“Rabbis with kosher food will travel.”
Such is how Rabbi Mendy Margolin and his brother Rabbi Levi Margolin introduce themselves. They are participants in the Chabad Rabbinical Visitation Programme, and have been visiting the Jewish Community of Bermuda since Tuesday.
The aim of the programme is to travel to remote, isolated Jewish communities where they introduce a vibrant Jewish experience to the local population. Through personal encounters with families and individuals, they inspire meaningful exploration and celebration of Jewish life, identity and traditions. You literally see the Jewish heritage accessible to Jewish people worldwide.
These brothers were taking a breather at Rock Island Coffee when they shared their personal experiences both in Bermuda and on previous trips with The Royal Gazette.
Ever on the move, we met for a short time before having to finish some shopping for the Shabbat [the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism] meal which they are preparing especially for the community here. They have already met with members of the Jewish community in their homes and offices to give a boost to the heritage of Judaism.
Visits usually happen on a bi-yearly basis, but sometimes occur for special events or high holidays such as Passover and Yom Kippur. The Rabbis describe Bermuda as “fascinating” and they commented on how unique the Island is because, while its location is close to the US, the British influence is still very evident. Tourism will be pleased to note that they described the people here as very friendly more than even the other islands they’ve visited. Although they might be considered young only 25 and 26 years old they have a confident calmness about them that seems to attract people more than their attire.
“It’s been a good time here in Bermuda,” explains Levi, “because there’s a sense of accomplishment when you get to meet people to talk about Judaism.”
When referring to the programme that arranges for the rabbis to travel, the brothers agree that “it makes you a better person when you travel”. Adds Mendy, “Sometimes, especially with Americans, they think that New York is the best place in the world to visit, but when you see the world…it’s more interesting.”
With more than 200 groups of rabbis travelling to such remote places as Indonesia, Tibet and Bangladesh as well as around the US and Caribbean, it’s a positive programme for young men between the ages of 19 and 26 to experience the Jewish Culture on a worldwide stage.
Levi and Mendy carry literature, books and necessities for Jewish life. For a donation, you could even get a mezuzah a piece of parchment often contained in a decorative case, inscribed with specified Hebrew verses from the Torah.
When asked if they make a meal wherever they go, I’m told that their father runs a Chabad centre, so they are used to hosting. It seems that both spiritual and physical food come with these rabbis.
Modestly dressed in typical long pants and shirts mindful of respect for oneself and respect for the presence of God these two young men shared tidbits of their faith. They explained that Judaism is a very democratic religion and they feel that “Jewish is Jewish”. They don’t care for denominating or labelling as they feel it tends to divide, rather than unite, a people. They feel that people are good whether or not they are Jews.
“We’re not God’s policemen,” they say. “We’re not here to judge. Just because we don’t agree with certain things does not mean we have to enforce or views.”
Also, they stress that there is a difference between the laws of men and God’s law. There are things that are between men and men, and then there are issues that are between men and God.