To support Panim Hadashot as we grow, I drive a Lyft part time, taking all sorts of people to all sorts of places around Seattle. I do this a few hours each week, usually early in the morning to avoid traffic. I call my Blue Subaru Outback the Blue Mishkan. As a Rabbi who emphasizes the Mitzvah (the commandment) and Ma'aseh Tov (the good deed) of Hospitality, (Hachnasat Orchim), driving a Lyft is an opportunity to refine this practice in the digital age.
Last week, I picked up a young man with a Russian sounding name. I found out that he worked at a high tech company, was married, and had an 18 month old daughter. I also learned that his wife and he were into Latin dancing. I learned all about the Salsa and Latin dancing scene around Seattle. It's a pretty robust sub culture, especially favored by millennials. Millenials are reviving once dying cultural practices like Contra and Ballroom dancing. Want to feel young, go dancing!
The young man asked what I did and I told him I was a Rabbi. He told me he was Jewish, but not at all connected to Jewish culture or religion. His parents always call him before a holiday to remind him what holiday is coming, but that is the extent of his knowledge and awareness of Jewish life. He told me that he is thinking deeply with his wife, who is of Asian descent, how they want to raise their daughter. He is thinking seriously about giving his daughter a connection to her Jewish heritage, but does not know how to do it. He finds synagogues unwelcoming and overwhelming. The conversation had to end when I dropped him off at work. I gave my Panim Hadashot card and invited his family to a Community Shabbat Gathering. I hope I will meet him again at some Panim Hadashot event.
It still surprises me how many Jewish riders come aboard the Blue Mishkan. I have only begun to drive Lyft since after the holidays, but every week I have several Jewish riders who are excited to discover a Rabbi driving their Lyft. My non-Jewish riders are often simply curious to learn about what a rabbi does, since most have never met one before. What is most exciting is how interested everyone is in Panim Hadashot and how encouraging everyone is about what I am doing. The interest and ideas I get from my riders gives me new energy and encouragement.
I hope you enjoy the tales of the Lyfter Rebbe. I will continue to post these tales in this blog in 2019. If you are taken with these tales and the work of Panim Hadashot, please consider becoming a subscriber in 2019. By subscribing you help Panim Hadashot thrive and keep my Lyft driving commitment in balance with my work for Panim Hadashot. You can easily and securely signup to subscribe online at https://panimhadashot.org/subscribe/.
Shalom, Rabbi Dov Gartenberg, Convener and Executive Director of Panim Hadashot-New Faces.