By Rabbi Yitzchak Sebbag, co-director of Chabad of Passaic-Clifton in Passaic, NJ
Nine years ago, when we moved to Passaic as Shluchim of the Rebbe to spread the light of Judaism, my wife was asked “Why did Chabad move to town? Everyone is Torah observant here…”
Standing in the doorway of our home, she responded, “My husband had the privilege of assisting 11 Jewish men this past Friday to don tefillin on his weekly Mivtzoim route in the Passaic-Clifton area.”
As we tell our community members, Chabad is here to care for every Jew in a loving and nonjudgmental way, regardless of their level of observance.
As I reflect on his question 9 years later, I am proud to say that Chabad has continued to flourish and affect many Jews — both observant and nonobservant — through its educational programs.
We continue to serve the Passaic-Clifton community, fulfilling the Rebbe’s vision that “No Jew should be left behind.” We were sent to Passaic with a “one-way ticket” ensuring that when going on Shlichus, one is committed to their community without any reservations.
A few days ago, I met Joseph and asked him if I could assist him in putting on tefillin. Joseph responded, “No thanks, I don’t practice — I’m a Jew at heart,” and showed me the gold necklace he always wears; when playing soccer, taking a shower, going to sleep. There were three gold charms on it: a tiny Mezuzah, the Star of David, and the letter “J” for his initial.
I then asked him if he would join us for this Friday night Shabbat meal or Rosh Hashanah service. He responded in the negative and said he does not want to be judged by his actions, and although he is not observant and is married to a non-Jew, he smiled sadly as he told me that he had a Rabbi and a Priest at his wedding to give him “double blessings” (oy vey)!
I assured him that our job is not to judge him. Our job is just to help him perform another mitzvah, one more good deed.
This brought tears to Joseph’s eyes as he profusely thanked me for “doing him a mitzvah,” which also reminded him of his upcoming birthday on Yom Kippur, and for helping stir feelings in his Jewish soul.
Two months ago, our Sunday family trip was our visit to Ted as we celebrated his birthday at 94 years old! My daughters were thrilled to throw him a birthday party.
As I quote my 6-year-old daughter, Yocheved, “Tatty, this was the most funnest birthday party I ever went to! Even though there were no games & prizes, Ted was smiling the whole time like we brought him the best birthday present ever! I’m so happy that Ted was so happy.
“But Tatty, why was Ted crying?”
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