Visiting rabbis from New York help Guam Jews keep the faithPublished Aug 5, 2009
16-year-old Ethan Berg never imagined he would celebrate his bar mitzvah with two New York rabbis inside the walls of a military chapel on Guam. "It was very meaningful. I've never had that. Interesting experience. It was so beautiful," he said.
A local chapel was dedicated to members of Jewish faith by the US Navy and the Air Force in 1976. Now the two Rabbis that are here today from Brooklyn, New York are hoping to infuse some fire and a little spark into the Jewish community on base locally.
"In many places you see a rabbi every week, maybe even daily, but here when you have a rabbi once twice maybe three times a year, everybody comes out. People come out of the woodwork for this because it's so big," said LTJG Greg Touchton.
Rabbi Chesky Klein and Rabbi David Loksen represent the more orthodox sect of the Jewish faith, known, as the Chabad Movement, visibly distinguished by dark suits and long beards. During their three-week visit as emissaries to Guam where there is no permanent rabbi, the two rabbis hope to promote Judaism all over the island.
Klein said, "Chabad actually has a branch, which sends out young rabbis over the summer time and that sends Jewish people into far off communities for just a short period of time in order to bring Judaism to everyone. We are part of this program. We've been sent to Guam."
Although Guam boasts a small community of approximately 150 Jews on the island, the military reports that there are fifty practicing Jews currently serving here on Guam. The rabbis have made their presence known by holding events on and off the base and encourage all denominations to come to them with any questions.
Said Loksen, "The doors are always open. They are always welcome. Please whoever is out there in Guam or whatever it may be, please if you see us passing on the street, just wave and say hello or say 'Hey rabbi, can I ask you a few questions?'"
From performing mazuza ceremonies to various blessings like wrapping the tifilin and holding a ceremonial bar mitzvah for those of age, the rabbis hope to help the Jewish community in Guam keep the faith.