A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Why former St. Louisan Eric Sirkin is a life long supporter of Israel’s Lone Solider Center

Brian’s mother is Eric’s first cousin. He is from Kansas City. His mother and her family all grew up in St. Louis. Brian was a lone soldier serving in Nachal. This photo was taken in 2011 at his “Kova” ceremony after he endured a 48 hour non stop grueling hike as part of his training.

The Lone Soldier Center aids 7,000 lone soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces by providing warm meals and a supportive community. The Center offers Shabbat and holiday meals for lone soldiers as well as medical and emotional support.

Lone soldiers are generally defined as servicemen or women without immediate family in Israel. Nearly half of the lone soldiers were born in Israel and came out of the ultra-Orthodox world, resulting in banishment from their own families.

Eric Sirkin, originally from University City, has lived in Israel since 2010. He is the outgoing board chair of the Lone Soldier Center. Sirkin, 71, explained why lone soldiers are unique and why he values them.

What first motivated you to support the Lone Soldier Center?

When I left St. Louis at the age of 17, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the ROTC program. I’ve always felt like it’s an important part of one’s citizenship to contribute back to the society, which you’re benefiting from. These are people who are not required to serve the country. They volunteer to do it.

What do you personally get out your work with lone soldiers?

Self-satisfaction that I’m making a difference and I’m helping people. These lone soldiers have incredible stories, what’s motivating them, why they’re here. And so it’s rejuvenating. Lone soldiers here in Israel are really revered by the population. The other regular Israeli soldiers see the lone soldiers serving and giving everything they’ve got to serve in their units.

There were 345 IDF soldiers killed on Oct. 7 and almost 30 have died since the launch of the Gaza operations. How important are lone soldiers to defending Israel and defeating Hamas?

Lone soldiers are more inclined to serve in combat units than the general population. Israeli conscripts in those units know that the lone soldier serving alongside them is there because they chose to enlist, not because they had to. Besides the heroic contributions made by the lone soldiers, they provide an incredible morale boost to the overall IDF population.

Now that the IDF is engaged in combat with terrorists in Gaza, what is the Lone Soldier Center doing to address the mental and physical stress Israeli soldiers are facing?

We are attending to their immediate needs, like providing gear that is missing in the issued equipment from the IDF.  We continue to provide meals, including bringing food to the bases. If they forgot something at their residence—a LSC residence or an apartment of their own—we were the ones to rush to their aid and get what they needed on their base. We have also been fielding questions and issues from concerned parents living abroad. Of course, we anticipate a huge upswing in psychological and social working needs at the conclusion of the active war. Much of this will be PTSD.

The IDF has a reputation for being one of the most well- equipped militaries in the world. While that addresses supplies to fight Hamas, soldiers without family or a support system in Israel have other needs while not on duty. How does the Lone Soldier Center support them?

The LSC provides housing for more than 170 male and female lone soldiers in our facilities in Jerusalem, Herzliya and Petach Tikva. We hope to expand this by another 35 beds in 2024. Perhaps most important is we form a community for them. By definition these solders are serving without family. So when it comes to Shabbat, the holidays, or just a shoulder to cry on,  we are there for them. Due to the small size of the country, the IDF structure presumes that the soldier has family to rely on for assistance. This is not the case for a lone soldier.

Sirkin’s cousin Myles Rosenblum is a lone soldier. His story was described in the Jewish Light last month.

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