Rollin’ Rabbis: RVs Act as Roving Synagogues
First came the food trucks. Then the boutiques on wheels. But there are mobile units serving up something truly divine in South Florida: religion.
Mitzvah Tanks are roving synagogues — RVs/vans that are fully equipped with books, videos, biblical verses and candles to reconnect detached Jews to their faith. And they’re rolling around South Florida with increasing frequency.
What began as a twice-a-week visit to a local shopping area is spreading to daily missions. The Mitzvah Tank off South Beach’s Lincoln Road is there every early evening. The rabbi behind the ministry-on-wheels in Aventura, Fla., is also looking to expand into a daily operation.
“It’s a traveling venue for a person to escape the physical world and enter the spiritual world,” said Fort Lauderdale Rabbi Shalom Meir Holzkenner, a follower of the Chabad Lubavitch movement who stations his tank on Las Olas Boulevard, by the courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale, and along Galt Ocean Mile about three times a week.
Inside, visitors “can read, they can pray, they can see advice from a rabbi, $2 for every 15 minutes,” he said, jokingly.
Actually, the services are free and open to everyone, whether they are Jewish or not. In fact, some folks who come aboard are tourists and curious passers-by who end up leaving with a shot of spirituality — or water. The tanks are air-conditioned and stocked with water and soda.
“A tank is a place where someone can feel safe. You shouldn’t feel inhibited. You can express yourself,” Holzkenner said.
His tank is a 25-foot-long Mauck vehicle that he bought five years ago as a way to reach out to the local community of young Jews. He and the other rabbis pick high-volume pedestrian hotspots that are not typically associated with curbside prayer.
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