Korea, a peninsula fraught with the devastation of war, occupation, and tension; a people divided into two nations who envision a hope for a reunification.
As this hope may be a dream for now, the south of the peninsula is alive and well. Since the Korean War, the south has transformed itself from a third-world country into a first world powerhouse of the technological industry. Over the past four decades, a small number of Jews have called Korea home.
With the onset of the Korean War and the arrival of US troops, the number of Jews has seen a dramatic increase. Together with the continued economic opportunity and development, more and more Jews began to call South Korea home. Although many of these individuals had resided in South Korea for only a few years, only to return to the US thereafter, the continuous presence of the American troops provided the Jewish community with some form of growth and stability over the years.
For many years, the community relied upon visiting Rabbis as well as Chaplains stationed in the Republic Of Korea, for a few years at a time, for their spiritual guidance. This gave way for the growing need of religious stability, and leadership.
During the past few years, there had been a heightened interest in having a Chabad house and Rabbi to cater to and maintain the already overwhelming needs of the community.
Little more than a year ago, that request had been fulfilled by the arrival of Rabbi Osher Litzman, his wife and their family, whom for the past year have tirelessly worked on uniting the Jewish military and local communities.
Together with the arrival of Chaplain Rabbi Shlomo Shulman, his wife and young children this past summer, both Rabbis brought to realization the dream of unity amongst the community into a reality. Together, the rabbis have teamed up to create a more harmonious and unifying approach to caring for and giving themselves over to the community.
With the onset of the high holy days, both rabbis Shulman and Litzman, saw a need to bring over rabbinical students to help run and organize programs for both communities.
Rabbis Avi Lesches, Yossi Goldstein, Levi Pekar, and Shmuly Nadler, have truly helped to bring the meaning of the holidays to a whole new level.
They have helped to inspire the communities to become more aware of one another and for the individual’s to strive to be better people. The high holy days provided for both the communities and the rabbinical students to get to know one another on a more personal level.
Through conducting services and attending to the individuals’ spiritual needs, the communities over-all well being has been enhanced. Many in the military congregation have never heard of a Chassidic service, nor knew the true meaning behind a Chassidic melody.
During the days of repentance between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the young Rabbis utilized their time to reach out and encourage members of the community to add one more mitzvah. Be it donning the Tiffilin or by lighting the Shabbat candles, “Every Mitzvah counts,” as Rabbi Levi Pekar said.
Mr. Larry Rosenberg, the community’s lay-leader and most senior member, related, “these individuals have helped kindle the Jewish flame with their prayers, intellect, and melodies. We are truly thankful for what they have provided and have done for the growth of our community.”
Chaplain (CPT) Shulman described the overall presence of the young rabbis as, “there are no words to thank them for their time and effort which they put in and we hope to continue in the future to have groups of young Rabbis helping to infuse our community with spirituality.”
At the close of Yom Kippur, a community member turned to one of the young Rabbis and asked, “what motivates you to leave your family, to tend to a community that you have never visited, nor had any close connection with previously?”
To which the reply was simply, “when the opportunity arose to work with both civilian and military personnel in a manner which has not been done, to combine that with the philosophy of the Lubavitcher Rebbe which is imbued within us – to love a fellow Jew no matter of their religious background, observance, or preference – nothing could be better than such a thing!”
Many in the community hope that this small outreach towards the South Korean Jewish community will help it to continue its growth to greater leaps and bounds!