HALFWAY around the world, a Jewish Marine is enjoying many of the traditional foods and customs of Passover, thanks to a Christian in Oklahoma who has “adopted” him as one of her own.
Sherri Jackson, a Christian who lives in Norman said she envisions Lance Cpl. Eric Spector sampling some of the goodies she sent him as Passover begins at sundown Monday.
The eight-day Jewish holiday commemorates the Israelites’ redemption from Egypt.
Jackson, a member of St. Benedict Russian Orthodox Church, 3900 Jones Blvd., said Spector is one of a few military members that she has befriended through various outreach organizations, including Adopt A US Soldier, a nonprofit based in Englewood, Colo. She said she started out sending care packages to a family friend who was stationed overseas, and when he returned home for good, she decided to continue her efforts for others serving their country in foreign lands.
“Our men and women over there are sacrificing their lives for us,” said Jackson, 62. “They are away from their family and friends and modern conveniences, a lot of them, so I think it’s important for them to know how much we care.”
Jackson said she adopted Spector, a Californian, through Adopt A US Soldier in February, and she didn’t learn that he was Jewish until she began asking him via email about his favorite Easter traditions.
Jackson, a busy grandmother of four, said Easter, set for April 20, is an important holiday in her Christian faith tradition, and she had assumed that it might also be a significant holiday for Spector, who is serving in Afghanistan.
When he told her he observed Passover, she said she made a commitment to send him some items related to the Jewish holiday, which she thought she knew a little about.
“I thought I knew something about the Jewish religion, but it turned out I didn’t know nothing!” she said, laughing.
Jackson said she turned to the Internet for information but realized that she didn’t quite understand all of the concepts associated with the holiday. She said she called Emanuel Synagogue and talked to Rabbi Abby Jacobson, the synagogue’s spiritual leader, and Frances Marwil, the synagogue’s gift shop manager. The two women not only provided her with knowledge but some items to go in Spector’s Passover box.
“Passover is one of those times where people feel farthest from home because they associate it with family and growing up with big Passover Seders. It’s a time associated with happy memories,” Jacobson said.
“For someone to adopt a soldier is amazingly caring of her. It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone to make sure one of our soldiers is taken care of.”
Filling the box
Marwil said she gave Jackson information about Passover and some of the items that Spector might enjoy having.
So into the Passover box went matzah, the flat unleavened bread resembling crackers that is traditionally eaten during Passover. Matzah is an integral part of the Passover Seder because there was no time for dough prepared by the Israelite slaves to rise before they fled Egypt.
There was no time to tarry, as the story chronicled in the Book of Exodus goes.
Jackson said she found many Passover food items at Sprouts grocery in Norman, and she and her grandchildren made Spector chocolate mint matzah cookies using a matzah cake mix purchased there.
Marwil said she decided to send the Marine a yarmulke emblazoned with an American flag. A yarmulke, also known as a kippah, is a skull cap primarily worn by Jewish men. She and Jackson also decided to send him a Haggadah, which is a compilation of prayers, Bible passages, hymns and rabbinical literature that is read during the Passover Seder, a ceremony held in Jewish homes to commemorate the Israelite liberation from Egypt in biblical times.
Jackson purchased Passover sweets, and Marwil, Jacobson and another member of the synagogue wrote holiday greetings in Passover cards that also were sent to Spector.
Marwil said she was impressed with Jackson’s willingness to go out of her way to learn more about the faith traditions of her adopted Marine and to send him a holiday care package.
“I feel it’s a mitzvah — a good deed — to provide our servicemen with Passover food and items for the holidays,” she said. “Passover is a miracle, so it’s certainly wonderful to share that with other people.”
Jackson, a home health care aide, said she will continue to reach out to Spector during his deployment.
“I’d like to save the world, but I can’t,” she said. “These soldiers get to be like your kids. At least I can do my little part to make a difference in someone’s life.”