Soon after moving to Montana as the state’s first full-time Chabad-Lubavitch emissary last year, Rabbi Chaim Bruk met U.S. Sen. Max Baucus in Washington, D.C.

On Sunday, Montana’s senior senator reciprocated the meeting, this time by toasting the one-year anniversary of Chabad-Lubavitch of Montana during a grand brunch in Bozeman.

“I am inspired by your efforts to show Montanans the Jewish religion and what it means to be a Jew in our state,” said Baucus, a five-term senator and chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. “I think you will find, and you are finding, Montanans are very receptive.”


The celebration in honor of the rabbi and his wife, Chavie Bruk, showcased the strides taken by the Jewish community of Montana in a short period of time.

“If you ask me today, what is the greatest accomplishment of Chabad in Montana?” the rabbi said in his remarks, “I would say loudly and proudly that people now know that you can be as Jewish in Montana, as in Florida, New York or Jerusalem. It may be a bit harder and slightly more challenging; we may not have a weekly minyan, a kosher bakery, or a Jewish day school, but traditional and authentic Jewish life is returning to the Treasure State after more than half a century.”

Dr. Mick Lifson told the 60 people gathered that when he and his wife Holly moved to Montana from Baltimore, they did so to “fish, hike, ski and enjoy the Big Sky and the quality of life here.” Even when they found out that the Bruks were moving out at about the same time, they thought that the Chasidic lifestyle represented by the couple was “not our cup of tea.”

Beyond Expectations

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, right, congratulated Rabbi Chaim and Chavie Bruk on their first year spent as Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in Montana.
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, right, congratulated Rabbi Chaim and Chavie Bruk on their first year spent as Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in Montana.

“So what are the chances the we would move to Montana and increase our understanding and observance of Judaism?” asked the doctor, now a regular at the Chabad House. “I would have lost that bet.”

“When Holly attended Chavie’s monthly women’s meeting, she learned the significance and beauty of making challah,” he relayed. “We had a wonderful Shabbat dinner [that week] with the challah as the centerpiece.

“We have chanted the Friday night blessings for decades, but this clearly was different,” added Lifson. “It was more spiritually moving and significant.”

For his part, Baucus related that when he was in college, he traveled to Israel and was struck by the warmth of the Jewish religion. He said that seeing Jewish life flourish in his largely rural state brought back memories.

“It’s great being here,” said the senator. “Part of the Jewish tradition that has always meant a lot to me is your dedication to excellence, your dedication to the truth. I find that very appealing.”

Before Baucus left to go back to Washington, Bruk took a moment to bless the senator. He based his text on a blessing written by the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, in the 1940s.

Specifically, Bruk prayed that G‑d would “strengthen and encourage” Baucus and his colleagues.

“Bless their efforts to save this land and the neighboring lands from war and destruction,” he continued. “And wherever they turn in the cause of humanity and on behalf of this land, and for the benefit of Your people Israel, send the angels of blessing and success to welcome them.”

“Thank you very much,” responded Baucus. “It touched my heart.”