Photo Credit: Jewish Press

In 1991, after the Gulf War, being pregnant and unemployed, I volunteered occasionally at the AACI (The Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel), which, at the time, was located on a narrow street in South Tel Aviv. I would eat at a small, homey kosher establishment run by an older man who was obviously Chabad. There was a secular school across the street and children would run into the restaurant and the man would give them a coin and ask them if they wanted Mashiach. They answered yes and deposited the coin in a tzedakah box for which they were rewarded with a candy or lollipop. The kids were well trained and very happy to contribute to bringing Mashiach.

The proprietor would do this with adults as well (though I don’t remember if he dispensed candy). He asked me if I wanted Mashiach and being certain that I was carrying him inside me, smiled, and answered in the affirmative.

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There are many kiruv agencies, acting from many angles to bring Klal Yisrael closer to their Father in Heaven and Mashiach closer to Klal Yisrael but I’m not sure any of their methods is more effective than that restaurant owner with the big white beard who made secular children believe that there was nothing sweeter than bringing Mashiach.

Fast forward thirty years. My son has not yet been revealed as Mashiach but he does teach children Torah, is studying for the Rabbanut and works with Tzohar, one of the aforementioned kiruv agencies. My son also has other interests. One of them is acting (it’s in the genes) and he was offered to be in a commercial sponsored by the Ministry of Health to encourage people to be vaccinated against Covid-19. He would be representing the religious demographic.

He was ambivalent about taking the role (what if his students saw him? What if this commercial endangered his future rabbinical career?). But the pay was very good and it was for a good cause and he was assured his religiosity would be respected so he did it. And he came home full of stories. Kiruv stories.

The secular director had intervened at one point in the staging to point out that my son could not stand between two women. The make-up lady told him she came from a religious family in Ramat Beit Shemesh and started discussing Tanya with him. The main actor in the video called him the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the assistant stage director mumbled to herself that he represented people living in Yehuda veShomron. One actor borrowed his kippah to make a blessing on the kosher food supplied to the cast and crew, and then offered to team up with him to do a standup show to help bridge the secular-religious divide.

Now my son might be worried about his religious credibility but I thought this whole thing sounded like a big Kiddush Hashem. Interestingly, in Israel a lot of theater and television personalities become religious during their career and subsequently use those mediums to do kiruv.

Kiruv isn’t something only for the rabbis to do or the professionals who’ve been trained in the art. It’s something we all can do, whatever we do, all the time, whatever niche we happen to be in, by being warm, sincere, pleasant, and committed.

It’s as easy as offering candy to a baby.

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Rosally Saltsman offers Creative Consulting - Out of the box solutions for personal and professional challenges. You can contact her at rosally_s@yahoo.com.
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