By Wyatt Goolsby
ODESSA - He's lead big congregations in New York, Ohio, and Texas, but about 10 years ago, he decided to come to West Texas. Since then, he flies into Midland from Fort Worth once every two weeks. Why? Because Rabbi Sidney Zimelman says here in the Permian Basin, members of Temple Beth-El in Odessa are setting the standard for living the Jewish faith.
"To me, they are living out the sacred mission of Judaism, which is to make whatever place that you live in a better place in this world, so that it can catch and become contagious to others," said Rabbi Zimelman.
Even after ten years of leading services at Temple Beth-El in Odessa, Zimelman said he's still inspired by his congregation, and that's what keeps him coming back every other weekend.
But the Rabbi and his wife, Vivian, have a strict schedule to make sure there ready Friday night at Sundown for the start of the Sabbath.
"When we come in, the way we always celebrate Shabbat, is with the Sabbath meal, everything has to be prepared before hand. It's got to be slaughtered properly, cooked in proper utensils, we do that in Fort Worth, bring our food with us," explained Rabbi Zimelman.
"My wife lights the candles first, then I sing a psalm of praise. Then we greet the Sabbath spirits, we wash our hands and make them motzi, where we break bread, we eat soup. And then we say grace after meals. That's the way I was brought up, that's the way my wife was brought up, and we continue that tradition."
And in following the laws of the tradition, the Rabbi and his wife don't drive, but walk to nearby Temple Beth-El for service.
"I feel motivated to bring a sense of Judaism, a sense of knowledge, teaching, and if I can, inspiration to a small, hardy group of pioneers," added Zimelman. "I consider them pioneers, who not withstanding their miniscual number are interested and indeed dedicated to maintaining a strong sense of their faith and they do that here."
And for this little "Pocket of Judaism" in West Texas, it's about faith, not numbers.
"I think to the extreme, that our congregation and the members of our faith are going to to keep this for 70 families in West Texas, the effort that you go through to do this is a complement to us," said Dr. Frank Kasman, the lay president of Temple Beth-El.
Members of Temple Beth-El also said more people come to service when the Rabbi is in town. And since the Synagogue is the only one in the Permian Basin, that means they get folks from all over, including Crane, Andrews, Big Spring, Fort Stockton, and as far as Hobbs, N.M.