September 9, 2011

Roving Rabbis reach out to isolated Jewish communities

by Jan Harris

Jewish teenagers have spent the summer bringing Yiddishkeit, or the Jewish Way of life, to small communities of Jews in northern England, who may have become isolated from Judaism.

The boys, from Yeshivas Lubavitch Manchester, a higher education centre in Salford, are part of the ‘Roving Rabbis’ programme, which involves hundreds of rabbinical students reaching out to small Jewish communities around the world.

The students, who are chosen for their rabbinic skills and ability to relate well to people, gain experience in outreach work while reuniting Jews with their faith.

The group visited Jewish homes in York, a city where 150 Jews were killed in a pogrom in Clifford’s Tower in 1190.

Although Jews were absent from York for hundreds of years after the massacre, the group managed to locate 25 homes with a Jewish resident.

Many had lost contact with Judaism, but were given a Mezuzah to place on their doorposts – a small case which acts as a reminder of God’s present and his commandments.

Another group of Roving Rabbis visited the Isle of Man last month, where they showed members of the Jewish community how to put on tefillin and light Shabbat candles.

It was the first time that one 60-year old man had put on Tefillin, small black boxes containing hand-written biblical verses, which Jewish men strap onto their heads and their arms each weekday morning.

The Roving Rabbis programme is organised by Chabad-Lunbavitch, the largest Jewish outreach arm of Judaism.

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