Rabbi Yosef Schtroks unwrapped a pair of black leather boxes known as tefillin, which contain ed parchment scrolls inscribed with Torah verses.
Traditionally, observant Jewish people use the tefillin during morning prayer services to signify the connection of their minds, hearts and actions to God. The device also symbolizes the rule of mind over emotion.
Schtroks and Rabbi Yossi Kamman are carrying the tefillin and a small Shabbat kit, which contains items to mark the Jewish day of rest, with them as they visit Ada this week. The men are on a mission to encourage area Jews to explore their heritage.
“Many of them may have had very little chance to connect with their Judaism in the recent past,” Schtroks said Wednesday. “So we’ll sit down with them. We’ll schmooze with them and just get together to do something Jewish, and that small interaction — that small encounter with them — can have a long effect and can sort of reignite their Jewish spirit within them.”
Schtroks and Kamman are participating in Roving Rabbis, a program designed to deepen the connection between Jews and their religion. Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson launched the program in 1943 to make Judaism accessible and inviting to Jews around the globe.
During Passover and Jewish high holidays, rabbinical students run seders and provide services for local Jews who would not be involved in holiday events otherwise. In the summer, the students meet with local Jews to share their passion for Jewish life and encourage them to reconnect with their roots.
Schtroks and Kamman were educated at a rabbinical college in Brooklyn, New York, and they wanted to be part of Schneerson’s vision. That prompted them to join the Roving Rabbis program, so they could reach out to other Jews in the United States and around the world during the summer.
“Later on, once we get married, the thing that we’d like to do is go out and start our congregation in a place which doesn’t necessarily have one yet or could use extra strength,” Schtroks said. “But in places like these, where there isn’t really space for a congregation because there are only 10, 15, 20, 30 individuals, then we’ll go and scout out these towns.
”As part of the Roving Rabbis program, Schtroks and Kamman arrived in Oklahoma a week and a half ago. They are based in Oklahoma City, but they have visited Stillwater and other cities in addition to Ada.
Word of mouth helps the two men decide which cities they should visit. In many cases, the people at Oklahoma City’s Chabad Community Center for Jewish Life and Learning know Jewish people in other communities. Other times, Schtroks and Kamman may meet someone who has Jewish friends.
When Schtroks and Kamman meet other Jews, they might enjoy an hour of conversation, perform a traditional ceremony or simply study together. Most of the meetings may take place in people’s homes or a local coffee shop.
The two men carry the tefillin and a Shabbat kit with them because many of the people they meet have had not a chance to put on the tefillin or observe Shabbat.
Those meetings help strengthen Jews’ connection to their faith, Kamman said.
“Doing something Jewish just brings out that spark that sometimes needs to be a little boosted,” he said.
Schtroks said he and Kamman have met seven Jewish people since they arrived in Ada on Wednesday. He added that people are excited about meeting the Roving Rabbis because they don’t get many opportunities to celebrate their faith.
“Just seeing the rabbi from the East Coast is sort of like a breath of fresh air for a Jewish person living in Ada,” he said. “People are really looking forward to do something Jewish and stock up, basically, for the future on what kind of things they can do to make their home more Jewish.”
To contact Schtroks and Kamman, call (917) 769-5094 or (770) 866-4946.
Reach Eric Swanson at email@example.com.