(Courtesy of Chabad.org) On Tuesday, Feburary 4, more than 100 students from the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown took their message of hope and inspiration to the streets of Jersey City, the site of the recent anti-Semitic shooting, and other towns across North Jersey. They traveled in a fleet of 12 “mitzvah tanks” (specially equipped RVs) and visited 12 towns, stopping by malls and local business districts to engage residents and offer them a chance to do a mitzvah, a positive act or share Torah teachings.
Tuesday evening marked 70 years since the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, zt”l, formally became leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. The Rebbe engineered a global Jewish renaissance in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Today his moral and ethical teachings continue to be a guiding force, as this generation seeks to positively impact the world.
The specially outfitted “mitzvah tanks” have been a fixture on American streets for more than five decades, and its riders have been known to invite strangers to perform mitzvot as a public act of Jewish pride. The fleet leaving Morristown was staffed by enthusiastic yeshiva students tasked with sharing Judaism in a positive and accessible way. The yeshiva students modeled the Rebbe’s action-focused lesson of helping others by connecting Jews of all backgrounds across North Jersey.
“We want to celebrate 70 years of leadership in the way that the Rebbe taught us, by sharing a mitzvah and doing an act of kindness and positivity that we need so much today,” said Yossi Spalter, organizer of the initiative. “Countless people have experienced some of their heritage for the first time on the street or in a ‘mitzvah tank,’ with a spontaneous bar mitzvah or impromptu Torah lesson, which has had a transformative and lasting impact on their lives.”
After the “mitzvah tank” parade, from Morristown to Jersey City, the fleet dispersed to other towns, including Newark, Hoboken, South Orange, Millburn, Summit, Montclair, Westfield and West Orange.
Rabbi Mendy Kasowitz, director of Chabad of West Orange and one of the individuals tasked with driving a “mitzvah tank,” said, “We are so excited to be able to participate in the Mitzvah Tank Parade [and to celebrate] the 70th year of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s leadership of the Chabad movement. I have driven mitzvah mobiles when I was a student many years ago. Now, thanks to the students at the Rabbinical College of America, we get to bring a world-famous mitzvah tank to West Orange after the parade, creating an amazing sense of Jewish pride and awareness. Everyone is welcome to come aboard to do a mitzvah...It is going to be epic. I can’t wait.”
Rabbi Kasowitz continued, “The Lubavitcher Rebbe always encouraged each Jew to do one more mitzvah. After the parade, the tanks are going to fan out across New Jersey, each heading to a different township (and) bringing a mitzvah opportunity to everyone. The goal of the organizers is to reach 770 mitzvahs on the day of the parade.”
Jersey City was chosen as the final destination for the parade to culminate a day of public Jewish pride, showing solidarity after the Jewish community was targeted with a brutal anti-Semitic attack in December that left four dead. The students hoped their “mitzvah tanks,” complete with lively Chassidic dancing, would be a vehicle for inspiration for the recovering community.