Bitten by the travel bug? Flying is not what it used to be–not since the pandemic. Thankfully, there’s still virtual travel. Join us each #ThursdayTravel as we take a virtual tour of one of the 5000 communities around the globe served by Chabad. Fasten your seatbelts.
Home to seven national parks, the famous Old Faithful geyser and the largest hot spring in the USA, Wyoming draws nine million visitors each year. Fly-fishing, rock-climbing, horseback riding and skiing are popular activities in the cowboy culture of this double-landlocked state in the Western USA.
The city of Jackson Hole, nestled at the foot of the Grand Teton mountain range, just 12 miles from Grand Teton national park and 55 miles from Yellowstone, is home to 3 ski resorts and the Chabad-Jewish center of Wyoming. Whether you’ve arrived by RV, car, or flown into the small Jackson Hole airport, the center is ready for you and the 60,000 Jewish travelers who pass by each year.
Wyoming’s Chabad reps: Rabbi Zalman and Raizy Mendelsohn and their children, Chayale, Chanie, Rochel, Nachi, Levi, Devorah Leah.
- Population: 579,300
- Jewish population: 500 year-round residents, 500 second-home owners, 60,000 annual visitors.
- Friday night guests at Chabad: 20 – 120 depending on the season.
- At 97,813 square miles, Wyoming is the tenth largest state by area, the least populous and the second most sparsely populated after Alaska.
- Wyoming first became a territory in 1868 and was formed from portions of the Dakota, Utah, and Idaho territories. Two decades later, Congress declared Wyoming the 44th state.
- Nicknamed the Equality State, Wyoming was the first state to allow women to vote and to elect a female governor. Some of its early advancement of women’s rights were established before its statehood.
- Rabbi Zalman grew up in Miami Beach, Raizy’s family made aliyah to Israel from Canada when she was 12 years old. Though they both grew up in summer climates, their family now spend each winter skiing.
- In 2018, domestic and international visitors spent approximately $3.8 billion while traveling in Wyoming. The leisure and hospitality industry directly supports 32,290 jobs in Wyoming, making it the largest private sector employer in the state. As the parks closed and travel was restricted during the Spring, officials worried what it would do to their economy. In fact, Wyoming and Jackson Hole in particular, are experiencing off-the-charts numbers of visitors as many are choosing to take road trips, over flights abroad.
- Two, or three times a year Rabbi Zalman, or students volunteering as Roving Rabbis travel the state attempting to visit every cranny of the state and connect with Wyoming Jews.
- Jackson hole is 6,300 ft above sea level, but Rabbi Mendelsohn points out that the highest peak in Grand Teton sits at 13,770 feet – a number he feels connects Wyoming to the iconic, Chabad-Lubavitch Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway.
- While going virtual with programming was an adjustment, the Mendelsohns have now adopted Zoom as a permanent setting for their adult education settings because it gives those who are usually only in the state for a few weeks a year an opportunity to connect perennially.
- The Chabad-Jewish center has hosted over 40 unique virtual lectures with a host of national and international guest presenters in the last four months.
- Four times a year the Mendelsohns order kosher products from New York, California, or Florida to supplement the dry goods available in the local supermarkets for themselves and a dozen families who have become kosher over the last thirteen years.
- The local liquor store in Jackson Hole now carries a broad selection of Kosher wines due to increased demand.
- Chanie Mendelsohn is the featured character in the book, “Chanie From Wyoming,” the ninth of the Young Lamplighters series that details the daily lives of young Chabad Emissaries.
- The closest mikvahs are in Bozeman, Montana, or Salt Lake City Utah, each a five-hour drive from Jackson. A one-hour direct flight makes Salt Lake City the more convenient option. Chabad of Wyoming recently acquired land with the vision to one day build a new community center and mikvah.