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Our Last Stop Reminded Us Why We Had Come

Our Last Stop Reminded Us Why We Had Come

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We just returned from a five-week stint in Gainesville, Florida. Gainesville is almost synonymous with the University of Florida, one of the largest universities in the country, and we were assisting Rabbi Berel and Chanie Goldman, who have been serving its sizeable Jewish student population for close to 18 years.

We spent most mornings ‘tabling,’ which is campus lingo for setting up a table, or in our case a tent, and tryingWe spent the mornings ‘tabling’ to engage passersby. We invited them to join the Goldmans for Shabbat dinner, gave them information about some upcoming Chabad events, and offered the opportunity to put tefillin. We spent our afternoons traveling to nearby towns and visiting people in their homes and offices.

We decided to spend our last day Lake Butler, a tiny city about an hour away from Gainesville. We had been given one contact for that location, Sara K. Lake Butler itself was nothing to write home about, but when we found Sara’s home, it was hopping! Her son John and his family, who live in Jacksonville, had been camping in the area and were now visiting. Sara invited us to sit down and we immediately felt at ease. John told us he’d always known he was Jewish, but didn’t have a clue about what that actually meant.

We racked our brains trying to figure out how to best describe Judaism in a nutshell. But then John shared that he’d always had lots of questions but never had the opportunity to ask them. We ended up speaking for close to three hours. John was extremely receptive and repeatedly said that he was so pleased that we had met. He was astounded that two young rabbis would be visiting his mother way out in tiny Lake Butler! We knew we couldn’t leave before we asked John if he wished to don tefillin. He immediately agreed, and since it would be his first time, we made sure he knew what a momentous occasion it was, his de facto bar mitzvah.

We left them with the contact information of the Chabad rabbi in Jacksonville, andWe encouraged John to continue exploring several brochures about different aspects of Jewish life. We told Sara to expect more visits from other roving rabbis in the future, G‑d willing, and encouraged John to get in touch with his local rabbi and continue exploring.

This last visit really crystallized the multi-faceted vision of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, when he established this program. No Jew is ever too remote, too old, too uninformed, or too assimilated to be lost to the Jewish nation. It was our privilege to be the Rebbe’s emissaries in this vital mission and we can’t wait to do it again soon!


Shmuel Aben Moha & Gedalia Hertz
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