thought he would be shipped to Iraq after 30 uneventful years in the Army reserve, spend Rosh Hashana, under a rain of mortar fire, or lead Friday night Shabbos worship in Camp Taji, an Army post 12 miles north of Baghdad, when there wasn’t a rabbi around to do the job.
In a year full of bizarre firsts, Perl says one stands out. ”It will be pretty cool to be able to celebrate Passover in Baghdad,” said Perl, an Army captain who trains members of the Iraqi army. “Passover is one of the defining moments in Jewish history, when the Jewish people became a nation for the first time. I am sitting here in Baghdad celebrating Passover, and I think the parallels are remarkable.”
On Wednesday, when Jews around the world begin the eight-day holiday commemorating the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt 3,300 years ago, thousands of Jewish U.S. troops will mark the occasion with modest provisions in remote and dangerous locations.
Some will crack open military-issue kosher MRE’s (meals ready to eat) and mark the holiday quietly, alone. Some will pray with rabbis flown in from the United States.
Others will put together simple holiday meals with matzoh, wine, and shrink-wrapped plastic Seder plates shipped by Jewish outreach organizations.