Roving Rabbis mark East Bay visit with bar mitzvah in town square

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“Roving Rabbis” Mendel Weinfeld and Mendel Erlenwein were handing out Shabbat candles, mezuzahs and kosher food while making their usual rounds in Contra Costa County when they got an unusual request.

(From left) Mendel Weinfeld, Dan Goldman and Mendel Erlinwein in Orinda

The 19-year-old rabbinical students were in Orinda when they met a Jewish man in his 60s who said he regretted having never had a bar mitzvah. Within minutes, they had their books out and the soon-to-be bar mitzvah man in tefillin.

“We had a bar mitzvah right there in Orinda Theater Square!” Weinfeld boasted. “People came over to see, everyone was dancing.”

Weinfeld and Erlenwein, originally from New York City and Toronto, respectively, have spent the last few weeks traveling around communities including Orinda and Lafayette as part of a program run by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. The Roving Rabbis program annually sends rabbinical students on three-week trips to reach out to Jews across the country. Weinfeld was in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, before coming to the East Bay.

Weinfeld and Erlenwein will be in Contra Costa County greeting passengers at BART stations, dropping by local businesses and visiting people at home through August. The goal of the Roving Rabbis program, like that of Chabad in general, is to help Jews do more mitzvahs and bring them closer to their Jewish heritage.

“It’s about connecting with people, giving them warmth, and if they’re interested and looking for more, there are always programs to turn to,” Weinfeld said. — audrey soffa

Audrey Soffa

Audrey Soffa is J's editorial assistant.