In a time when anti-Semitism has been on the rise and Jewish houses of worship from Pittsburgh to Poway, Calif., have been attacked, the Chabad of Long Island has established the Long Island Mezuzah Campaign to help ensure that every Jewish home in Nassau and Suffolk counties has a mezuzah — a sacred, handwritten parchment scroll inscribed with religious texts that is mounted on the right side of a doorjamb, typically at the entrance.
According to Jewish tradition, a mezuzah brings blessings to a home or building, protects people and property from harm, and prolongs life. Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the founder of the Chabad movement, equated the mezuzah to a helmet that provides added protection when facing life’s adversities.
With the free mezuzah campaign, begun a few weeks before the High Holy Days, Chabad of Long Island is looking to bring spiritual — and physical — protection to Jews across the region. It will pay for armed guards for the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services. Rosh Hashana begins Sept. 29, and Yom Kippur on Oct. 8. Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, the organization’s director, said it is would be up to individual Chabads to decide whether they want guards at their shuls.
Chabad of Long Island officials said that while people might be concerned about anti-Semitism, the mezuzah campaign is a reminder for Jews across Long Island that they are part of a “proud, millennia-old tradition and heritage.” “The mezuzah symbolizes God’s protection over a home, as well as the pride its occupants take in their Judaism,” Teldon said, “and the armed guards will ensure the security and peace of mind of our congregants at prayer.”
The Anti-Defamation League reported that there were 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents across the country in 2018, the third-highest on record for a single year since the New York-based Jewish organization began tracking such data in the 1970s. The incidents included assaults, harassment and vandalism. Their number was down 5 percent from 2017, but 99 percent higher than in 2015, according to the ADL, which seeks to end the defamation of the Jewish people and to obtain justice and fair treatment for all.
At the Chabad of Hewlett, Rabbi Nochem Tenenboim said that he was working to make sure that every Jewish home in the community has a mezuzah. “The importance of the mezuzah is a reminder of God, and the proper ways to behave,” he said. “Our responsibilities, obligations and privileges are to bring the light of Judaism and Torah not only to inside the house, but to the entire world.”
Tenenboim explained that mounting a mezuzah on a doorpost increases Jewish pride, and shows that Jews are happy to continue thousands of years of tradition. “And our love for this [tradition], as many have the custom to kiss the mezuzah,” he said.
The Chabad of Hewlett, Tenenboim said, is definitely taking security more seriously as it prepares for the High Holy Days. “But at the same time,” he added emphatically, “encouraging as many people as possible to join the High Holidays to show all those anti-Semites and anti-Jews that they will not be able to destroy us.”
Chabad of Long Island board member Arthur Katz, the founder of Uniondale-based Knockout Pest Control, is sponsoring the free mezuzah campaign. “The mezuzah is an easy way Jews can connect to their heritage,” he said.
To request a free mezuzah, go to www.chabadli.org/mezuzah or call (855) 542-4222. In the Five Towns, call the Chabad of the Five Towns at (516) 295-2478 or the Chabad of Hewlett (516) 295-3433.