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Keeping with yesterday’s return-from-San-Francisco theme, j., the Jewish news weekly of northern California, and The Forward recently wrote about a clever new outreach strategy from Rabbi Moshe Langer of the Chabad of San Francisco: free trolley tours of the diverse and beautiful city. But unlike other Chabad marketing–free iPods in exchange for enrolling in Hebrew classes, “spa day for the soul”–the trolley rides are not about getting people to become traditionally observant or join Chabad. All that the bearded Rabbi Langer asks is that all his passengers, Jewish or not, perform one mitzvah (good deed) that day.
It’s what the Jewish Outreach Institute calls “Public Space Judaism,” whereby the Jewish community engages the global community wherever they are: grocery stores, coffeeshops, even trolleys on Powell Street. I particularly admire the Chabad Cable Car because it doesn’t sound like Rabbi Langer is pushing his religious agenda. By “soft-selling” Judaism and showing people of all creeds how welcoming and friendly a strongly Jewishly identified person can be, he’s making Judaism appealing to unaffiliated Jew and non-Jew alike. That can send a powerful message to interfaith couples.
Turns out, though, that Rabbi Langer is only following in his dad’s footsteps. His father, Rabbi Yosef Langer, has been dubbed “Rally Rabbi” after blowing the shofar during the San Francisco Giants’ Jewish Heritage Night. At this year’s Jewish Heritage Night in August, the Giants will be giving out Rally Rabbi bobbleheads.
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