January 2020
Now “Wrapped” in His Judaism, Mike Finds his Missing Piece at Harford Chabad

Mitch.jpgOnce only a sometime “Holiday Jew,” you may now spot Mike deep in study, in prayer, or donning tefillin with Rabbi Kushi at Harford Chabad, where he feels more connected to his Judaism than he has at any other time in his life.

Mike, a successful retail businessman from Fallston, grew up closer to Baltimore in the Randallstown Jewish community. He attended Liberty Jewish Center, where his parents were married and the spiritual leader was a Conservative rabbi. And even though Mike went through Hebrew school and became a bar mitzvah there, he never felt deeply about Judaism or his Jewishness.

“I really was raised a ‘Holiday Jew,’” Mike said. “My parents were not religious at all, but they raised me and my sister to go to Hebrew school. That was the extent of it.”

Mike can’t put his finger on exactly why he never felt much connection to his Judaism, except maybe a “lack of influence.”

“I was raised more in a secular sense,” he added. “I just wasn't raised with it being an important component of my upbringing.”

After moving to Harford County, Mike became a member of a synagogue where he continued being a “Holiday Jew,” and sent his children to school there. But, again, he never felt quite connected to the community. Something was missing. 

And then, about two years ago came the phone call. A simple phone call that would change everything for Mike, ultimately providing that missing piece of Mike’s Jewish puzzle.

“Rabbi Kushi reached out to me and inquired about just getting together over coffee and seeing if I had an interest in becoming a member of Chabad,” Mike recalled. “At about that point in my life, I was looking for something. I knew something was missing. A few weeks before that the ‘The Yeshiva Boys’ (Chabad student emissaries) had stopped by and talked a few minutes. But I really wasn't familiar with them or what they were doing. After that I met with Rabbi Kushi and really started asking questions. I asked other people, friends of mine that were religious, and they all had positive things to say about Chabad.”

Mike’s first encounter with Harford Chabad was at Rosh Hashanah services, and now? He studies regularly with Rabbi Kushi.

“He’s very gracious. I’m blessed. I study with him once a week and that's the highlight of my week. It’s really great,” Mike said, with joy and enthusiasm in his voice. “I attend services, hit or miss, as my schedule makes it very difficult. But I also attend his classes. I enjoy those on Tuesday evening. They run six-week classes on different topics. So, I'm pretty regular. I have attended a few Torah sessions on Wednesday night.”

The biggest difference for Mike, from that life-long gap in his Jewish-connection, was the warm, non-judgmental atmosphere he found at Harford Chabad.

“That was the biggest difference between when I was raised Conservative – to Chabad,” Mike said. “With Rabbi Kushi, there's no judging; there's no such thing as a dumb question. He's very open to anything I ask. The whole concept, the whole atmosphere, of Chabad is warm and inviting. People there are just so gracious.”

Mike was also happy to find that his non Jewish friends are also welcome there and attends classes with him. They developed such a great rapport with Rabbi Kushi. 

Not to state the obvious, but Mike feels more connected to his Judaism, and is donning tefillin daily, a deeply meaningful experience he had never had before meeting Rabbi Kushi.

“To me, it's just been so beneficial, wrapping tefillin. I've been to the last Jewish conference in D.C., which was just lovely. It was, again, a great eye opener,” he said. “So yeah, I feel very active now in my Judaism, but still a long way to go. The rabbi has also encouraged me, ‘Don't jump in 110 percent, because chances are it won't work. Take it in increments.’ And I find that to be very true.”

Mike said he most appreciates the non-judgmental aspects of Chabad. The rabbi has invited him to New York City to see the Rebbe’s grave site. And even though Mike hasn’t had a chance yet, it's something he definitely wants to do.

“We're planning a trip led by the Rabbi, hopefully the beginning of 2020, to Israel. I’m really looking forward to that,” he said. “It’s just a great experience at Harford Chabad and a great feeling of acceptance. Rabbi Kushi wants me to get the most out of my Jewishness and to grow in that capacity. And that is really nice.”

Mike’s story is just another inspiring example of how Rabbi Kushi and Harford Chabad reach out and help Jews who may feel lost, or who are searching for that missing puzzle piece of their Jewish life.

Thank you for helping Mike, and so many others like him, to reconnect in the warm, accepting embrace of the Harford Chabad community and find their Jewish home