What’s 3,000 miles when it comes to prayer?
To Moshe Langer, cross-country distances mean nothing. From Brooklyn, N.Y., where the San Francisco–born Chabad rabbi has been living since November, Langer rounds up 10 Jewish men daily for a San Francisco minyan he helped launch.
Langer’s minyan meets outdoors for mincha, or afternoon prayers, near downtown’s Justin Herman Plaza — just as it’s done for the last three years. When Langer departed for a seven-month Torah study course near Chabad’s Crown Heights headquarters, he had every intention of keeping the minyan going.
That’s what cell phones and e-mail are for.
Langer says he has about seven minyanites he relies on to come every day, though it’s not always the same seven. Getting the last three, especially from across the country, sometimes proves a challenge.
“While I’m away, I call them,” he says of his regulars. “The minyan starts at 3:30 p.m. every day. I have a list, and I ask if people are available. Sometimes I have to ask them again.”
Some use the minyan as an opportunity to say Kaddish for a departed loved one. Others like taking a break from the hustle and bustle for a spiritual shot in the arm.
Says Langer, “It gives the Jewish community a chance to connect with the creator of the world while they are in middle of their workday in a spiritual way.”
The minyan grew after the demise of the previous downtown minyan, formed years ago and led by Langer’s father, Rabbi Yosef Langer of Chabad of San Francisco. When rent increases drove the elder Langer from his Grant Avenue Chabad House walk-up several years ago, the new, outdoor minyan was born, with Langer the Younger at the helm.
Though they pray outdoors surrounded by tourists, shoppers and denizens of downtown, Langer and the minyan have never encountered any problems. Langer says passersby are always respectful.
Next month, Langer completes his stint of Torah study and returns to San Francisco. The downtown minyan will go on, though within a year, Langer hopes to do an upgrade.
The Chabad Cable Car, Langer’s trolley-turned-Chabad House on wheels, will soon be ready to roll with a stem-to-stern restoration, including newly installed video screens and library. Once completed, the Chabad Cable Car will serve as the home of the downtown minyan.
One thing is certain. No matter where in the world he may be, come mid-afternoon Pacific Time, Langer turns his attention to the downtown minyan.
“Once you start something good for the community,” he says, “you don’t want to stop it.”