Josh Sherwin always knew he wanted to be a rabbi. He just never imagined it would take him to Afghanistan, where he’d officiate at a seder for one.
Josh Sherwin grew up with the rabbinate and the military in his blood. His father was a congregational rabbi, and one grandfather was a chaplain for three years in Casablanca, Morocco in the late 40s, while the other served in the Canadian Air Force in World War II. While he was in rabbinical school he heard a Navy chaplain speak and he knew that’s what he wanted to do. While stationed with the 2nd Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, he was deployed to Afghanistan. He was moving around several forward operating bases, when he landed at Camp Delaram.
“When I showed up, there was only one Jewish guy. He didn’t know anyone else,” Josh says. “Generally, you show up, they say, ‘There’s one Jewish guy,’ but you start talking and they say, well, ‘There’s Jones over there. And Smith over there. But in this case, they couldn’t find anyone but this one.”
Carlos Idaregga was the lone Jewish solider. “Doing a seder for one isn’t a big deal,” says Sherwin. “That’s kind of why I signed up.”
Idaregga was overwhelmed. Sherwin doesn’t think he would have done a seder on his own. But Idaregga was “really into it. The fact that thousands of miles from home, we could have a seder for the two of us was really amazing.”
But it wasn’t just meaningful for the solider.
“It was probably the most memorable seder I’ve been at and the most meaningful,” says Sherwin. “When you are talking about freedom from slavery and freedom to be who you are surrounded by a military presence in a hostile country – this guy’s commander gave him time to have this freedom; even when deployed, his country sent a rabbi to meet with him.
“For both of us, is was memorable and moving.”