Sunday, July 22, 2007

Cancun Gets Rabbi And Sees Revival Of Judaism

Rabbi Mendel and Rachel Druk, along with their eight-month-old daughter Mushka, have just made Cancun their new home. The family will service the needs of the 200+ Jews living in Cancun, as well those in as Mexico City, the island of Isla Mujeres and other nearby locales. They will also cater to the thousands of Jewish tourists who visit during spring break and year-round.

According to Samuel Rovero, past president of the local Jewish community, “We’re very excited. We truly believe that it is better for the community to have a spiritual and religious authority. Without a rabbi, it cannot be the same.”

Rabbi Druk, a 25-year-old native of Detroit, was most recently was the teen director of the Jewish Learning Institute, a Chabad-Lubavitch educational program that provides the curriculum for classes at hundreds of synagogues and community centers across the United States. Before that, he directed the Chabad-Lubavitch movement’s search-and-rescue response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans; one year prior, he was doing the same thing, but in response to the 2002.

Tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia.

Before relocating to Cancun from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the Druks visited Cancun’s Jews, most recently during Purim, smack in the middle of spring break. More than 100 students showed up for the megillah reading and festive Purim bash that the Druks arranged. They also set up and have been regularly maintaining the website:

More immediately, the Druks plan to hold community-wide Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services in a hotel this fall. Said Rabbi Druk before leaving New York earlier this month, “Already we have 30 reservations. Not a day goes by when I don’t get e-mails from people.”

For an American family of three to pack up all their belongings for a permanent move to a place that just 40 years ago was a jungle is unusual, to say the least. But such is the Druks’ devotion to reaching out to Jews wherever they may be found, and making them proud of their heritage.

Rachel Druk, 21, a trained educator who grew up in Crown Heights, plans to start a women’s monthly group and children’s classes. She remarked, “It feels like a whole new beginning. It’s exciting that this is what we’re going to be doing for the rest of our lives.”

The Druk’s move is seeded by a grant from prominent philanthropist Mr. Sami Rohr, of Bal Harbour, Florida, who funds projects worldwide that spur Jewish communal growth.

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