By some estimates, there are about a thousand Jews living in South Dakota. Make that 1,004: this week, Rabbi Mendel and Mussie Alperowitz and their two young daughters will travel from Brooklyn to Sioux Falls to become the official Chabad emissaries there, ending the state’s distinction as the nation’s only one without a rabbi. The Alperowitz’s arrival will also set another milestone for Chabad, and, arguably, for all Jews: 75 years after Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson and his wife Chaya Mushka escaped war-torn Europe for America and began their Shluchim program—sending representatives to all corners of the earth to establish centers of Jewish life and education—Chabad will now have permanent presence in all 50 states.
The Alperowitzs visited their soon-to-be home state this March, and were surprised by the demand: 45 people showed up for a Purim celebration in Sioux Falls, and more than a dozen Jewish students attended a program at South Dakota State University in Brookings, no small numbers given the local population. With the financial and health care industries drawing more and more people, including Jews, to the Mount Rushmore State, Alperowitz expects these ranks to continue and grow.
Speaking last night at Kinus Ha’Shluchim, the massive gathering of more than 4,500 Chabad emissaries from all over the world, Alperowitz, himself the son of a shluchim, recalled traveling to meet the Rebbe in his home on 770 Eastern Parkway. The rabbi blessed young Alperowitz with a “fort gezunterheit,” or travel in good health. “Those are the words I carry in my heart as my wife, our two daughters and I ready ourselves to move to the Rushmore State,” he said. “Like the faces of some of our country’s greatest leaders etched into that faceless mountain, we hope to carve the image of our forefathers in the blank earth.” Amen and Godspeed.