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Roving Rabbis
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Then and Now: My Jewish High School Friend Revisited

April 25, 2018 9:19 AM

These pictures are of Jonathan and me. One is from when we were both in high school four years ago, and the other was taken a few days before Passover, when I returned to my hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa, as a roving rabbi, to assist Rabbi and Mrs. Cadaner of Chabad of the Quad Cities.

In my junior year of high school, Jonathan was the only other Jewish boy in my grade. For the most part, we socialized in different circles, but after I attended a Chabad summer camp, CTeen Xtreme, I embraced my Jewish identity and began to view my relationship with Jonathan in a new light. We had been the two Jewish boys who vaguely knew each other and didn't talk much. CTeen made me realize that Divine providence had placed us together.

I mentioned to Jonathan that I'd started putting on tefillin and asked if he’d be interested in doing it with me. Thus began a weekly routine of putting on tefillin together before school. As our awareness of Judaism grew, we translated our Jewish pride into action: getting an aliyah to the Torah, lighting the menorah, wearing tzitzit, putting up a mezuzah, and even wearing a yarmulke to public school.

After high school graduation, our mitzvah moments together seemed to become a thing of the past. I left the state to learn in yeshiva. Jonathan married his high school girlfriend and had a daughter. Phone calls became phone tag, and phone tag dwindled to silence.

My pre-Passover assignment was to distribute handmade shmurah matzah to Jewish people all over town. As I drove the familiar roads, I tried to think of people from my past who would appreciate some matzah, and Jonathan instantly came to mind. I decided to surprise him with a visit. It was great to be together again, and we spent several hours catching up. He's working with his father-in-law and raising a family. I'm continuing my studies to be a rabbi.

As though there'd been no interruption since our high school mitvzot together, he smiled and agreed to put on tefillin again. His wife snapped a picture and when she found an old tefillin photo from high school, edited the two pictures together.

We pledged to stay in touch, agreeing that in today’s virtual world there is really no excuse not to. I hope to be able to continue to share the light of Judaism with Jonathan and others, and that it will be a source of pride to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, who empowered all his followers to be leaders.

My First Experience as a Roving Rabbi

June 1, 2016 2:46 PM

My name is Lev Yaakov Voskoboynik and I live in Northridge, California. I used to be your average Los Angeles teenager—toiling in rigorous high school courses, partying when I could, and heavily involved in sports (I was a varsity tennis captain and a Los Angeles Tennis Champion). Life was good—busy and fun —but I always had a niggling feeling that something was missing.

Three years ago I attended the CTeen Extreme Summer Experience, and the impact it had on my life has been nothing short of incredible. In a nutshell: I am currently attending Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad in Los Angeles, and, in between attacking my studies I have created numerous outreach programs here to help share the light and beauty of Judaism, such as CTeen Yeshiva night, Shabbatons, and Jewish programming.

This Passover, I had the privilege of travelling to the Quad Cities to help the local Chabad rabbi, Rabbi Shneur Cadaner, with his holiday activities. This was my first stint as a “roving rabbi,” and when all is said and done it was the best experience of my life. I came into Iowa, as a home-grown California boy, having absolutely no expectations. I arrived to a thriving Jewish community with a rabbi and his family who are helping to connect all those around them to Judaism.

We hit the ground running. Assisted by my friend, Aharon Chanan Weindruch, we distributed close to 100 boxes of matzah to Jews throughout the Quad Cities within four days, as well as installing several mezuzahs and putting on tefillin with many in the community. The highlight, hands down, was the beautiful Seder, which brought together many of the local Jews, people who originally hailed from Israel, the FSU, and all over the United States. It was truly inspiring to witness a tactile expression of how we Jews are united, no matter who we are, where we live, or where we find ourselves in life.

Since I haven’t had the advantage of a complete Jewish education, I like to use every opportunity to expand my knowledge. Here are my notes from this Passover:

The Jewish nation is truly an eternal and unified people, an “eternal nation unto G‑d.” When we, as Jews, stay together and remember that nothing can stop us from connecting to G‑d and connecting with each other, that will bring the ultimate time of freedom, a time of breaking of one’s true boundaries, and connecting to the ultimate truth, the Torah. Next Passover, may we all sit together at the glorious Seder in Jerusalem!