One of my highlights from the Chabad leadership conference that I recently attended in NY, was gathering with some 6500 colleagues and friends, and hearing the announcement that Chabad was opening a new country; Zambia.
Many have never heard of Zambia, and most can’t place it on the map. But Zambia is now the 109th country with a Chabad. There is a tiny Jewish population there, and it has been over 75 years since a rabbi has lived there.
The young couple who chose to dedicate their life to the Jewish community there, are Rivky and Mendy Hertzel. Rivky was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and Mendy is from Rosh Pinah, Israel. Together, they made a decision to leave their families, friends and comfort zone, to move to a place where they could be in service of the Jewish community. A place where they feel they could do their part to strengthen our people with love, and ensure Jewish continuity, vibrancey and warmth.
They are a gifted young couple that could have chosen comfortable careers in this country where they currently live. Instead they chose the path of service to others. To live life a little higher.
Many are amazed by this. But Rivky and Mendy don't feel amazing at all. They feel they are living a life of meaning and purpose.
It’s not every day that you meet a couple like this. Where, may I ask, does their attitude come from?
As they were preparing to leave, an elderly Sephardic man from Brooklyn named Yerachmiel Glazer contacted them. He had a story to share with them. He told them that he was born and raised in Zambia, and lived there through his young adult life.
But there was more. As a teenager, he went to study in Israel, and while there met Chabad and decided to travel to New York to meet theRebbe. When he visited the Rebbe in 1969, the Rebbe encouraged him to go back to Zambia and share with the local Jews the newly acquired Torah knowledge he had learned in Israel. Although he was not a rabbi, and still only had minimal education, the Rebbe urged him to send letters to the people living there, with relevant information for the Shabbat and holidays, and travel back to bring them a shofar, megillah, tefillin and shabbat candles, and show them how to use them.
Glazer was so moved that this young couple would now be settling there permanently, that he gifted them all the correspondence he had from the Rebbe.
Who else would be looking out for the Jews of Zambia in the1960s and 70s if not the Rebbe, and who else would be moving to live there now in 2022, if not the Rebbe's students. Mendy and Rivky are young. They never met the Rebbe, but they did learn his teachings and were inspired by his revolutionary vision of Ahavat Yisrael. They watched the videos of him passionately talking about the need for a unified Jewish people, and a unified humankind, and they want to do their part in making it happen sooner.
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.