NEW YORK (JTA) – Instead of writing to their soldier pen pal in the Middle East, schoolchildren at the Mirochnick Religious School of B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, Fla., will soon be sending condolence cards to the family of Stuart Adam Wolfer.
Wolfer, a U.S. Army major, was killed April 6 in the U.S.-protected Green Zone in Baghdad. He was 36.
Four years ago while serving in Kuwait, Wolfer had been in regular contact with the second-, third- and fourth-graders at the Conservative synagogue to which his parents were members, according to Cathy Berkowitz, the director of the congregation’s Hebrew school.
They sent him letters. He sent them pictures of helicopters, camels and tanks.
The correspondenced ended when Wolfer, a lawyer in civilian life, returned to his family in Emmet, Idaho – gladly, Berkowitz said, because he was home safe with his wife and three young daughters.
But when the students heard of his deployment to Iraq on Dec. 29, they wanted to restart the letter writing to him after Passover, she said.
“The next part of it never happened,” Berkowitz said. “Right now the students are on vacation, but when they get back, they will be writing letters to the family. There will be a hard lessons to learn about life and death.”
Wolfer, a reservist assigned to the 11th Battalion, 104th Division, served as an intelligence officer, according to a family friend.
He was working out at the military fitness center in what is considered a safe zone in Iraq when insurgents fired several rockets into the area, hitting the gym, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Another soldier died in the attack.
Described by friends as a religious man – he observed Jewish rituals even in Iraq and prayed daily while wearing tefillin – Wolfer and his wife, Lee Ann, belonged to the Reform synagogue in Boise.
Wolfer’s family has not spoken to the media, but his wife released a statement describing him as a loving husband and father.
“He called his children beautiful because he said they looked like their mother,” Lee Ann Wolfer said. “He held his family foremost in his life. When he’d drop his girls off at school, he’d say ‘I love you, beautifuls!’ “
Along with his wife, Wolfer is survived by his three daughters, Lillian Wade, 5, Melissa Lacey-Marie, 3, and Isadora Ruth, 1; his parents, Esther and Len; and a sister, Beverly Nerenberg.
The Jewish War Veterans believes a second Jewish soldier was killed in Iraq this week as well.
U.S. Army Maj. Mark Rosenberg, 32, of Miami Lakes, Fla., died April 8 in Baghdad from wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device, the U.S. Department of Defense announced in a news release April 9.
Rosenberg, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo., was a decorated soldier, having been awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Medal and the Global War on Terror Medal.
According to an informal tally conducted by Jewsingreen.com, another 25 Jewish soldiers have been killed since fighting began in Iraq five years ago. As of April 9, according to the Pentagon, 4,029 U.S. soldiers have been killed.