Supporting My Son in the Israeli Army



When Aliza Katz’s son, Joey, told her that he was joining the Israeli Army, Aliza Katz felt “so proud.” While he initially planned to serve for about one-and-a-half years, he doubled his time commitment when he was accepted to a Special Forces unit. In our conversation, Aliza shares what it was like seeing her son sworn into the army, and how her JWRP sisters supported Joey and his lone soldier friends.

What inspired you to experience MOMentum?

As far back as I can remember, I always had an appreciation for Judaism and a love of Israel. When I learned about the MOMentum Trip, I knew I wanted to go, but the timing was never right for a couple of years. Then, my family relocated from Kansas City to South Florida and one of the first people I met was Sheryl Berkowitz, a JWRP Community Leader. She started telling me about it, and I didn’t even let her finish her sentence. I told her that I wanted to go. I’d heard how wonderful the experience was — and it definitely lived up to its reputation!

How did the MOMentum Year-Long Journey impact you?

My MOMentum experience inspired me and recharged me. It lit a fire in me, which I imbued in my family. Though I was new to South Florida at the time, I suddenly had an immediate group of friends and a built-in social life that revolved around community service projects, Jewish learning, and social meet-ups. My MOMentum experience even impacted me professionally. Our final Momentum Event was held at Bar Ilan University, and I was blown away by the beautiful campus. Now, I’m doing work for their International School, which offers degrees and summer programs entirely in English!

Can you tell us about a meaningful experience from your son’s army service?

My youngest daughter and I traveled to Israel when Joey was sworn into the army at the Kotel. But when we arrived, there were so many people there and we didn’t think we’d be able to find him. I was frustrated because we’d come so far for this special milestone. Then, just before the ceremony began, he ran up to me and gave me a big hug. He was wearing his army uniform, and it was my first time seeing him like that. It made everything feel very real. Then, the ceremony began and he received a gun — because unfortunately, that’s what soldiers need to do their job — and a Tanach (bible) — which reminds them why they’re doing it.

We’d been told to bring a poster for Joey so that he could see us supporting him. People kept pushing and trying to squeeze by, but I continued to hold up the poster, along with my camera. When I felt a tap on my shoulder, I thought someone was going to tell me to put my camera down. But, as it turned out, it was a native Israeli soldier’s mother who knew that Joey was a lone soldier.

“Your son is our hero,” she whispered to me.

I started to cry, and she hugged me. I didn’t know who she was and I’ll probably never see her again, but at that moment, we were family.

What are some ways that you supported your son while he was in the army?

The biggest way was by being there for him. Soldiers have so little time to speak on the phone, but whenever Joey called, I made myself available and tried to give him moral support. I also visited him every six months and was present at all of his army ceremonies. I don’t know if that was more meaningful for him or for me, but it was wonderful!

My JWRP sisters were also so proud of him and decided that they wanted to do something special for him and his friends. Allison O’Mara coordinated a collection of items for Joey and his lone soldier friends, including socks, scarves, long underwear, body wash, and sudoku books. Unlike regular soldiers, lone soldiers can’t just go home when they leave their base for a weekend. They don’t have their parents nearby to do their laundry and provide for them. So, lone soldiers really need all of the items that my JWRP sisters collected.

Everyone brought the items to a brunch, which Sheryl Hurwit hosted. There were so many items that my car was filled to the brim, and I didn’t think I’d be able to transport everything to Israel.

One of my JWRP sisters, Corey Narson, also collected letters from Hebrew school students, which thanked the soldiers for their service. Out of everything they received, Joey and his friends loved the letters most of all because it showed them that there were people all over the world who were thinking about them and appreciated them.

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