Still raising money to build back the Chabad of Kentucky which burned down in an accident, around Pesach time, Rabbi Shlomo Litvin said he had no choice but to go help those afflicted by the tragic floods that have claimed the lives of more than 35 people.
“It kind of felt like Chol HaMoed,” Litvin, 32, said, referencing the fire. “We had to put aside our personal battle and tragedy to focus on this and help people.”
Located in Lexington, Kentucky, Litvin went with his father, Rabbi Avrohom Litvin, to travel about an hour and half and help give supplies to those in need who were affected by the floods.
“There were areas underwater and we worked with the Israeli consulate to help get cleaning supplies and water to people, and we brought a truck with mattresses,” the younger Litvin said.
He said they worked with Congressman Hal Rodgers, a Republican serving Kentucky’s 5th District, and joined his procession. The two rabbis were on a jeep that could get around areas where roads were damaged. A sign on the jeep said “Thank you from Chabad of Kentucky and the Israeli Consulate.”
Asked if he was worried about danger, Litvin replied, “If Chabad shluchim worried about danger before they helped, it would look very different in the world.”
He said one man at a gas station stopped them with tears in his eyes and thanked the rabbis for helping.
He said they had contacts with charities from tornadoes across western Kentucky from about a year ago.
“A week ago there were less than 10 homeless people in the entire region,” Litvin said. “There are now 390 people without homes and the numbers are going up.” The two dropped off mattresses to be taken into a church that was housing people.
He said a leading area Democrat told them that the Kentucky governor had to cancel a trip to Israel to deal with the floods.
“She smiled and said, ‘I see Israel came to us,’” he recounted her saying.
He said he also brought work boots for people in various sizes as well as shovels.. He added that getting a truck to eastern Kentucky costs about double what it used to due to higher gas prices.
Dubbed by some as “the Clubhouse rabbi,” Litvin often teaches classes on the online platform.
He said he has amazing conversations to dispel false rumors. For example, some said they had heard Israel doesn’t allow Ethiopians.
“To have thousands of people who might never have had a conversation with a Jew and be thinking things that are totally false, why wouldn’t I be there to share knowledge with them,” Litvin said.
He said others asked about antisemitism and he’s entered rooms where he debated black Israelites who claim to be the true Jews.
He also noted that he’s gotten personal threats from his participation on Clubhouse.
‘In many of these debate rooms, I’m not trying to defeat the person I’m talking to so much as educate the people in the room,” he said.