As Ari Walters and Benyomin Klipper switched on a power saw and tore through the tip of a ram’s horn, about 18 Hebrew school pupils at Chabad of Augusta looked on with awe.
The children were learning how to make shofars, horns used on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and other holidays.
Using horns already cut and drilled hollow, the pupils, ages 5 to 12, worked to sand and shape their instruments with sandpaper and wire brushes.
The message Klipper hoped to pass on was that these horns will be used to reaccept God as they bring in the new year.
“It’s a sound that’s like a wake-up call for your soul,” he said. “It’s a reminder of who you are as a human being.”
The shofar lesson was one of many teachings Ari, 16, and Klipper, 22, brought to Augusta this month. Both are yeshiva students at the Rabbinical College of America in New Jersey. They came to Augusta as part of a nationwide Roving Rabbi program. During their stay, the duo has reached out to Jewish families and the elderly, along with shut-ins and the needy.
The program is not meant to collect money or convert, Ari said, but to bring comfort to those who need it.
“If it’s one thing we’re pushing, it’s joy,” Klipper said. “We’re not here for money, we’re here for joy.”
Rabbi Zalman Fischer, the rabbi at Chabad of Augusta, said he applied to bring the students to Augusta to help with outreach.
In the three weeks of their one-month stay, the two have visited about 15 people at their homes and stopped in at businesses.
Visits with the elderly were opportunities to talk about religion and life, but also a time to bring happiness to people who need it, Ari said.
The pair would meet with people in their living rooms for anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours, often being treated like
“It was like visiting your grandma,” Klipper said. “Anything that wasn’t taped down to the ground, they were offering to feed it to us. M&M’s, pot roast, whatever was cooking.”
With their intensive schooling and knowledge of their faith, the yeshiva students were able to bring spiritual advice to people who asked for it.
One man with a terminal illness asked about worries that come when faced with death, such as whether his Christian friends could be his pallbearers and how he should be buried.
“You could hear he was smiling on the phone,” Ari said about setting up their visit. “He said we called at just the right time in his life.”
When they go back to school, Ari and Klipper will continue their studies, but Fischer said they have brought a lasting gift to the community.
“They haven’t been jaded by the ways of the world yet,” he said. “They’ve reached out to people that I normally wouldn’t be able to.