SEDONA — For Rabbi Mendel Kessler and his wife, Fraydee, Sedona was always on the radar.
Arizona and more specifically, the Verde Valley, may not be necessarily known for its strong Jewish communities but “there are definitely Jews here,” according to Kessler.
And they’re hoping to make an impact.
The couple with their four children moved to the Verde Valley in September right before the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. They center their education and outreach activities in their home in Sedona.
Originally from Montreal, Canada Kessler’s father is also a Chabad Rabbi.
“It’s always been in the blood,” he said.
Chabad or Chabad-Lubavitch is a Jewish movement known for its outreach in the community and in education. Its roots come from the hasidic movement of the 18th Century but considered to have no denominational today by those within the movement.
One of Rabbi Kessler’s goals is to make Judaism more accessible to Jews in the Verde Valley.
“They should be able to access us,” he said. “We don’t charge membership … all Jews have the right to their heritage, regardless of finances.”
For Kessler, one of the most exciting things about being in the Verde Valley is getting the chance to meet more people.
“One of the things we hope to gain is doing another mitzvah (good deed) for someone,” he said. “It’s not just for the Jewish community, it’s for everyone.”
On June 10, Rabbi Kessler and his family will host a meet and greet at the Cottonwood Recreation Center.
Sedona and the Verde Valley are different, according to Fraydee because the communities are so spread out.
“We want to let them know what kinds of programs are here and let Jews know there is a Jewish community here,” she said.
They don’t have to drive to Sedona either to find it, Rabbi Kessler said.
“When it’s closer, it feels more like home,” he said.
This Sunday, the Kesslers will be hosting a Torah reading for the festival of Shavuot, which commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. The reading will be followed by a dairy and cheesecake dinner. The celebration will be hosted at their home at 110 Deer Trail Drive. Call 928-985-0667 for more information. Visit www.jewishsedona.com/ to learn more about Sedona Chabad.