After an unsuccessful couple of hours trying to locate Jewish people in Vaudreuil-Dorion, a small off-island suburb of Montreal, we decided to head back to the city for evening prayers and dinner.

As we made our way out of the development, Berel yelled, "Mezuzah! I see a mezuzah! We parked in the driveway, I grabbed the bag with our paraphernalia, and we ran up the steps and rang the bell. It would be fair to say that our hearts were racing as we waited for someone to open the door!

After a few seconds, a woman appeared, a surprised look on her face. We quickly explained where we were from and what we were doing at her doorstep. She smiled, and warmly invited us inside.

"I don't really understand. There are no other Jews here in Vaudreuil-Dorion. What could you be doing here?"

We told her that we came to this city for that express reason—there are many people who think that they are the only Jews living in these parts. To her delight, we informed her that there are actually a few other Jewish families within a short drive from her house!

Reassured, the woman introduced herself as Rima, and shared a bit of her history. She and her husband were born in Russia, immigrated to Israel with their extended families, and lived there for a while. Unfortunately, her mother was killed in a suicide bombing during the intifada, and it grew too painful to remain in Israel, so they moved to Vaudreuil-Dorion a few years back.

“It's really tough and lonely out here with no Jewish people around,” Rima concluded, her voice heavy, “and the hardest part is that there’s no way to educate my young boys about their heritage."

“Listen, Rima, we have good news for you! There's a Chabad house ten minutes away in St. Lazare, and they would love for you to get involved! There are programs for you, for your boys, a synagogue!"

Needless to say, she was ecstatic.

Blowing the shofar for Rima and her children
Blowing the shofar for Rima and her children

We asked Rima if she would like to hear the shofar. She happily obliged, calling her boys from the living room to listen as well. We gave her Shabbat candles, and made up that we would return the next day to give her some more information, and try to meet her husband.

When we arrived at her house at the agreed upon time, Rima and her husband were waiting for us, and we were grateful that he was just as happy as his wife with our presence.

"Would you like to put on tefillin? we asked.

“Yes, of course, but I don't know how. My father never had the opportunity to put them on, and this would be my first time."

"Okay, so this will be your Bar Mitzvah.”

“But I’m not 13 anymore!” he responded.

“It’s never too late.” We helped him wrap the strap around his arms and head, while his wife and children took pictures of this monumental occasion.

With the tefillin still on, we blew the shofar, a combination that left him visibly moved.

Oh, and we had some exciting news to share!

"Just yesterday, we met another Russian-Israeli family, and they would love to meet you!"

"They already reached out to us!” Rima replied. “It’s so wonderful!”

We spent another half hour together, enjoying each other’s company, with the children especially loving every moment.

When it was time to go, we left them with some brochures from the Chabad house, contact information for Rabbi Nachum Labkowski, Chabad Rabbi to St. Lazare, and an invitation to join him and his family for Shabbat dinner.

We’ve since heard that they’ve gone, and a connection was established. Looks like it’s going to be a sweet New Year!