Brooklyn man to become South Dakota’s only rabbi

 

CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn — It's been said some neighborhoods in New York City have more Jewish people than certain states in our country.

South Dakota has a Jewish population of roughly 400 people. South Dakota is also the only state in the country without a single rabbi.

The state will soon have one as a Brooklyn spiritual Hasidic leader plans to make the big move.

Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz has lived in New York City for the last 10 years. He's been a part of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Crown Heights during that time.

Brooklyn is home. But soon, he'll be trading the Big Apple for the plains and prairies of South Dakota.

"The people there are really the most wonderful people outside of New York I've ever met, such wonderful people," said Rabbi Alperowitz.

Alperowitz has been to South Dakota a total of three times. Twice by himself and once with his wife, Mussie. The couple took an immediate liking to the state.

"The people were so welcoming, they were so kind to us and really encouraged us and said please move here, really we want you to move here."

And so they will.

The rabbi, his wife and their two young daughters, an 18-month -old and a two-month-old, are moving to Sioux Falls. Alperowitz is following the ideals of the Rebbe - Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, who 75 years ago, arrived in the U.S. from war-torn Europe.

"He sent out his followers all around the world to work with local communities and teach Jewish customs to people. The Chabad movement has been sending rabbis to go to different communities around the world, usually smaller communities where there's not much of an established Jewish presence, to go and meet Jews, to spend time with them, so no Jews should feel alone," said Rabbi Alperowitz.

Rabbi Alperowitz is making history. Right now, South Dakota is the only state without a permanent rabbi.

Alperowitz will become the first rabbi there in almost 40 years.

The Jewish population in South Dakota has dwindled over the years, down to about 400. There are only three synagogues in the entire state.

"When we first went there, we never imagine six or seven months later, we would be talking about moving there from New York, permanently," said Rabbi Alperowitz.

The Alperowitz Family made the announcement of their imminent move at an annual gathering of 5,600 Chabad emissaries in New York City last night.

"Mostly what I'm looking forward to is just getting there and meeting people. Making a difference and enjoying Jewish life with them," said Mrs. Alperowitz.

The family says they can't wait to start their life there, but recognize there may be some challenges.

For instance, they expect to have to drive several hours to be able to purchase Kosher food, or will have to have it flown in.

There are no Yeshivas in Sioux Falls. So when their daughters are old enough, they will likely be homeschooled by their mother, Mussie, who is a trained educator.

But for the the family, it's all worth it.

"It's an honor for us to be welcomed by them. We look forward to spending the rest of our lives there, meeting them and making good relationships with them and soon, have them become a part of our family."