The shliach who has been grabbing headlines over the past week as the first Air Force chaplain in 30 years with a beard has yet another fresh beginning to the year: A repurposed RV = a brand new Mitzvah Tank!
Rabbi Elie and Chaya Rochel Estrin, shluchim at the University of Washington in Seattle, just acquired a 33 foot Holiday Rambler to serve as a mobile classroom, kosher lunchroom and roving statement of Jewish pride.
“Over the past year, the campus has expanded, and that has scattered the Jewish population,” Estrin explains. “We felt that it was becoming too difficult to attract people by standing in one place or trying to get them to come to our Chabad House.”
A change was needed, one provided by a providential conversation with a local lawyer.
“I was having lunch with a community figure, and we were discussing the situation. He suggested a boat docked on the west side of campus would be a good attraction, but I felt that would be cool, but not very flexible. And then, on a drive a few days later, the thought hit me – we need a Mitzvah Tank!”
Finding new RVs prohibitively expensive, Estrin focused on finding a used vehicle. He and a friend, a Jewish mechanic, found themselves canvassing 200 miles of the state.
“We looked at RVs from Camano Island all the way down to Chehalis until we found this one – an older model with a beautiful interior and in great mechanical condition.”
Alumni and donors pitched in for the $10,000 for the motor home, and soon the RV went from being a Holiday Rambler to perhaps, in the words of one alum, a “Holy Rambler”.
The vision is for the tank, with new decals dubbing it as the “JewsCruise: Judaism on Wheels” and its own Twitter and Facebook handles, to patrol the University of Washington and eventually even distant Washington state campuses, bringing Jewish light, life and pride to areas usually not served.
Chabad at University of Washington’s new wheels are already roaming Seattle’s University District, although it has yet to receive its new decals and other Mitzvah Tank retrofitting. To support the expenses of the Tank, friends set up a site to garner donations. Go to http://www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/jews-cruise-chabad-at-uw-mobile-home/235116 and make a donation directly to the ongoing expenses of this special program. If you would like to sponsor the Tank, email Rabbi Estrin at firstname.lastname@example.org.