Shepherding the lost back into the fold

IT’S never too late to explore your heritage, Rabbi Yosef Kagan says.

Take for example the Albury-Wodonga man in his 70s he and fellow Rabbi Srolik Winner met at the weekend — a man who found out just four years ago he is Jewish.

“He thought it was too late for him, that no one needs him,” Rabbi Kagan said.

“But on the contrary, every Jew is important, just as every person in the world is important.”

The pair have travelled from the US — Rabbi Kagan from Miami and Rabbi Winner from New York — as part of an annual Chabad of rural and regional tour, where volunteers like them set out to visit all Jewish people living in regional towns and hamlets.

The rabbis have spent four days in the region in their “Mitzvah mobile” to inspire and educate their community.

Rabbi Kagan said that in small towns with few Jewish people, there was often little chance for people to learn about their religion and culture.

From the man in his 70s, just discovering who he was, to another who thought he had missed out on having his bah mitzvah, the pair pass on that knowledge.

“In the big cities, there’s a lot of Jewish life but in the smaller cities or towns, there’s not that much,” Rabbi Kagan said.

“Every Jew (in a small town) thinks they’re the only Jew in town so, if we can inspire a little Jewish energy and pride, maybe it can unite the community.”

The Border’s Jewish community is tiny — 30 to 40 people — among them Avi Arditi.

Mr Arditi, who met the rabbis, said the region’s Jews did not socialise much, something he hoped to change.

He welcomed the rabbis as a way of not only uniting Jews but also as a way of exposing the broader community to their culture.

“It’s the beautiful thing about Australia — we diversify and embrace whatever that brings,” he said.

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