Judaism in a suitcase

Two 21-year-old rabbis are finding how easy it can be to say “shalom” in Red Deer. Yossi Matusof of Calgary and Moshe Raices of Iowa are the “Roving Rabbis”, bringing Judaism in a suitcase to Central Alberta and beyond this summer.

Roving Rabbis Yossi Matusof

Two 21-year-old rabbis are finding how easy it can be to say “shalom” in Red Deer.

Yossi Matusof of Calgary and Moshe Raices of Iowa are the “Roving Rabbis”, bringing Judaism in a suitcase to Central Alberta and beyond this summer.

They expect to clock thousands of kilometres in their silver Toyota Corolla, bearing licence plate “Chabad1”, as they seek out Jews in rural areas.

They didn’t have to go far in Red Deer.

Walking through Bower Place Shopping Centre, they discovered a handful of Jews including Netanel Sofer. The young man from Jerusalem, Israel, is spending 10 months in Red Deer selling Dead Sea products.

Sofer easily identified the Orthodox Jews by their dark suits and wide-brimmed hats and the long beard that Raices is growing.

“It’s nice to see Jewish people here,” said Sofer. “It’s good for me.”

Last summer, Matusof and Raices wound up in Red Deer on the last day of their tour. They found one day wasn’t enough.

“We realized how receptive people were here, so this time we made Red Deer our first stop,” said Matusof. “Many people are excited about Judaism. They are very excited to learn so it’s definitely somewhere where we want to spend a lot of time.”

They connect with and inspire those who might feel isolated in their Jewish faith.

And they increase public awareness, too.

On their trip to the mall, one shopper was heard saying, “they look Amish.”

Raices said he hails from a community about an hour away from an Amish community, so he understands the comparison with the sect of Christians who wear plain, dark dress.

“We haven’t had any discrimination,” said Matusof. “People are very welcoming.”

They approach people to see if they are Jewish or if they know someone who is. Sometimes they’ll hear “shalom”, a Hebrew word for hello, as they walk by.

They were in Red Deer on Tuesday and Wednesday and plan to return soon, possibly Friday. Most people hear of them through word of mouth.

“Here, you have a community that is growing and they are looking to build a synagogue,” said Raices. “We’re part of a program which is specifically for a community that isn’t connected or is too small to have a rabbi or a synagogue.”

The Roving Rabbis was conceived by New York Rabbi Menachem Schneerson in 1943 and since then has bolstered Jewish communities worldwide. This year, more than 500 young rabbis and senior rabbinical students are visiting over 11,000 communities.

For the second year in a row, the Jewish organization, Chabad Lubavitch of Alberta, is conducting the Roving Rabbis program. Raices and Matusof toured last year, too.

“The program is all about caring for every Jew,” Raices said.

They’ve packed their car with videos, brochures and kosher food. They give out Shabbat candles to women, so they can light them on Friday night. Shabbat is considered a day of rest in Judaism and is observed from sundown Friday to Saturday night.

Last summer in Red Deer, Raices and Matusof gave away six mezuzahs, small pieces of parchment inscribed with passages from the Torah.

They placed tefillin, Bible inscriptions attached to long straps, on a store owner right in his Red Deer shop.

“It’s a Jewish ritual where we pray every day with these on,” said Matusof. “That’s something we try to do with people if they are interested. It’s very special for every Jewish man over the age of 13.”

Matusof and Raices are Hasidic Jews.

“There’s a definite emphasis on joy and the love of a fellow Jew,” said Matusof.

The young rabbis are just a few years from completing their lengthy rabbinical studies. They’ll be on the road until Aug. 19.

To get in touch, call 587-999-2815 or go online at www.chabadalberta.org/rovingrabbis

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Springbrook Skate Park gets financial boost

Province approves $125,000 grant for proposed skate park

ReThink Red Deer gets thumbs up from city on pollinator barn structure

Group is hoping to get a $40,000 building grant

Team Alberta athletes arrive in Red Deer on Saturday for pre-games orientation

Excitement is building with less than a month to go, says Team Alberta spokesperson

UPDATED: STARS Lottery is back

Lacombe STARS patient tells his story

Former Red Deer man named Mr. Gay Canada

To compete in Mr. Gay World

Trudeau says politicians shouldn’t prey on Canadians’ fears

The Prime Minister was speaking at a townhall in Ontario

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says

China has called Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ‘politically motivated’

In limbo: Leftover embryos challenge clinics, couples

Some are outright abandoned by people who quit paying storage fees and other couples struggle with tough decisions

Netflix rejects request to remove Lac-Megantic images from ‘Bird Box’

At least two shows on Netflix’s Canadian platform briefly use actual footage of the 2013 tragedy

Teen vaping is an epidemic: US government

E-cigarettes are now the top high-risk substance used by teenagers, outpacing cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana

‘I never said there was no collusion,’ Trump lawyer says

President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani says he has ‘never said there was no collusion’

Body of Canadian miner found after African kidnapping

Kirk Woodman’s body was discovered 100 kilometres from the site where he worked for Progress Mineral Mining Company in Burkina Faso

Most Read