Although food trucks have been around since the turn of the century, they have become a worldwide phenomenon in the past few years. Chabad has jumped on the bandwagon as well, and more specifically, Chabad-Lubavitch of South London Campuses. During the school year, it serves kosher delicacies to starving students, and in the summertime, it does a brisk business catering to the needs of tourists, mostly during the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. I came during that busy time to assist Rabbi Dovid Cohen, co-director of the local Chabad House, in manning the food truck.

Some of our clientele were affiliated Jews, and were glad that our presence at the Championships allowed them to nourish their souls as well their bodies. We also had many non-Jews stop by, eager to sample kosher fare. And then there was Jacob and Michael.

When Jacob ordered his food in a heavy Polish accent, we were sure he wasn't Jewish. As he was paying, he threw out a comment that his mother looked just like us. “Was she Jewish?” we asked.

“Yes, but I’m not really Jewish.”

“Jacob, let me tell you something—you are as Jewish as Moses. Did you ever have a bar mitzvah?”

“No, I told you, I’m not really Jewish.”


I pulled out my ever-present tefillin. “How do you feel about having a bar mitzvah right now?”

Within two minutes, Jacob was wearing tefillin and repeating the prayers. Afterwards, we danced with him in the streets to celebrate this important milestone in his life. Jacob confided that growing up in Communist Poland had left him with a permanent fear of expressing his Judaism, a feeling he could not shake even after his move to London.

Michael, a distinguished elderly gentleman, approached us with a broad smile. “I’m happy to see other Jews,” he told us. “And by the way, I hope the food is good.”

When I pulled out the tefillin, he looked perplexed. “I just started learning more about being Jewish. I’m sorry, I don’t know what that is.”

We gave Michael the brief explanation of tefillin, and bar mitzvah. “How do you feel about having your bar mitzvah today?”

“I would love that, rabbis. Thank you.”

After Michael was wrapped in tefillin, we showed him the prayers that we would recite together. We were floored when Michael began reading the Hebrew words on his own. In his desire to learn more about his Jewish heritage, he had taught himself Hebrew.