Rally Rabbis selling like latkes on eBay

Several years ago, a much-loved poster of Rabbi Yosef Langer atop his mitzvah mobile motorcycle was stolen from his Chinatown office. And while the rabbi was crestfallen, he soon received a mysterious phone call from a nearby Israeli merchant.

The rabbi walked up a flight of steps to the merchant’s office — and there was the poster hanging on the wall. It turns out the merchant had bought it on the corner from a homeless man for $2.

“My response was, ‘I’m worth two dollars on the street,'” recalled Langer with a laugh.

So, the news that the Langer “Rally Rabbi” bobbleheads given away by the San Francisco Giants this year for Jewish Heritage Night are selling on eBay for up to $52 is well-received.

“Fifty dollars? That’s a merit. That’s a compliment.”

As of press time, two Langer nodders are available on eBay (starting bid: $22) and 10 others have sold for between $33 and $52. And while many folks might feel a bit odd about strangers bargaining over their graven, bobble-headed image, Langer does not.

“If a person wants to sell me, hopefully I’ll get a price that’s respectful of the Rally Rabbi,” said the longtime spiritual leader of Chabad of S.F

“People have the right. It’s a capitalist country we live in. And I like the buzz, I like the fact people are hondling [wheeling and dealing]. That’s what eBay is for.”

And for anyone in the community bringing up the “I-word” — idolatry — Langer has looked into that. Before he agreed to participate in the Giants’ giveaway, he consulted with Rabbi Yossi Schusterman of Los Angeles, Chabad’s halachic expert.

“This does not fall into the category of idolatry,” Langer affirmed. “It’s a toy.”

Langer — and eBay — may soon have company in the Rally Rabbi category. Rabbi Moshe Wilhelm of Chabad of Oregon is planning a Chanukah event with the National Basketball Association’s Portland Trail Blazers, and there are tentative plans for a Wilhelm bobblehead at the event.

Langer — who said he trademarked the phrase “Rally Rabbi” on an Internet site for a little more than the homeless man got for his picture — said he’s happy to have the company. And the Rally Rabbi bobblehead? He nodded his approval, naturally.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.