San Diego, the second largest city in California, is home to approximately 100,000 Jews, whose Jewish needs are served by more than 20 Chabad centers. We were there to assist with outreach efforts over the summer, and between meetings with individuals we had contacted beforehand, we spent time visiting local businesses and shopping centers, hoping to bump into curious Jews.

We were scheduled to visit Alex at 12:30pm so we decided to spend the morning canvassing the area. We met Bruce, who appeared to be in his mid-60s, and he told us that he was Polish and had been raised Catholic. For some reason we decided to probe further, and discovered that his maternal grandmother had been Jewish, making Bruce Jewish, too.

Understandably, he was surprised and somewhat confused, so we settled in for a long chat. We tried to give him a good overview of what being Jewish is all about, as well as the contact information for a Chabad rabbi in the area with whom he could connect on a more long-term basis.

We parted ways and headed off to our meeting with Alex in great spirits. Alex is a gregarious senior citizen, originally from Russia, who comes to the Chabad House on occasion. He greeted us warmly and invited us inside.

Alex told us about a recent trip he took with his family to the East coast, during which they experienced two car accidents within a span of three days. Thank G‑d, no one was seriously hurt, but they were quite shaken up and wondered why this had happened and why they had been spared.

While of course we can’t know why things happen in this world, it’s well known that a mezuzah provides a tremendous source of protection for the inhabitants of the home. The delicate handwritten letters, however, are susceptible to damage from the elements, easily rendering the mezuzah non-kosher, and therefore it is recommended that they be checked once every three to four years.

We removed the mezuzah from Alex’s front door and carefully unrolled the little scroll. This process should be performed by a sofer, a certified scribe, but due to the extenuating circumstances we were going to give a quick glance ourselves. Bingo! Twice, the Hebrew word baderech, which means ‘on the way’ was missing letters. We showed it to Alex, who was had tears in his eyes as he carefully affixed the new mezuzahs we had provided.

It is humbling to be part of the global effort to facilitate the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s vision, if only for a few weeks. We will always know that we’ve had a small share in helping to enrich the lives of our Jewish brothers and sisters.