Laramie’s First Rabbi Aims To Educate
“Authenticity is the only thing I have,” says Laramie’s first resident Rabbi Yaakov Raskin.
The Rabbi and his family–wife Malkie, 2-year-old daughter Leah, and 6-month-old son Mendy– moved here in May, choosing Laramie specifically of its “live and let live” mentality, Raskin said. Originally hailing from London, the architectural renderer and his family spent four years in Brooklyn before moving west.
“We haven’t encountered any opposition here. In New York, I was outside my apartment, and they were screaming obscenities. I engaged, and they didn’t actually pull out a gun, but they threatened to. When I was a study in England, someone threw an egg in my face. Those things don’t happen often, but they do tend to stand out. My impression of here is that Wyoming has a ‘live and let live’ vibe. They’re not in your face, they say ‘You do you, and I’ll do me.’”
Raskin intends to live and let live, and focus on educating the Jewish community, though he welcomes anyone interested in learning about Judaism since part of his education will be focused on Chabad and The Seven Laws of Mankind: “It’s to basically be civilized people.”
The Rabbi wants to help other Jews grow their spirituality and to simply encourage others. “My focus is to inspire Jewish people here to get closer to God and to inspire others to more human kindness. Do positive deeds for mankind.”
Raskin acknowledged the proselytizing of other religions, and he says that practice doesn’t align with Jewish theology. “Many of the less positive stories in history are of people trying to convert Jews to other religions. I’m not putting signs up in the street, or raising billboards.
“In general Judaism doesn’t try to convert people. If someone comes to the Rabbi and wants to convert to Judaism, the Rabbi is supposed to discourage him, several times.”
Raksin discussed the role of Laws and Commandments in Judaism, and how that factors into perceptions and misconceptions of living a spiritual life.
“Judaism has 613 general commandments. If I do 612 of them, I’m messing up. But if you adhere to the Seven Laws of Mankind, you’re perfect. As far as Judaism is concerned, you’re doing exactly what you need to be doing. There is no reason to be doing more.”
The Rabbi wants followers to focus less on what they’re doing wrong, and focus more on the positive elements of spirituality.
"In many religions, those of other faiths are eternally damned. Judaism doesn’t say anything like that. You’re doing exactly what you should be doing; why should I try to convince you to do anything differently?”