Members of the Roving Rabbis program returned to Telluride for the second summer in a row. This year, rabbanical students Asher Wilhelm and Smaya Krinsky visited Telluride this week to meet with local Jewish community members and offer Jewish services (the pair left Thursday). Wilhelm and Krinsky are based in Colorado Springs with Chabad Lubavitch of Southern Colorado. Chabad-Lubavich is an Orthodox Jewish, Hasidic movement that is recognized for its outreach. As part of the Roving Rabbis program, Wilhelm and Krinsky drive to remote parts of Colorado for short trips. So far, they have visited Woodland Park, Pueblo and Telluride.
Roving Rabbis is a travel program that seeks to provide access to services such as seders, and bar and bat mitzvahs for people of Jewish faith in remote regions. Many would not typically have the opportunity to experience these Jewish traditions otherwise. During summer visits, rabbinical students, who usually travel in pairs, interact with members of small Jewish communities and help increase the presence and awareness of Judaism.
During the summer and High Holidays each year, hundreds of students voyage across the world to tiny communities as part of the program. Founded in 1943 by Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, this outreach project is the oldest of its kind. Rabbinical students spend months on the road traveling to rural communities.
Summer visits come at a special time, as these three weeks are time of mourning in the Jewish faith. However, Wilhelm looks upon this period of mourning in a hopeful light.
“In destruction and ruin lie the seeds of new growth. Mourning is an unprecedented time of growth,” he said.
He added that everyone has the opportunity to have a profound positive impact on the world.
“A person’s actions cause a ripple, like a pebble in water,” he said. “When we change ourselves, we automatically change the world.”
Wilhelm explained that the goal of the Roving Rabbis program is to find and meet with as many Jews as possible.
“We hope to inspire people to be better and to get closer to God,” Wilhelm said. “We want to remind people that there are Jews out there and will continue to be there.”
While Telluride has a variety of delicious bakeries, cafés and restaurants, its kosher eateries are limited. There are no fully kosher kitchens in the town. The closest one is in Denver. Luckily, rabbinical students bring their own kosher wine, challah, chicken, meat, gefilte fish and Hagaddahs or Machzors. During Passover, the challah is substituted for matzah. With these offerings, small communities everywhere are able to celebrate special Jewish traditions and ceremonies.
The students of the Roving Rabbis program also bring material supplies such as Jewish books and other educational information, along with tefillin, the two black leather boxes holding Hebrew parchment scrolls, and mezuzot, the parchment scrolls that contain the handwritten Hebrew words of the Shema and are fixed to Jewish homes to designate the resident’s connection to their faith.
Wilhelm remarked that people in small communities like Telluride often celebrate Judaism differently, as there are not typically orthodox Jews or people who have been educated in the Chabad-Lubavitch philosophy. Still, Telluride has its own traditions. In the spirit of the mountain town, the Telluride Jewish Community offers Havdalah Hikes and snowshoe excursions, as well as Ski Tuesdays. “It is very special to see (Jewish) community in remote places,” Wilhelm said.
Telluride’s close-knit community helped Wilhelm and Krinsky connect with more Jewish people. Wilhelm explained that much of their time is spent on the road making individual house visits and stopping by local stores to try to meet more Jews in the community. Wilhelm explained people in Telluride were able to direct them to others who might appreciate their services. “It’s great. Everyone knows everyone here,” Wilhelm said.