The body of Maj. Stuart Wolfer, one of two soldiers felled by an April 6 rocket attack inside Baghdad's Green Zone, made its way back home Tuesday as Jewish communities thousands of miles apart mobilized to give comfort to his loved ones.

Wolfer, a 36-year-old Army reservist from Idaho, had been working out in a gym when the attack occurred. A married father of three, he grew up in south Florida, where his parents, Esther and Leonard Wolfer, still live. Known for his deep commitment to Jewish life, he served as the Jewish lay leader at Kuwait's Camp Buehring during a previous tour of duty.

"Stuart was one of the most dynamic men I've ever met, and anyone he knew would say the same about him," his widow, Lee Anne Wolfer, said in a statement released to the media. "He was special and he was loved. He made a difference in people's lives, and made a difference in how people dealt with one another."


Rabbi Shlomo Kugel, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the West Side in New York City, said that the news stunned his community, where Wolfer's sister, Beverly Nerenberg, attends synagogue and sends her children to Hebrew school. Community members quickly lined up to provide meals and child care for the Nerenbergs; some 200 people signed up to recite Psalms as a comfort to Wolfer's soul.

"The community response has been overwhelming," said Kugel. "They're helping the family deal with their children's questions, helping them with logistics, offering moral support."

In Des Moines, Iowa, where Wolfer's wife grew up and is planning on relocating, Rabbi Yossi Jacobson, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Iowa, and Rabbi Aaron Schwarzbaum of Congregation Beth El Jacob coordinated a funeral scheduled for this Friday.

Wolfer, a married father of three, was remembered by his widow as a man who “made a different in people’s lives.”
Wolfer, a married father of three, was remembered by his widow as a man who “made a different in people’s lives.”
"People are shocked," stated Jacobson, who was notified of the death by Wolfer's wife. "The community here is very supportive. We will be here to take care of the family."

According to Army Chaplain Col. Jacob Goldstein, just as friends and family members in the United States rallied together, soldiers in Baghdad quickly took up the responsibility of guarding Wolfer's body in keeping with Jewish laws governing treatment of the deceased.

"Because of the nature of his job, his dog tags didn't say that he was Jewish," explained Goldstein. "People were concerned that he'd be considered a non-Jew."

In the end, he was properly identified. From New York, Goldstein arranged for Wolfer's expedited transport back to the United States. The process could have taken weeks, but Goldstein, a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi, pushed for the body's return in a matter of days.

He said that Jewish soldiers saw Wolfer's body off on its final journey.

"His Baghdad Jewish family said Psalms while he was placed on the flight home," said Goldstein. "I told that to the family."

Jacobson expected a large turnout for the funeral.

"The entire Jewish community will unite in honor of this soldier," said the rabbi. "He was fighting for America and he died representing America. A lot of people will want to come and pay their last respects."

Additional reporting by Motti Seligson and Dovid Zaklikowski