Wherever Rabbi Yitzock Feldman and his wife, Mimi Feldman, go in Central Oregon, they meet Jewish people.
They could be shopping at Wal-Mart, visiting a retirement home or just walking down the street, and strangers approach the couple to talk about Judaism.
Yitzock Feldman attributes this to his appearance, including his long beard and yarmulke.
“You can’t miss us,” said Feldman, 28.
Many of the people who approach Feldman express an interest in connecting more deeply with their Jewish heritage. And that is exactly why the Feldmans moved to Central Oregon.
“We are working to inspire every Jew we come across,” said Feldman.
The Feldmans, including their children Mendel, 2, and Avremi, 4 months, moved to Bend from Brooklyn, N.Y., late last fall to form the Chabad-Lubavitch Center of Central Oregon. The group is local chapter of an educational outreach organization with approximately 2,500 locations in the world.
The Oregon headquarters, located in Portland, was looking to expand into Bend, and Feldman was brought to fill that position. The local group, however, is funded on its own. The Feldmans received a small grant from an organization within the international Chabad, and will also rely on community support and fundraising.
In Central Oregon, the Feldmans plan to work with the community to help Jewish people feel connected to their faith and learn more about its rich history and heritage.
Judy Shupack, the wife of Rabbi Jay Shupack of the Jewish Community of Central Oregon, believes that the new Chabad enriches the local Jewish community. The Feldmans have checked with them when planning events, to ensure they do not conflict. “So far, it’s been really lovely to have them here,” she said. “The more the merrier.”
In December, Feldman handed out Hanukkah kits that contained a menorah and other items to help celebrate the holiday. The couple has also started several local outreach groups, including a Jewish Women’s Circle, a Mommy and Me class for mothers and their young children and a Lunch and Learn program.
Their goal is to offer programs for adults as well as children. Recently, Mimi Feldman, 25, hosted a challah bread-baking workshop at their home. The women learned how to make the bread, which is served on the Sabbath, as well as the history and heritage behind the food.
Yitzock Feldman is open to the needs of the community. For instance, one local senior citizen asked Feldman to visit him at a retirement home so they could pray together. Earlier this week, he traveled to meet a Jewish person in Prineville who wanted to talk.
“We’re hoping to get busier and busier,” said Mimi Feldman. “People have told us they are excited we’re here.”
Holidays will also play a large role, and the Feldmans are planning a Purim celebration at their house on March 20, which is open to the entire Jewish community. Purim is feast to celebrate the Jewish people’s escape from execution in ancient Persia. The holiday features reading from the Book of Esther and can include costumes and giving to charity.
While Bend is very different from his native Brooklyn, the rabbi says he finds the community to be beautiful and friendly.
To learn more
For information about Chabad, the Purim celebration or to sign up to receive weekly e-mails, visit the Web site www.JewishBend.com or call 633-7991.