Throughout Chanukah, people on the streets of Ottawa, Canada experienced a Mivtza Tank for the first time in 15 years. Organized by Chabad of Kanata in Ottawa under the direction of Rabbi Michoel Gershzon, the Tank as well as a Car Menorah parade on Sunday was dedicated in memory of Rabbi Mordechai Berger A”H.
On Monday, the sixth day of Chanukah a series of Hashgacha Protis led to an amazing development helping a Yiddishe Neshama find his way. After being unexpectedly re-directed from the parking lot at the local Costco, the tank parked on Bank Street in downtown Ottawa. The new location was surprisingly better and many Jews stopped by and visited the tank partaking of the donuts, taking Chanuka Menorah kits and laying Tefillin.
After 10 minutes at the new location, a middle-aged man wearing a ponytail named Joseph stopped by and shared his story. His maternal grandparents had run away from the Nazis in Europe and settled in a French village in Quebec. Traumatized by their experiences of anti-Semitism in Europe, they decided to hide the fact that they were Jews and became members of the local Catholic Church. Their daughter married a local from the village and eventually had Joseph who was raised without any knowledge of his Jewish ancestry.
When Joseph’s grandmother passed away, he was tasked with cleaning up her apartment and he came across many Jewish books among her belongings. When he asked his mother about them, she attempted to brush it away with vague answers, but Joseph was persistent and she finally shared the story of their escape from Nazi Europe and decision to hide their Jewishness. Joseph concluded that since then he has been trying to learn more about being Jewish and was happy to come across the Mitzva Tank that day.
Rabbi Gershzon helped Joseph lay Tefillin, gave him a Menorah kit and pushka, both printed with Chabad of Kanata’s contact information and said good-bye. Later that evening both discovered that Joseph had left his bag on the tank and that night he called to ask if they found it. This led to another thirty minute discussion about Yiddishkeit during which they discussed the mitzvah of Brit Milah as there was one being held the next day in Ottawa.
“You know, tomorrow you will have a rare opportunity with the Mohel being in town,” said Rabbi Gershzon. And so, the very next day, at age 40, Joseph entered the covenant of Avraham and was named Yosef Yitzchok. He plans to join Torah classes at Chabad of Kanata, just as soon as he is feeling better.