It’s one thing to feel holiness when you enter a synagogue on Shabbat or a holy day. You go in expecting holiness. You expect that the rabbi’s sermon will inspire you; that you will have a spiritual experience and connect with God.
But what if it’s not Shabbat or a holy day? What if you’re right in the middle of a hectic workday, negotiating better prices for buttons or zippers and stressing out because a major shipment to your No. 1 customer is already two days late?
And what if right in the middle of this crazy workday, you take a time out and walk around the block to attend a prayer service or a Torah class?
Well, that should give you a little idea of how Chabad of California has transformed Jewish life in downtown Los Angeles over the past five years.
I got a taste of it the other day when I took the San Pedro Street exit off the 10 Freeway and found myself on a desolate stretch of Los Angeles that felt like a movie set for “Repo Man.”
Instead of the signage and logos that I’m used to seeing on the Westside — slick neon signs for dry cleaners, toy stores, furniture stores or restaurants, and giant-sized Coke billboards urging you to “open happiness”— all I saw here were old, worn-out signs for textile companies painted on old, worn-out buildings with tall chain-link security fences that look like they’re never open.
It was behind one of those chain-link fences on Griffith Avenue that I saw a man walk briskly toward me, like someone ready to make a quick deal. The man in question wore a black hat and had a black beard — his name is Rabbi Moshe Levin, one of the mainstays of Chabad’s effort to bring Jewish love and Torah to downtown.
Levin opened the gate, gave me a big hug (“Shalom, Rav Dovid!”), hustled me past workers who were moving pallets on forklift trucks, and then led me toward a small door next to a large, open warehouse entrance. continue...