Tucsonan Alayne Greenberg is a military mom with a big vision. Since 2006, Greenberg has contributed to the Matza & More program sponsored by Jewish Family & Children’s Services, sending care packages to military members serving abroad. It all began with her son Isaac, who was deployed in Afghanistan.
As a little girl, Greenberg had heard stories from her father about celebrating Jewish holidays while he was in the service. When her son was deployed, she began sending toiletries and the necessary ingredients for a Passover seder not only to Isaac but to other soldiers serving overseas.
Greenberg found Jewish military members with the help of the Brave, a former listserv through United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which obtained information through the Jewish War Veterans of the United States. She believes she couldn’t have achieved what she does without the help of her friend and partner Josephine Harris, another military mother with the same vision. Harris discontinued her work with the project after the death of her husband.
Greenberg’s project attracted the attention of JFCS and they teamed to create an offshoot of Matza & More. Each year before Passover, with the help of 10 to 15 volunteers, Greenberg sends $75 to $100 worth of toiletries and food for a seder to military members. Together the group sends care packages to 35 to 40 active military members annually.
“It gives them a chance to connect with their roots,” says Greenberg. Recipients have told her how excited they were when they received the packages. It would inspire them, some of them admitting they hadn’t had a chance to celebrate holidays like Passover in years. It also allows them to keep their faith alive, considering only 1% of active military members are Jewish, Greenberg says.
“It’s offering a service to those who need that spiritual connection because it’s a time where they’re away from home, in a war zone, and emotions run high,” says Greenberg.
Greenberg has kept in contact with some of the service members she has sent packages to over the years. “Life is about relationships. We stay in touch with a lot of them.”
She has done other volunteer work throughout her life. In the 1970s through the 1980s, she was involved with the National Council of Jewish Women, until the Tucson chapter closed.
She also is on the board for Beacon Group, which helps developmentally disabled individuals, taking on a leadership role and participating with committees for programming and allocations. With the board, she lobbied the state legislature for funding for disabled people. Greenberg also was a Girl Scout leader for disabled girls in Tucson, and still keeps up with some of the past members.
“My youngest sister had Down syndrome, so I grew up dealing with a person with special needs in the family,” says Greenberg. “It’s so rewarding knowing you can help others.”
Greenberg will continue with her volunteer work, and this year like every year will be packaging goods with her grandchildren to send to the troops.
Editor’s note: This year, due to the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), JFCS has suspended its traditional local Matza & More deliveries. Call JFCS at 795-0300 for more information.