(lubavitch.com) Once a week, Benzion Hershcovich leaves his house at the crack of dawn while his wife and children are still asleep. The twenty-something rabbi heads out to a local dairy farm where he gets kosher milk.
Hershcovich and his wife Sonia are Chabad representatives to the fishing village of Cabo San Lucas, on the tip of Mexico's Baja California.
Once a relatively sleepy town, Cabo has become Mexico's premier vacation hot spot. The city draws some one million vacationers each year who come to enjoy its timeshare homes, golf courses and beaches. Among the visitors are thousands of Jewish travelers.
Cabo is also home to a small Jewish population of about 400. But because the local population consists mostly of expats from Mexico City, Argentina, Israel and the States, there was little sense of community among the city’s Jews.
The Hershcovichs are hoping to change that. And in the short while since Chabad set up house permanently in Cabo, things have already begun to shift.
"People are coming together for the first time in a Jewish context. We're learning how to do things together,” says Hershcovich.
Jonathan Pikoff, a local lawyer originally from New Jersey, recalls that "when I suggested bringing down a rabbi, no one thought that he'd last."
And few would have blamed the naysayers; the nearest Jewish community, in S. Diego, California, is a 25 hour drive away.
Yet last week Cabo’s Jewish community welcomed a Torah scroll—on loan from Stanley and Ruth Sheinbein of La Jolla, California—at the arrivals gate in the city’s airport.
In 2006, Pikoff contacted Rabbi Mendel Polichenco, the Chabad emissary to Chula Vista, CA and Tijuana, Mexico, and made arrangements for him to visit the community on a monthly basis.
Within a short time, Polichenco discerned the need for a full time rabbi, and in March 2009 the Hershcovichs—from Montreal and Milan, respectively—arrived to serve the needs of Jewish people in Cabo S. Lucas and the greater Baja area.
Only months later, Shabbat services at Chabad are now standing room only, and the Hershcovichs have begun to search for a larger and more centrally located building to host classes and community functions. The Herschovich Shabbat table—in the couple’s home, which doubles as the Chabad Jewish community center—often seats as many as 70 guests for a Shabbat dinner.
Later this month Chabad will host a weekend Shabbaton for Cabo’s Jewish community, as part of Chabad-Lubavitch Headquarter’s annual "One Shabbat, One World" program, designed to unite Jewish communities around the world through a shared Shabbat experience.
"The potential here is tremendous," says Rabbi Hershcovich, who admits that his life in Cabo, dairy farm and all, fit into a life mission that he and his wife are dedicated to fulfilling.
"It has given us both clarity in our work."