Rabbis Yisroel Shemtov and Mendel Shemtov arrived in Laramie on Thursday night on the first leg of their journey throughout Wyoming to visit as many Jewish people as they can. They are part of Chabad Lubavitch, an organization started more than 70 years ago to help bring Jewish people around the world closer to their faith.
So far, Mendel Shemtov and Yisroel Shemtov have met with people in Laramie and Cheyenne to provide religious experiences they might not have available to them. The two are often helped by the friends of Jewish people who help the rabbis get in touch with them, Mendel Shemtov said.
“There’s actually a few Jewish people we have had contact with thanks to their non-Jewish friends,” Mendel Shemtov said. “Yesterday, we were in a park, and we asked some guys if they were Jewish. They weren’t, but they knew someone who is, but they didn’t have his phone number, so they gave me his Instagram account.”
Yisroel Shemtov said the two have provided Jewish residents with ceremonies and religious services they might not have been able to have otherwise. One such person was University of Wyoming professor — and oldest living Jewish resident in Laramie — E.G. Meyer, who had his bar mitzvah soon after meeting them.
“E.G. Meyer is 97 years old and has been a professor here for a really long time,” Yisroel Shemtov said. “We met him and we sat down with him a few days ago. His bar mitzvah, which was supposed to be at 13 years old, he actually did when he was 97 years old.”
Traveling through the state has been a pleasant experience for the two because of how accepting the people have been, Yisroel Shemtov said. People have been helpful answering their questions, along with making their trip more exciting.
“The people of Wyoming, the residents here make our trip so much more positive and so much more exciting,” Yisroel said. “The Wyomingites are extremely nice people, and they are very helpful.”
The organization was started by the Rebbe, a Jewish man who escaped from Europe to the U.S. during World War II. It was the Rebbe’s mission to seek Jewish people around the world and provide them with love and opportunities to come closer to their faith through Levitical school students traveling the world to reach as many as they can, Mendel said.
“The program started when the Rebbe miraculously escaped Nazi Europe and came (to America),” Mendel said. “One of the first programs he started was this program and taking Levitical school students who are able to take their summer vacation and travel the world.”
Those interested in speaking with the rabbis can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-228-1268, Mendel said. He said they would be happy to schedule meets with more people in Laramie.
“We would actually very much appreciate any Jews in the area who want to reach out to us,” Mendel said.
“We have a number and an email and would love if anyone reached out to us and we would schedule time to be back in Laramie to meet them.”