Chabad has gone where no Jewish movement has gone before: Antarctica. After opening Chabad houses in almost every corner of the world, the Hasidic ultra-Orthodox movement has now sent an emissary to one of the world’s coldest places. Last Wednesday, Chabad emissary Meir Alfasi set sail from Argentina to Antarctica, heading off, he said, “on a mission from the Rebbe.”
“The Lubavitcher Rebbe issued a directive that the Tanya [the foundational book of Lubavitch Hasidism] be printed in every place where there are Jews, even if it is just one Jew living in a remote place,” Alfasi told Israel Hayom from the frozen continent. “There are several Jewish scientists living in Antarctica, as well as Jewish travelers, of course, who visit.”
One of the greatest challenges to Chabad emissaries in remote places is the religious requirement to pray in a minyan, or quorum of 10. The other great challenge is obtaining kosher food. Alfasi came well prepared. “We took a ship from Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world. There were six Israeli Jews and four other Jews from around the world. Two of them work in the ship’s control room, and they even speak Hebrew, so we have a minyan,” Alfasi said. “The trip takes 10 days, including two days to arrive and two to return. I brought two packages of sliced bread and several spreads, as well as fruit and vegetables, so in terms of food, I managed.”
The trip was not easy. “The first two days were very difficult. We traveled through a very stormy passage,” Alfasi said.
Despite the conditions, Alfasi did not forgo any of his Jewish customs. “It was a very exciting Shabbat, which I experienced with another religious guy. We sang Shabbat songs and ate challah as well as frozen salmon,” he said.
Being at the edge of the world during the southern summer meant several additional hours of daylight. “Shabbat ended at 11:30 p.m.,” Alfasi said, “So we had even more time to enjoy it. There is no better way to bring in Shabbat than in a white environment, surrounded by floating icebergs, snowy mountains, penguins and dolphins.”
Alfasi has undertaken the project of printing more than 50 Tanya books in more than 40 different countries he has visited, including India, Chile, Albania, Brazil, Italy and the Floating Islands of Peru.