If you wanted to spend some time this summer on the French Riviera, in Golfe-Juan, La Bocca, Cannes Californie, or the famous St. Tropez, but thought you’d have to miss a Shabbos minyan, then you didn’t know that Chabad-Lubavitch set up a Summer Shul in each of these locations.
The French Riviera is a magnet for millions of summer tourists, among them tens of thousands of Jewish visitors. It’s the busiest season for Rabbi Yehuda Leib Matusof, director of Chabad of Cannes, who devised a variety of creative ways to introduce something spiritual to the vacation experience of so many.
Working in conjunction with Rabbis Yosef Y. Pinson of Nice, and Mendel Sebag of Jaun-les-Pins—neighboring cities, Chabad of Cannes recruited 20 rabbinical students this summer. Canvassing the French Riviera, the students reached out to Jews with the invitation to participate in a mitzvah. Invariably, they say, the response was one of delighted surprise—a kind of unexpected bonus to their summer holiday.
A familiar sight to Riviera surfers and beach-goers every Friday, was a plane-borne banner that read, “Chabad Lubavitch Wishes You Shabbat Shalom” with candle-lighting times. Two roving mitzvah mobiles and two “Mitzvah Smarts” became ubiquitous vehicles along the Riviera, and have brought the mitzvah of tefillin to more than 3,000 Jews over the summer.
At the Chabad House, visitors checked in all hours of the day to join a Torah study class on any of a wide range of subjects. “Many people here are discovering that they can incorporate a spiritually meaningful dimension to their vacation,” says Rabbi Mendel Matusof, who coordinated summer activities together with Rabbi Daniel Belaish.
Indeed, Chabad edited the Jewish Visitors Guide to the French Riviera, which is printed by the Ministry of Tourism, to help Jewish vacationers with useful information such as kosher eateries, Shabbat times, and even a transliteration of the Kiddush and the Shema.
“Between all of our activities here over the summer,” says Rabbi Matusof, “it’s not possible to have missed us.”