August 10, 2013

Rabbinical students spread heritage pride

James Bright, Managing Editor,
The Express-Star

CHICKASHA — Wandering around an area with stiffling temperatures is nothing new for those of Jewish heritage. The 40-year struggle of the Israelites is one of the most common stories associated with The Old Testament.

Today, there are Jews wandering around hot Oklahoma communities looking for leadership, and a place to celebrate their Judaism. Lucky for them, Roving Rabbiis are spreading such leadership like horse radish on matzo.   

Rabbinical students Moshe Sasonkin and Levi Misholovin are seeking out Jewish residents in and around Grady County to tell them of the Chabad Community Center in Oklahoma City.

"We let people know there is a place for them to go to worship and celebrate their Jewish heritage," Sasonkin said.

Roving Rabbis isn't unique to Oklahoma. The program is coordinated with Chabad communities across the world.

"This all started with my mentor Menachem M. Schneerson," Oklahoma City Chabad Rabbi Ovadia Goldman said. "His idea was that rabbinical students should in the summer time, if they wish, reach out to fellow members of the Jewish community in any way possible."

Schneerson founded the Chabad community, which are centers that serve the needs of the entire Jewish community; whether that's Torah classes, synagogue services or assistance with Jewish education and practice.

"Here, our mission is focused on raising Jewish pride and the Jewish experience at every level," said Goldman. "There are many Jews in the southern part of Oklahoma that can't get to a temple. We make it our pleasure to make sure and provide people in outlying communities with Jewish services."

Preaching from a traditional Jewish perspective with Hasidic philosophies, while still accepting everyone, Goldman said the center uses Roving Rabbis as a way to grow the Chabad community.

"From the moment we opened our center, our rabbi raised us to know that labels are for shirts," Goldman said. "We believe the motto, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew, and if you open your Bible, you'll see no difference between Jews. We will meet a person and deal with them at their level."

The acceptance doesn't stop at those with Jewish heritage. Goldman said the community offers their services to anyone looking for an inspirational Jewish experience.

"Last time I read The Bible, we are all, not just Jews, we all belong as children of God," Goldman said.

Roving Rabbis has been effective at spreading brotherhood to Jews in smaller communities in Oklahoma, according to Goldman. He said there is no doubt that giving people a phone number and a face to put with the Chabad community helps greatly.

"Every single Jewish organization in the city has said this program has helped in some way or another," said Goldman. "The interest level and pride in Judaism has increased tremendously. Not even the sky is the limit."

And such work will continue, according to Goldman, as long as The Richard and Glenna Tanenbaum Family Foundation receives enough in donations to maintain the rabbinical internships.

As for Sasonkin and Misholovin, their journey will continue throughout the week, bringing information and celebration to every Jew they can find.

The Chabad Community Center is located at 3000 W. Hefner Road in Oklahoma City.