Two men in broad-brimmed black hats and dark suits are roaming Lafayette these days, rabbinical students working to reconnect Jewish residents with their heritage and to “reinvigorate people’s spiritual connections.”
Rabbis Mendel Weinfeld and Mendel Erlenwein, two 19-year-old rabbinical students studying in Brooklyn and here for the next three weeks, have adopted a low-key approach to their task.
“We’re very relaxed. We’re not intimidating at all,” says Rabbi Erlenwein, noting that informal chats are a good way to reach those who many not be interested in worship services. “We want to ignite a spark.”
The Roving Rabbis program started more than 60 years ago and is run by Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
Their attire can draw attention, they admit, but the Lafayette residents they have met so far mostly want to talk about everyday Jewish life and ask spiritual questions.
“Sometimes the simplest questions are the most challenging,” Weinfeld says.
Word of the visiting rabbis has spread by word-of-mouth and Rabbi Israel Labkowski, regional director at Chabad of LaMorinda, says response has been “amazing.”
To reach Rabbis Weinfeld and Erlenwein e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 925-434-1745.