Eleven-year-old Shaina Agami, preparing to celebrate her bat mitzvah next year, could have chosen any number of fun things to do to infuse meaning into the special day. Instead, the South Florida girl is working to ensure that people will always remember her brother Danny, a vibrant 25-year-old cut down in the prime of life in the middle of Iraq by an insurgent’s bomb.
Spc. Daniel J. Agami had enlisted in the U.S. Army after the Sept. 11 attacks because, his father Itzhak Agami said, “he felt a responsibility for his country. While abroad, he lost his best friend and six comrades – his unit, the First Battalion, 26h Infantry Regiment, Second Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division, was the hardest hit of any since the Vietnam War – but up until his own passing, he never lost his espirit de corps. A frequent guest of international news shows, he infused wit and humor into the drudgery of military life, even coining a name for his camouflaged skullcap; he combined the Hebrew term kippah and combat to come up with the Kombatica.
His sister is selling those same skullcaps, now emblazoned with his name and rank, to benefit the Aleph Institute, a Chabad-Lubavitch program that caters to the spiritual needs of Jewish military personnel and their families.
Wherever she goes, Agami likes to highlight not only her brother’s sacrifice, but also his sense of duty to G-d and country. By all accounts, Daniel Agami was a soldier’s soldier who was just as proud of being Jewish. Many who knew him fondly called him “G.I. Jew” and Rabbi Yossie Denburg, pulpit rabbi at Chabad-Lubavitch of Coral Springs, Fla., told The Associated Press in the days following the soldier’s demise that “he was the only Jew on base [and] openly proud to say he was a Jew.”
After the June 21, 2007 attack that claimed his life, Agami was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal.
Shaina Agami attends the Hebrew Academy Community School in Margate, the same institution where her brother honed his dedication to the Jewish community. Her mother says that, in keeping with the traditions of the school, Agami wanted to do her part to make the world a better place. (The actual Bat Mitzvah ceremony will take place on Veterans Day in 2011.)
“We deeply believe in the Aleph Institute’s cause and want to support them while keeping Daniel’s memory alive,” explains Beth Agami. “Shaina is doing it by selling the Kombaticas.”
Rabbi Menachem Katz, Aleph’s director of prison and military outreach, says that the skullcaps are a vital piece of a Jewish soldier’s uniform.
“It’s really important the soldiers get a camouflaged yarmulke that matches the uniform. It means more to the men when it looks like it is part of the uniform and doesn’t make them stand out or feel different,” says Katz. “It makes them feel that there is something special about being Jewish in the military.”
Among its many projects, Aleph supplies U.S. service members with special packages for Jewish holiday celebrations, arranges kosher food distributions, and prints camouflaged prayer books and bibles. It also trains and certifies rabbis who want to serve as chaplains in the military.
So far, Shaina Agami has raised $1,500. Each skullcap sells for a minimum donation of $5 and comes with a photo of Daniel Agami and a copy of the “Prayer for the Safety of the American Military Forces” in Hebrew and English.
Agami’s grandmother, Sandra Becker, is also selling the Kombaticas at several venues, including a local Jewish War Veterans post. JWV Post 498 in Teaneck N.J. is similarly publicizing the project and encouraging its members to sign on.
Agami, meanwhile, is making the rounds of synagogue boutiques and bazaars.
She’s on a mission to help Jewish soldiers, she says, “and at the same time, honor the memory of my brother and hero.”
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