Jewish "Peace Corps" Begins Tour of Duty


July 14, 2002

One hundred thirty rabbinical students will begin a summer tour of duty reaching out to Jewish communities worldwide. The students will visit small, isolated communities in places as remote as Vietnam, Surinam, Peru, and many others where only a handful of Jews make up the existing Jewish population.

Now in its 57th year, Merkos Shlichus, as the program is officially known, challenges Chabad-Lubavitch rabbinical students to apply their training out in the field while providing a vital service in locations where there is often no Jewish community infrastructure.

In an intensive 3-6 week stint, the students will become acquainted with their assigned communities, meet with its members and leaders, and evaluate their immediate needs. The students will come prepared to teach intensive courses in Jewish tradition, Talmud, kabbalah and the Jewish life cycle, adapting the program to the specific needs and interests of each respective community.

Paired in groups of two with individualized itineraries, the students travel with a library of Jewish books, tapes, videos and even Torah scrolls wherever necessary. In some communities, they will teach the basics of kosher, and arrange for the availability of kosher products. In others, they will teach community members how to establish a summer day camp for Jewish children. "It depends on the needs of each individual community," Rabbi Nochum Goldshmidt, a rabbinical student who was in Spain last summer and will be visiting the Far East this season.

"This is a program that has seen incredible results over the years," says Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, at Lubavitch World Headquarters, as he addressed a conference of rabbinical students that convened last week. "Scores of Chabad-Lubavitch centers have opened as a result of these initial visits by our rabbinical students. And we cannot begin to estimate the numbers of Jewish people whose lives have been affected in a positive way, as a result of this program."

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