by Mira Aumiller

Last year, my husband and I went to Israel with the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey and had the privilege of going with many other members of our local community, including other parents of young children. While this was not the first time we have been to Israel, this last trip unexpectedly made a big impact on us, and one that we felt compelled to convey to our family and community.

After a“typical” Jerusalem Shabbat at the Kotel, we were scheduled to have Shabbat dinner with Lone Soldiers. Most of us did not realize what a “Lone Soldier” was until that dinner. We quickly learned that they are individuals who, in most cases, leave behind all their friends and family to join and voluntarily serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. At every table around the Jerusalem Lone Soldier Center was a Lone Soldier. We sat with Zach from Phoenix, AZ. We were so hungry to hear his story and why a 21 year old from Arizona made the decision to serve in the Israeli army. Despite it being Shabbat, I remember my husband was adamant that I get a picture of Zach that night. Zach made such an impact on us- after all, he was just like us when we graduated from college. How did he have such a passion to protect the land of Israel? With young kids at home, it made us think hard about how we instill the love for Israel in our children-starting immediately. Our kids know about Israel, but how do we start to really make it more tangible to them rather than what they believe as an enchanted land that is the only Jewish country? Also, how do we keep in touch with Zach and the other lone soldiers and express our gratitude to them?

Since we have returned from Israel, despite our busy lives with our four children, we have both become more involved in Jewish organizations and our synagogue. We have made it a priority to attend shul more regularly. My husband even surprised me by memorizing the full Kiddush one Shabbat dinner, as he wanted to set a good example for our kids.

We showed our kids the pictures of Israel, and talked about Zach and the decisions he made. Our children loved the idea of spending time over their school break compiling and shipping a care package for Zach and his lone soldier friends. However, we soon found out that shipping costs made this a bit prohibitive long term, so the wheels in my head started turning. Along with two other members from our Israel trip, we decided to create a community-wide fundraiser for Lone Soldiers with the goal of not just raising funds, but raising awareness. In the months of planning this fundraiser, our kids became very much aware of lone soldiers, of Israel, and how much that all means to us as a family and as Jews in the Diaspora. Our fundraiser sold out with over 400 people in attendance. Many like us never heard of a lone soldier before, and they too were moved and inspired. Since this event, our connection to Israel continues. Our oldest son’s religious school class made thank you notes and challah covers for lone soldiers, soon to be hand delivered by my parents to the Lone Soldier Center.

It is so easy to be caught up in our lives and our kid’s activities, that it is sometimes all too easy to make sacrifices on the religious end. But really, what is the goal of all those activities? To teach our kids values- how to win, to lose, to be part of a team. Certainly, connecting our kids to stories from Israel accomplishes this, arguably, even better.

Mira Silbert Aumiller is a mother of four children ranging from 4-9 years old.  She is a full time optometrist at the Wilmington, DE Veterans Administration Medical Center. She also serves as the executive director for the optometric international honor society, Beta Sigma Kappa.  Mira is involved in her local synagogue’s school board and chair of the Young Families Group.