When we approach someone with our tefillin, it’s hard to predict the response we’ll get. Sometimes, the person who seems interested in spirituality will refuse but the one sporting tattoos and piercings will readily agree. Over the years, we’ve learned to keep an open mind, a friendly smile, and most importantly, a very thick skin.

Last Friday, we set up a makeshift tefillin stand in a large shopping mall in Bucharest, Romania, which we were told attracted many Israeli tourists. It wasn’t long before we had our first “customer”, an outgoing Israeli named Dan. “Every Friday, the Chabad boys visit me and I put on tefillin,” he shared. “When they came last week, I told them I would be travelling to Romania, and would have to miss this Friday tradition. I was wrong! I walk into the mall and meet you guys right away, and now I won’t have to miss a Friday!”

Ofer was hesitant at first, but with a little persuasion he changed his mind. “You know, in Israel I never let anyone put tefillin on me. I’m not sure why, but it’s different here. And now that I did it, I see that it’s really not so bad.”

Tal greeted us with a huge smile. “Wow, Chabad is everywhere!” He wrapped the tefillin eagerly. We can usually count on meeting people like him, who instantly color the experience with their enthusiasm and positivity.

Earlier in the week we travelled to Bran, a tiny village about three hours from Bucharest, and worked our way through a crowded outdoor market. We spotted a Jewish gentleman and asked if he wanted to put on tefillin. He felt uncomfortable doing so in such a public setting and politely declined.

A while later, we came across a group of people performing in a play, including an Israeli. He agreed to put on tefillin, provided we all stepped off to the side. As we helped him wrap the straps around his arms and head and say the blessings, his cast members were making quite a commotion, snapping photos and shooting questions. It was quite a scene! When the crowd dispersed, we were surprised to find the fellow we had met when we first entered the market approaching us. “Where are the tefillin?” he asked. “I would like to do this mitzvah as well.” Clearly, G‑d arranged for him to witness the Israeli putting on tefillin proudly, which evidently made a deep impression on him, so much so that he turned the tables on us!

That’s the end of our Romanian tefillin tales for now. We’ve got more towns to visit during the next few weeks, and we look forward to more adventures.