A warm day in Alaska

Friday, 5 May, 2023 - 5:03 pm

Last weekend I spent a few days in Anchorage, AK to participate in the annual conference of Chabad Rabbis in the western United States. As most of us serve smaller Jewish communities, we spent Friday, Shabbat and Sunday connecting, learning from each other and inspiring each other in our sacred mission to bring the Jewish flame and our holy tradition to our respective communities. It was a very uplifting few days and I loved hearing so many stories of Jewish growth and involvement. The future is brighter than we allow ourselves to think.

On Sunday, we had a few hour break between the morning session and dinner so we utilized the time to go see a small portion of the wonderful world Hashem has created. Our first stop was Mt. Alyeska, a beautiful ski resort about an hour away. While none of us had ski gear, we decided to take the tram to the top of the mountain to see some snow and take in the amazing views.

If the sun is out and it isn’t Shabbos, I try very hard to always have a pair of Tefillin with me and while I didn’t anticipate seeing any Jews up there, I took them along with me.

As we were riding the tram, my colleague Rabbi Yosef Kramer from Little Rock was chatting with a young man on the other side of the rather crowded car (we later discovered that it was the last day of the ski season and many were trying to get in on the slopes one more time, making it busier than usual) when he discovered that the boy he chatting with was Jewish and never had a Bar Mitzvah or a chance to wrap Tefillin before.

I quickly gave him the tefillin and a Yarmulke, and right there on the tram deck atop Mt. Alyeska, we celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. As we started dancing Siman Tov uMazal tov, all the rabbis that were present (about 30 of us) joined in and it was a magical moment.

I’m pretty certain this event will remain in the young man’s memory for quite some time and I am certain he will use this as a springboard to get involved in our amazing heritage.

Oh, and a few minutes later we chanced upon a 13 year old boy who just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah a week earlier at the Chabad center in Anchorage. He too was happy to wrap tefillin with us.

Although there was snow all around us and the temperature hovered around the freezing mark, I must say that for me, it was a very warm day; the warmth of our eternal Jewish flame.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mendel Greisman


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