Roving Rabbis Hit The Road In Rural Montana, Helping Far-Flung Jews Keep Kosher

Two “Roving Rabbis” are hitting the roads around rural Montana, carrying their mission of keeping kosher to rural Jews who may have lost sight of their dietary practices, ABC News is reporting.

Eli Chaikin, 23, and Dovid Lepkivker, 25, – the “Roving Rabbis,” as they like to be called – are members of a Brooklyn-based Orthodox Jewish movement known as Chabad-Lubavich. Based on the teachings of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson – known affectionately to his followers as The Rebbe – the movement aims to encourage Jews who may have strayed away from their traditional observances to get back into the fold, so to speak. Their Montana-based friend, Rabbi Chaim Bruk, invited the men from Brooklyn to Big Sky Country to help out.

“We’re celebrating a 40-year milestone when the Rebbe started this idea. I decided to rock Montana with that.”

For the Roving Rabbis, that means going door-to-door, locating Jews mostly on heresay: they’ve been known to “ask around” in towns they visit, trying to find Jews willing (or perhaps not) to hear their message.

“Any step you take is a positive step. It’s not all or nothing.”

When the Roving Rabbis found Beth Pagel, who had moved to Helena from Florida several years ago, according to New Europe, they found a polite – if not completely receptive – audience. Pagel told her new Rabbi friends that she’s familiar with the rules, although she doesn’t actually follow them.

“I’m not going to offer you a cheeseburger.”

The Rabbi missionaries then took a look around Pagel’s kitchen, taking note of the various symbols on food products that indicate varying degrees of kosher-ness. And the Rabbis were nothing if not thorough, looking at the canned goods, the spices, the bread, even the wine.

“I would venture to say you’re much more kosher than you think.”

After their inspection, the Roving Rabbis gave Pagel a pamphlet about keeping kosher, and a request: change one brand that she regularly buys to a kosher brand. However, once the Roving Rabbis were gone and a reporter asked if she planned to take the guys’ advice, Pagel shook her head “no.”

Undeterred, the Roving Rabbis found themselves at a grocery store, giving Karen Semple a lesson in finding kosher products on the grocer’s shelves.

“Dairy’s going to be a little bit complicated.All the meat is going to be a problem.”

As a plus for Ms. Semple – who had two children in tow – the Rabbis were able to find a brand of ice cream that’s perfectly kosher (Bryer’s vanilla, in case you’re wondering).

The Roving Rabbis’ tepid response to their mission hasn’t discouraged them: as of this post, they’re still on the road, with an eye toward the Canadian border.

[Image courtesy of: Attila JANDI]