Although a neo-Nazi march in Whitefish, Mont., was postponed, possibly until February, Chabad-Lubavitch of Montana is continuing with its plan to “fight darkness with light.”
Neo-Nazis had scheduled an armed march against the small Jewish community in Whitefish for Monday, Jan. 16—corresponding on the secular calendar to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but canceled it after they failed to obtain the necessesary permits. This followed weeks of targeted harassment against members of the town’s 200 or so Jewish families.
“This is a chilling time for members of our community,” says Rabbi Chaim Bruk, co-director of the Chabad House based in Bozeman, which serves the entire state (another Chabad center in Missoula, three hours northwest of Bozeman, serves the community there and students at the University of Montana). “Agents of hate are trying to bully Jews to leave Whitefish. They are wrong; the good souls of Whitefish are not going anywhere.”
Bruk praised the proactive responses from local law-enforcement agencies, as well as elected officials, including Gov. Steve Bullock, in supporting the Jewish community.
In response to the march, Bruk has launched the Montana Chumash Project, an effort to give every Jewish family in Montana—some 1,500 households in all—a copy of the Kehot Chumash (The Five Books of Moses). Bruk sees the gift, funded by Jews and non-Jews around the country, as the ultimate act of defiance against darkness.
“We do not consider it our job to protest the haters,” says Bruk. “Rather, we wanted to respond with something they could never compete with. Darkness is allergic to light, and this gift is the ultimate act of light.”
The gift of a Chumash for every Jewish household is a fitting one, asserts Bruk, noting that the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, emphasized the importance of every Jewish home being filled with holy Jewish books to be cherished and studied, transforming the home itself into a beacon of light.
This is not the first time the rabbi has launched a widespread Jewish campaign. In the summer of 2013, he traveled around the state putting up mezuzahs on Jewish homes; he regularly tours the state promoting the observance of kashruth and other mitzvahs.
Some 1,500 households in Montana will get this edition of the Jewish bible.
Stephen Schnall, a retired physician and resident of Flathead County who lives about 40 miles outside of Whitefish, sees the project as a positive expression of the greater Montana community’s backing of the Jewish population in state that’s known as “The Last Best Place.”
Since first visiting Montana 20 years ago, Schnall stresses the “overwhelming support” for his Jewishness that he has experienced from Jews and non-Jews alike.
“Chabad is known for taking one light and using it to create many more,” says Schnall. “Something like this will really inspire others.”
Readers can take part directly in the Montana Chumash Project through Chabad-Lubavitch of Montana’s website.