We invited the older men in the small town of Zhitomir to the synagogue on Shabbat morning. After the service, we prepared a small Kiddush and shared some Torah thoughts.

One elderly man sat with us long after everyone else had left. Being a good Russian Jew, he polished off an entire bottle of “mashke” (spirits), and made sure we drank the entire bottle of Pepsi, thinking it was wine.

We sang Chassidic melodies together, and told him tales of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. We emphasized the Rebbe’s love for every Jew, even those living in small towns far from Jewish communities. This is the legacy the Rebbe left us, and this is why we’re here.

Our new friend began to cry. “Six million! Do you know that the Nazis killed six million?” He told us that the Nazis came specifically here, because this town used to be full of Jewish residents. All of his friends and family were killed. He escaped via horseback, travelling and hiding for 3 months, until he reached safety.

“It is incredible that you came here, so once again there can be Jewish life in this city,” he continued. “You show people how to be proud to be Jewish, and you do mitzvahs with them.”

Earlier this week we stopped a guy in the street and asked if he was Jewish. He nodded and asked if we had some time to come talk in his office. Of course, we went to his office and celebrated a Bar Mitzvah, as it was his first time putting on tefillin.

“What does a Jew have to do every day?” he had asked. We told him about Shabbat, tefillin, kosher, tzedakah (charity) and the concept of marrying Jewish. And we showed him ru.chabad.org, which houses a wealth of Jewish material in Russian.

“I want to buy tefillin,” he told us. So we helped him contact the nearest Chabad House in Zhitomir, three and a half hours away.

When we visited him a few days later, he told us that he had only eaten kosher fish that day, and had just placed an order for kosher meat from Kiev. We were extremely impressed and inspired.

We’ve been visiting him every day, and are excited to share in his spiritual journey. To make such major life changes after one meeting seems so illogical. Here, we clearly see the message of the Rebbe of the intrinsic power that exists within every Jew.