If you’re Jewish and living in Boise, Idaho, you have to travel six hours by car to Salt Lake City to get kosher food or use a mikvah. If you want to send your child to a day school, that’s a seven hour trip to Portland, Oregon. According to Esther Miriam Lifshitz, 23, who hails from Johannesburg, South Africa, Boise has the distinction of being the most remote city in the U.S. from another urban center. She should know. She and her husband Rabbi Mendel Lifshitz and their thirteen-month old son Dovid, have just moved to Boise where they have the distinction of being the first Chabad shluchim, (emissaries) to Idaho.
The Jewish population of Boise which has doubled in the last ten years, is growing steadily with the advent of high tech companies such as Micron and HP. There are, however, only about 2000 Jews in Boise and perhaps another 1,000 in the rest of the state. The Lifshitz’s are undaunted by the numbers and are excited about the challenge ahead. “We found that many Jews are unaffiliated since there is only one synagogue and no federation or JCC,” says Rabbi Lifshitz. “That means there is a strong need for Jewish education and outreach and we hope to fill that gap.”
Rabbi and Mrs. Lifshitz have met with communal leaders and activists and have set up several “meet the rabbi” and parlor meetings. The Lifshitz residence will serve as the base for services and programs, such as the upcoming Shavuos service and ice cream party. Esther Miriam will begin a series of women’s classes and children’s programs shortly and says she hopes a pre-school will be established by the time her son is ready. A Hebrew school is already on the agenda.
Rabbi Lifshitz notes that Boise means “City of Trees” in French. “Trees are dependent on their deep roots in order to remain healthy and thrives,” he says. “That’s what we would like to offer the Jewish people in Idaho, an opportunity to further develop their spiritual heritage, their own roots, so they can remain committed and proud Jews. “The potential is here,” he says, and we’re rearing to go.”