Doorway by Doorway, Rabbi Seeks Montana’s Jews
Montana’s small Jewish population is scattered across a huge state that has more rodeos than rabbis, but one man is logging thousands of miles to seek out the faithful one doorway at a time.
Rabbi Chaim Bruk has set his sights on making sure each Jewish home in Montana has a mezuzah at its entrance— and that those already hanging are kosher.
Montana’s only orthodox rabbi sees the project as a way of connecting Jews to their traditions. He says the mezuzahs — small parchments of handwritten biblical verses, rolled into roughly 4-inch cases and fastened to door frames — are a reminder that God is the ultimate home protection in a state where many people believe that such security begins and ends with a gun.
“I’m young. I’m 31. I got a long life ahead of me — God willing — and I hope to get every house,” he says. “Montana should be the most protected state in the union. Not only because of our weapons but because of our mezuzahs. We’ll be protected by the Second Amendment and by the mezuzahs.”
After his grandmother died shortly before Passover this year at age 90, Bruk wanted to perform a mitzvah — a religious good deed — to honor her memory. So the co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Montana secured funding from a relative to purchase an initial 200 mezuzahs to hand out for free.
Bruk says he has visited hundreds of Jewish homes in Montana and noticed too often that they either didn’t have mezuzahs or that those hanging didn’t adhere to Jewish law. He says he found text written on paper rather than parchment and cases hanging with no verses inside.
His mission is an ambitious one in a state with more than 147,000 square miles and a Jewish population estimated at 1,350 by the 2010 Census. Bruk scoffs at that number, which he believes is actually more than 3,000.