One New Jersey serviceman’s unique holiday observance abroad.
In certain respects, New Jersey native, Jared Fusia is just like many other Orthodox Jews in the workplace. He has to explain periodic absences to coworkers who are only vaguely familiar with the holidays, and he has to explain why he can’t go out to eat with them. Jared is certainly not the first Orthodox Jew to balance religious observance with professional responsibilities.
There’s one difference, though. Jared is in the United States Air Force, and he’s stationed on a military base in Kuwait.
Jared always wanted to join the military, in part because his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the US military. He planned on joining the Marines directly after high school, but backed out at the last minute.
Six years after graduating from Rutgers University (where he was roommates with your humble correspondent) and becoming quite the language maven in Italian, Hebrew, Arabic and Farsi, Jared found that his yearning to join the military hadn’t waned and he was drawn to the Air Force.
Jared believes that “there’s a lot of overlap between being an observant Jew and adhering to the standards of the military.” Each gives your life order and purpose.
Jared has found he is the first religious Jew most of his fellow service members have met. They often ask him questions about his observance, which Jared always happily answers.
Thankfully, Jared has not run into any issues with his religious observance on the military base, and he was able to celebrate the High Holidays this year. Jared does note, though, that he does not wear his kippa when he ventures off the military base.
Jared cannot wait to celebrate Hanukkah on base with his fellow service members. After all, Hanukkah celebrates a military victory, as well as the miracle of the oil in the Temple lasting eight days. And here he is, on a military base in an oil-rich country.
What’s more, Hanukkah is a celebration of the Jewish people’s defeat of their oppressors who wanted to rob them of their ability to practice their faith openly. Jared feels a special connection to this aspect of the holiday, as he says one of the main drivers in his decision to join the military was his deep Hakaras haTov (gratitude) “for the greatness that is America and the Constitution that affords me religious freedom.” These connections will make this year’s Hanukkah celebration extra special for him.
Jared says that he will be lighting the menorah with other Jewish service members, and they also plan on frying a lot of latkes. The most important thing for Jared this Hanukkah is to make a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name), by portraying the Jewish people in a positive light.
Jared says that being a religious Jew and a warrior in the United States military “go together like latkes and sour cream, dreidels and gelt, and donuts and jelly.”
Noah Glyn is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.