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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Jewish students visiting local Jewish community

By K. NANCOO-RUSSELL

Freeport News Reporter

The Jewish community of Grand Bahama received a visit from two of their brothers from New York this week. The two are part of a rabbinical group, Merkos Linyonei Chinuch, based in Brooklyn and are students of the Chabas Lubavitch Rabbinical Institute.

About 170 students of that school use their summer break to visit remote parts of the world to interact with the few local Jews who may live there and share with them some learning. Students are currently in China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

Mendel Kalmenson and Chaim Zaklos arrived in Grand Bahama on Sunday and will stay until Thursday. They will then go on to visit the Turks and Caicos, New Providence and Bermuda.

"The general idea behind it is that we focus on that which unites us as a people. So no matter how much the individual may know about their background, no matter how much they practice the religion, that is not relevant. We're just here to share the word, to give them a little bit of Jewish awareness, if they didn't have it prior to that, and just to fortify them because living out here in a far place it is hard for them to retain some of their identity," said Kalmenson.

He said that since the beginning of the program, the visiting students would make contact with the local Jews in an area and pass on those contacts to the next group of students visiting that region.

"We learn a little bit about the locals from our peers who were there in previous years, and the ones that are local and we call them up and ask for a visit if they are interested, sit down with them and have a chat and dinner or service. For the men we'll do a ceremony called the bar mitzvah, if they didn't have it previously," he said.

The students say they are willing to meet with non-Jews who may have an interest in the religion and who may want to find out more about it. They have brought with them literature and other items from the Jewish faith.

Although they've only been here for a couple of days, the students say they have met quite a few Jews who were able to introduce them to others.

"Basically we are bringing our warm regards from Jews who are in larger communities to Jews who are in smaller communities out there in the world who don't have a rabbi throughout the year and even though geographically we're divided, there's more that unites us than divides us," said Zaklos.

Persons interested in contacting the students can do so by emailing them at chabadfreeport@gmail.com.

VISITORS – Jewish rabbinical students Chaim Zaklos (left) and Mendel Kalmenson are visiting Grand Bahama this week to interact with the local Jewish community here on the island. They are students of the Chabas Lubavitch Rabbinical Institute in Brooklyn, New York.

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