September 19, 2011
For about a year, between the summers of 2009 and 2010, I lived in Southeast Asia. Cambodia to be exact. I was hired at a Western-run private elementary school to teach 5th grade impoverished Cambodian children from the countryside. The year and a half before I left, I had been slowly moving towards becoming more observant. With my move, however, I felt like I was taking a step backwards, unable to practice while in the middle of a small Cambodian city. Nevertheless, before I stepped on the plane in that July, I decided my year abroad would signal another milestone in my Jewish journey. The last time I ate non-Kosher meat was the night before I left.
When I arrived in Cambodia, there was no established Chabad house. There was a sizable Chabad presence a short but expensive plane flight away, in Bangkok. I had visited that location several times during previous trips, and always felt like I was walking from an alien land into a home. At Chabad I was surrounded by Jews from around the world: Israel, New Jersey, Australia. From Israeli backpackers to frum couples from New Jersey on an exotic vacation - everyone came together at Chabad. The stories they told me about their Chabad experiences varied. The backpackers told me that Chabad was the place they could come for a taste of home or a chance to find new experiences around a new home. Many spoke of reconnecting to their Jewish roots in Nepal and Thailand in ways they never would have imagined when at home.The frum travelers were thankful for the opportunity that Chabad gave them to travel the world while still keeping Kosher and Shabbat. We came from such different backgrounds, but at the rabbi’s Shabbat table we sat as one. Read the full article here.