When a Shliach Has to Smuggle Mezuzos

Ofer, an Israeli Jew living in Wuhan, China – the epicenter of the coronavirus, wrote a moving post how Shliach Rabbi Dovi Henig managed to get Mezuzos to his house amidst the city’s ‘siege’.

Ofer, an Israeli Jew living in Wuhan, China – the epicenter of the coronavirus, wrote a moving post on Facebook describing how Shliach Rabbi Dovi Henig managed to get Mezuzos to his house amidst the siege the city is under.

Day 41st of the ‘siege’.

For two weeks, Chabad has been trying to send us a mezuzah. “You have to put up a mezuzah,” Rabbi Dovi Henig from Chabad in Chengdu tells me.

We have been good friends since I contacted him a few years ago and suggested that he open a Chabad house here in Wuhan. The reason I wanted the Chabad house is that wherever a Chabad House opens, a community of Israelis gather around it, and I miss a good Israeli community.

“How many families are you in Wuhan?” The Rabbi asked me. “Only my family,” I told him. “And another two or three Israeli businessmen and some students.”

“It’s not a lot of people,” he said, thinking aloud. “I’ll be visiting you soon in Wuhan. In the meantime, see if there are any more Jews in your town.”

12 million people live in our city and I’m starting to gather Jews. I find Xenia at the American Embassy. I find Philip who works as a chef at a famous restaurant here in town. “Are you from Israel?”, He asks my son, Omar and me the first time we ate there. “I’m a Jew”, he says proudly, “from Tunis. Wait, I’ll make you something special.”

I also find Dr. Klein who is a French doctor here. “Klein is your last name?”, I inquired when I met him and his family at the Indian restaurant in the IKEA mall. “Klein is a Jewish name.” He laughed: “No, we’re not Jews.” Then he turned to ask his young son: “Nathan, what would you like to order to eat?”

“You know,” I continued. “Nathan, it’s a Jewish name, too. My great grandfather was called Nathan.”

Dr. Klein pondered a little, sipped from the glass of water, and said, “Actually, we have some Jewish roots. My grandparents were Jewish, but during World War II they raised my mother as a Catholic, and we are completely Catholic.”

“Doctor, you are a Jew,” I tell him.

He gave me a strange look.

“If your grandmother is Jewish and your mother was born Jewish then it doesn’t matter that she grew up a Catholic. For us, you are Jewish.” I told him. “And look, even you even gave your son the name Nathan.”

He is not convinced, but gives me his phone and promises to try to come to Passover. In the end, he did not come.

In the end, when the Rabbi came to visit Wuhan, I was almost able to organize a minyan.

As we sat down to a meeting, I promised the Rabbi to help find a place for a Chabad house in town. “And I also commit to paying the rent for the first year until things settle here,” I told him.

“Ofer,” the Rabbi began with thanks. “You are a nice guy, but you need more families. You alone can’t sustain a Chabad house. If you want, I will send bochurim to join you on the holidays and slowly we will build something here.”

A customer from Canada sent a package with mezuzah, but it doesn’t arrive. Uri who is now in Chengdu Chabad consulted with Rabbi Dovi. They decide to smuggle the mezuzah in a package of masks. Wuhan currently is under siege, and only medical equipment is allowed inside. Masks and gloves are fine. Other things do not pass and the packages are stopped.

I wait for these mezuzahs. These are tough days in Wuhan and I draw strength from whatever I can. I belong on my mother’s side to the Charlap family, we have a long history. Now, in our ‘short history’ Chabad is sending mezuzahs in a parcel of protective masks to another Jew located in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה אֱ־לֹקינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִיוָנוּ לִקְבּוֹעַ מְזוּזָה.

In the days before this terrible virus, when I could make a donation, I was happy to help. Now my friends from the Chabad houses in China need help and donations to get through these difficult days when China is empty of visitors. For myself and my family, we need nothing but masks and gloves we received from wonderful friends and Chabad houses. The least I can do for these wonderful people right now is to put a link here to the Chabad financing campaign and hope for their success.

To help the Shluchim during these challenging times, click here.

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