A couple of student rabbis were in the Battlefords this week, looking for Jewish worshippers in the area.
Rabbi Mendel Super from Melbourne, Australia, and Rabbi Eli Citron from New York City are both students with the Chabad organization in Brooklyn, New York. They are the “Roving Rabbis,” among the many rabbinical students within the organization who travel to different parts of North America and the world seeking to connect with Jewish people.
According to their website Chabad.org, Roving Rabbis is part of the “Merkos Shlichus” program in which hundreds of rabbinical students travel to small Jewish communities around the world. Roving Rabbis was founded in 1943.
Rabbi Mendel explained that as part of their rabbinical training, both he and Rabbi Eli were assigned a part of the world where they could connect with local Jews.
They are now on a three-week tour of Saskatchewan, and were just beginning their third week when they arrived in North Battleford on Monday.
Their goal, Rabbi Mendel said, was to “meet with Jewish people, connect them with other Jewish people and, you know, just teach them a little bit about their heritage and Jewish traditions.”
The two rabbis were easily identifiable in the Battlefords, driving in a vehicle with a Menorah placed on top.
There is not a large Jewish presence in North Battleford. The rabbis explained that according to Census data only 45 people identified as Jewish in the community. They hoped to catch up with as many as they could.
“Even if there’s just one or two, it’s worth it,” said Rabbi Eli. “That’s sort of our mission, to find anyone you can.”
The rabbis were particularly interested in coming to an area with a very limited Jewish infrastructure, as the local synagogue had ceased operations years earlier.
“It’s very fascinating to us as rabbis,” said Rabbi Mendel. “Going around the province we definitely learn a lot about the Jewish history.”
So far the trip has gone well. The Roving Rabbis had been in Prince Albert the week before and they planned to head towards the south of the province by the end of the week.
“We’ve had a really good reception. People are quite happy to see us,” said Rabbi Mendel. While there had been Chabad visits to Saskatchewan before, there hadn’t been too much outside of Saskatoon or Regina for the last decade, so they have been greeted with enthusiasm.
The Roving Rabbis’ visit to Saskatchewan has been sponsored by Chabad’s regional affiliates in Saskatoon and Regina.
Their intention was to stay in the Battlefords for at least a couple of days, but the student rabbis said they were open to extending their visit depending on how things went. Those in the area seeking to connect with the Roving Rabbis can contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call them at 1-718-308-5516.