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Minnesota National Guard
Beth El Synagogue supports those who serve through 'Heroes Among Us' initiative

Taya Kyle SAINT LOUIS PARK, Minn- It is 7 pm Sunday at Beth El Synagogue, there are over 1,200 people in attendance to hear Taya Kyle speak about her life as a military wife and widow, and about her famous husband, "American Sniper" Chris Kyle

This standing-room only event is part of Beth El's four-year-old initiative to support the Minnesota National Guard and to bring awareness of the military to the greater community

At the head of this movement is Rabbi Avi Olitzky, one of two full-time Rabbis at Beth El Rabbi Olitzky has his own ties with the military having served with the Navy as a Chaplain Candidate Program Officer before resigning his commission in 2011 Rabbi Olitzky sees supporting those who serve as a "religious duty and a categorical moral imperitive" So when he saw members of his congregation Gil Mann, Rachel Parnes and others preparing a service project to support the troops of the Minnesota National Guard, it wasn't long before he was fully invested himself

Beth El Synagogue has been fostering units from the MN National Guard since 2011, starting with the Agribuisness Development Team that deployed to Zabul province in Afghanistan under the command of Colonel Eric Ahlness Currently Beth El fosters three units, the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, the 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion and the 204th Area Medical Support Company With this increased number of units comes a greater price tag to support

It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case the increased need of these support initiatives brought forth the Heroes Among Us speaker series at Beth El The series, now in its third year, has made it possible for Beth El to fund the initiative, expand its support and increase community awareness of military life

Taya Kyle spoke on Sunday in the third installment of this successful speaker series She represented the heroes left behind as Service men and women deploy, she represented the heroism of military families She was articulate, vulnerable and powerful with her words She brought home to all in the audience what it means to be a military spouse- the pride, the fear and the heartache She shared what it means to "show up" and to "bring your gift" and what that can mean to those who receive it

Previous speakers include former CIA officer Tony Mendez and merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips Rabbi Olitzky says he is already planning for next year's event and looking for the right opportunity to continue the message "This year will be hard to top, but we have a few ideas"

Rabbi Olitzky is committed to making a difference Beth El Synagogue has made an impact in the lives of Service members and their families as well as how the community understands the military "All members of the military - seaman to admiral, private to general- are heroes in my book I say that of those committed to civil service as well Those who serve to protect our freedom to benot only freedom to worship, but freedom to be," said Rabbi Olitzky

This is why the congregation of Beth El synagogue looks forward to the third Sunday of each month, when you'll find them working hard preparing packages to send to Service members protecting our country They are doing their part to serve those who serve them, the "Heroes Among Us"

February 12, 2015
by Maj Scott Hawks
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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