Chabad about town

Young rabbis visit Jews in North Idaho

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Rabbis Berel Bendet, left, and Levi Dubov are two of 350 Chabad-Lubavitch rabbinical students traveling to Jewish communities around the world through The Roving Rabbis Program. Bendet and Dubov will be in traveling through Idaho reaching out to members of the Jewish community.

COEUR d'ALENE - Rabbis Berel Bendet and Levi Dubov say they're having a delightful time traveling North Idaho and meeting its residents.

And, no doubt, those who get to meet the two from the Chabad Rabbinical Visitation Program during their tour of Idaho are enjoying Bendet and Dubov as well.

"Idaho is, in general, a very welcoming and warm place," said Dubov. "It's not like in the East where everybody is a bit snappy."

Bendet said the Coeur d'Alene-Post Falls community has been very open and welcoming.

"That's something we found very, very pleasant, and it's a beautiful thing to see," Bendet said. "It even broke our stereotypes."

Many of the non-Jews they meet are excited to have them in town.

"They're very interested in what we're doing," Bendet said. "It's nice to see."

Bendet, 23, of St. Paul, Minn., and Dubov, 22, of Princeton, N.J., had not visited Idaho before this summer's community outreach training.

They're in Idaho from Aug. 2 to Aug. 29, meeting mostly with members of the Jewish community in the region, often in one-on-one home visitations.

"In general, the people are extremely excited to see us, pleasantly surprised to see two rabbis walking down the street," Dubov said.

Their goal is to meet as many people as possible.

The Press managed to catch up with the "Roving Rabbis" at a Coeur d'Alene Starbucks on Thursday morning. They pulled up to the coffee shop in a Toyota Matrix with the Idaho license plate "Rabbi."

There is a small Jewish community in North Idaho, they said.

"We are here to offer them a Jewish experience, to learn a bit about Judaism and its teachings," Dubov said.

"Many of them have wanted to learn more about what Jewish life is about," Bendet said, such as, "What is a mitzvah?"

"Mitzvah is a commandment of God, in the Bible, in the five books of Moses, for all the Jews to do," Bendet said. "Many of them have not had the opportunity to do a mitzvah on a regular basis."

Some Jewish people they have visited have had questions about the faith in general and how it relates to different parts of their life, Bendet said.

Dubov said many Jewish people in places like North Idaho stay connected and learn about Judaism and Jewish life on websites like www.chabad.org, or its sister website, jewish.tv, which is full of videos and classes.

"They can participate virtually and find out just about what anybody in a bigger Jewish community would know," Bendet said.

Don't look for them to be taking a guided chinook fishing trip on Lake Coeur d'Alene, jumping off cliffs at Tubbs Hill, or napping on City Beach after renting paddleboards.

They're here to meet as many people as possible.

"It's not all business," Bendet said. They're stopping for meals.

"We're trying to use our time here to the fullest," Bendet said. "We're realizing that there's really a lot of people that can use and appreciate such a visit."

Bendet and Dubov, who became friends after meeting at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, N.J., have separately traveled to places like Ukraine, California, Oklahoma and Washington state as part of the program.

"As rabbinical students, we hope to one day be rabbis of a community," Dubov said. "Visiting Jews all over the country, all over the world, especially here in northern Idaho, it really helps us to understand the dynamic of a small Jewish community and their needs."

The rabbis will be in the Coeur d'Alene-Post Falls area until early next week, and then it's on to Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry around the middle of next week.

They can be contacted at bbendet@gmail.com or Levi@princetonchabad.org.

Rabbis Berel Bendet, left, and Levi Dubov order coffee at Starbucks Coffee on Government Way in Coeur d’Alene. Bendet and Dubov are traveling through Idaho as part of ‘The Roving Rabbi’ program to meet with members of the Jewish community.

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