(lubavitch.com) Legends of buried treasures color the history of the Caribbean, luring divers and snorkelers intrigued by the possibility of discovering sunken jewels far beneath the breathtaking coral reefs.
Rabbinical students Doobie Lisker and Yehuda Drizin embarked on a different treasure-seeking Caribbean adventure early Thursday morning. The treasure, they will tell you, is Jewish souls.
Purim, a time when our people came precariously close to annihilation, reminds us how precious every individual Jewish life is. Rabbi Moshe Chanowitz and his wife were installed as Chabad representatives to St. Maarten a few months ago.
When Moshe called on his yeshiva friends for help reaching out to Jews scattered on the islands over Purim, Doobie and Yehuda pulled a few items together, and hopped onto a plane.
The two rabbis agreed to keep a Purim journal for the benefit of lubavitch.com readers, as they bring the merriment of Purim, inspired by the miracle of Jewish endurance, to kindred spirits in the Carribean islands. Who knows the treasures that await them . . .
Thursday, Taanit Esther
At 5 this morning we called the airline to make sure our flight was on time because it had already begun to snow in NY. We left Crown Heights at 5:30 am to catch a 7:45 flight to St. Maarten, one of the Caribbean islands. A friend drove us along with two other friends going to San Francisco for Purim to help a shliach.
As we were boarding our flight, a middle aged couple approached us and asked us curiously if there was some kind of synagogue or Chabad in St. Maarten. We told them about the Chabad shluchim there and gave them their contact info. They hadn’t expected anything Jewish in such a remote location, they said, and asked only because they saw us travelling there. We immediately invited them for Shabbos and Purim and they happily accepted.
We landed in St. Maarten to breathtaking views of the island, the pure blue ocean and a view of a few surrounding islands. We exited the airport carrying multiple boxes of kosher food, supplies for the Chanowitzes that we shopped for while in New York—items we take for granted at home in New York that are unavailable here.
Our yeshiva friend, Rabbi Moshe Chanowitz greeted us warmly. He drove us through town to his house, where we davened shachris [morning prayers]. As soon as we were finished we started learning the Alef-Bet with two kids who live on the island and needed help preparing for their bar mitzva. They were thrilled to study with yeshiva students from New York.
Later we davened mincha [afternoon services] and prepared a BBQ so we would be able to break our fast. After maariv, we had something to eat, and farbrenged with the shliach while his wife was inside leading a class with a few women from the island, and baking hamantashen.
Before preparing for Friday’s work, we took a short walk in the town where people were amazed to see two rabbis . . .