Duvy Burston and Yitzy Zelenko flew to Fort Riley, Kansas to bring Chanuka joy to soldiers stationed there. They brought along gifts from Chabad Teens across the Unites States.
This past Chanuka came with unusual challenges for United States Troops who were not able to celebrate with family. Duvy Burston, of Monroe, NY and Yitzy Zelenko, of Pomona, NY, both eighteen, flew to Fort Riley 1st Infantry Division in Kansas to spread Chanuka joy to the soldiers stationed there.
The visit was arranged by U.S. Chaplain Rabbi Michoel Harari, who serves the base in Kansas. He also leads a summer program, Yeshiva Outdoor Adventures, which both boys attended. Duvy, a musician, was invited to perform several concerts at the base, and both boys would distribute holiday packages to the soldiers.
Duvy’s parents, Rabbi Pesach and Chana Burston, who co-direct Chabad of Orange County, NY, wanted to send holiday gifts for the soldiers. They set out a goal to arrange holiday packages from their local community and also connected with Chabad CTeen Clubs across the country to participate.
The outpouring of support in both the local Orange County community as well as the CTeen chapters throughout the country was incredible. The local Jewish community of Orange County generously sponsored fifty packages for soldiers, and Chabad Teen chapters across the country sent an additional three hundred and fifty.
“Each package was unique with a hand-crafted card,” says Chana Burston, who coordinated the project. “We made sure to include both Chanukah gifts as well as general holiday-themed packages to let the soldiers know that we are thinking of all of them.”
Artist Bonnie McCarthy, of Highland Mills, created a variety of beautiful cards for the soldiers. Children, teens and adults wrote meaningful messages.
Teen Gavin Reich of Highland Mills writes, “Thank you so much for your bravery and courage protecting our country…you guys are amazing.”
Fiana Goldenberg, 11, of Warwick writes, “Dear Extraordinary Person…I wish you a blissful holiday of light…even though your family is not there with you, G-d is there protecting, watching you and helping you through tough times.”
Rabbi Harari was thrilled at the outpouring of love from so many communities. “To say our base is in the middle of nowhere is an understatement – yet here we are flooded with love from people who jumped at an opportunity to do something for our troops.”
Duvy Burston performed two holiday concerts at the base, singing and playing piano and guitar. He included several original songs in his repertoire, one of which is releasing this month on all streaming platforms, titled “To the Dust.”
“It was an honor to share music with the soldiers and uplift their spirits when they have not been home for so long,” said Duvy.
Together Duvy and Yitzy spent time delivering packages along with Rabbi Harari and visiting many soldiers of all affiliations and backgrounds. “I’m grateful for the experience we had in Fort Riley,” says Yitzy. “Being able to spread holiday light and happiness to our brave service members was a meaningful experience that will remain with me.”
“The power of one chaplain, asking two teen boys to come to his base for the holidays, became a remarkable effort of over thirty communities across the country sending four-hundred holiday packages to the soldiers,” says Rabbi Pesach Burston.