Two young Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis will visit the Cayman Islands beginning 12 August as part of their summer-long community outreach training.
They will be equipped with books, programming ideas and Jewish cheer to reinforce Jewish pride and enhance Jewish education.
The pair, Rabbis Yitzchok Bendet and Mendy Shanowitz will be hauling suitcases of DVDs, brochures, books, Shabbat candles, mezuzahs (a religious scroll placed on doorways), and kosher food, and will be working closely with Jewish communities. The pair regularly teaches classes, including one on Kabbalah, and host Shabbat dinners in the cities they travel. Bendet and Shanowitz will reach out to unaffiliated Jews to help them rediscover their heritage and will be spending much of their time on house-to-house visitation.
Grand Cayman is the first stop on the young rabbis’ three-stop trip to the islands this summer. Jews all over Cayman Islands will be studying Torah, baking challah bread, and exploring their Jewish heritage, many for the first time due to the pair’s efforts.
Rabbis Bendet and Shanowitz are part of a worldwide programme sometimes referred to as ‘the Lubavitch Summer Peace Corps’ or ‘Roving Rabbis,’ in which close to 400 young rabbis and senior rabbinical students visit thousands of locations worldwide, including countries like Bulgaria, Bosnia, Cambodia, Croatia, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Portugal, Uruguay and Vietnam.
The programme was conceived and developed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, more than 60 years ago and has been responsible for bolstering Jewish communities and individuals worldwide.
In years and locations past, the reception has always been warm.
“Especially in my community [which is a very] small community, where there is no rabbi to conduct Jewish things, it’s unbelievably important for the people that the Lubavitch emissaries come here,” said Nissan Anavian, the community organiser in Kobe, Japan. “They bring light to people sometimes completely in darkness.”
But they don’t necessarily travel abroad. They also visit locations closer to their home base of New York, like Mississippi, Wisconsin and Saskatchewan, Canada. While the communities they help are not necessarily lacking in I-pods or microwaves, many are lacking in Jewish activities-both social and religious.
Chosen for their rabbinic proficiency and their people skills, a pair travels to each place to meet with Jewish communal leaders and educators as well as individuals.
Sometimes the only way to locate the Jews is by guesswork in the local telephone book. Despite proficiency in many types of community outreach, ‘the most meaningful time for me is that spent in personal, one-on-one conversations with families and individuals,” said Bendet. “Many people approach us seeking advice on how to maintain or bolster their Jewish identity, especially where the Jewish infrastructure is small.”
In Stockholm, where emissaries went in the past, this was certainly true. Mr. Adam Rafman, outgoing chairman of religious affairs for his community, said that because of the students’ hard work, “the young people become more interested in Jewish life and everything Jewish.”
“We all look forward to their visits because they touch so many lives when they come,” said Tommy Rybar, vice president of the Guatemalan Jewish community. “[Then] they go home, but leave behind a fire that will burn for a long time.”
Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, sponsors the outreach programme.