Earlier this week, 100 copies of the Tanya were printed at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, a sprawling military installation that is home to over 12,500 active duty, reserve, civilian, and contractor personnel. The printing was facilitated by Sholom Posner in collaboration with the Aleph Institute.
In 1978, the Lubavitcher Rebbe launched a worldwide campaign to print the Tanya, the cornerstone of Chabad Chassidus, in every major city and location across the globe. The Rebbe explained that the printing of Tanya has a powerful impact in a place, bringing heightened spiritual awareness to the people living there.
When he was 15 years old, Sholom Posner stumbled upon an article in the Derher Magazine about the Rebbe’s Tanya-printing campaign.
“I can’t explain why, but something about it fascinated me,” Sholom says. “My parents are shluchim in Birmingham, Alabama, so I wanted to start printing Tanyas in our state.”
Sholom reached out to Rabbi Sholom Jacobson A”H, the venerable chossid who managed the Tanya-printing campaign until his passing last year, to ask if there was a way for him to get involved. Rabbi Jacobson told Sholom that a previous shliach had committed to printing Tanyas in certain cities of Alabama back in the 80s, but it never actually got done. Rabbi Jacobson gave the list of cities to Sholom, and entrusted him to complete the mission.
For the last five summers, while home from yeshiva, Sholom has traveled around Alabama printing Tanyas. “There was one location on the list that I kept pushing off: Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. The Air Force is like an alternate world, and I had no idea how to get in there,” he says.
Like all things military, the Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base is regulated by strict procedural and conduct codes. Or, as Sholom put it, “You can’t just walk in and start printing Tanyas.”
So Sholom reached out to Rabbi Elie Estrin, a U.S. Air Force Chaplain and the Aleph Institute’s Military Personnel Liaison, for help. Rabbi Estrin had previously been stationed on the base and had been graciously hosted by the Birmingham shluchim several times during that period of his service.
“Sholom asked me if I could help facilitate a Tanya-printing on the Maxwell Air Force Base,” says Rabbi Estrin. “By incredible hashgacha pratis, there were several Jewish airmen with whom I have a close relationship attending an eight-week course at the base. I got in touch with them, and we started to coordinate the details.”
Working through several channels, Rabbi Estrin managed to gain permission for the unusual request. Sholom, and his chavrusa Yossi Friedman, received official clearance to visit the Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and print Tanyas.
On Tuesday, June 28 (29 Sivan), Sholom and Yossi drove several hours to the base with three sixty-pound printers in their trunk and a mountain of paper. When they arrived, they were greeted by Captain Henry Baron, a C-5 Galaxy cargo jet pilot, and Captain Jake Masin, an acquisitions officer, who, along with several others who were unable to be at the printing, had worked together with Rabbi Estrin to make this moment possible.
The group went to a lounge in the Squadron Officer School complex and proceeded to print 100 copies of the Tanya. (These copies will be bound in a camouflage cover with spice brown letters, the current uniform colors of the U.S. Air Force.) Finally, as per chassidic tradition, the group of yeshiva bochurim and airmen sat together and studied chapter 32 of Tanya.
Rabbi Estrin reports that the Aleph Institute plans to utilize their vast scope of military connections to print more Tanyas on remote military bases in the near future.
Captain Baron remains touched by the experience. “It was so simple yet so uplifting,” he said. “Just one of those tasks you wouldn’t expect to be fun, but once you really think about what you’re doing and how easy it is, you realize just how simple mitzvahs really are sometimes. It’s special.”
“This was my first exposure to the Tanya, and of all things, I never thought it would happen during Squadron Officer School at Maxwell AFB,” added Captain Masin. “SOS is about leadership and personal growth, and meeting Sholom and Yossi helped lead to spiritual growth as well.”
This article was originally published at Collive.com on July 2, 2022.