Shalom! We are Rabbi Yehuda and Mushka Pevzner. We’re from Brooklyn and we travel to Manhattan to look for Jews to bring them closer to G-d.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe sends shluchim [messengers] like me to every corner of the world to encourage old Jewish communities and help them find young people to come to synagogue, organize classes and Shabbat meals, and build the community. We have been sent to this neighborhood.
Many Jews live in the area. We are here to show them what Judaism is and how to learn and pray. To do this, we go around on a mobile Chabad House here in the neighborhood - a mitzvah tank parked on the streets with Jewish music that will invite Jews to come learn more.
We hand out brochures and cards with information about performing Mitzvahs (good deeds) and about the coming of Moshiach (the messiah). We help men, and boys past bar mitzvah age, who are willing to perform the ritual of putting on tefillin. These are small leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah. We also hand out candle-lighting information and candles to women and girls to light in honor of the Shabbat.
HISTORY OF THE MITZVAH TANK
What is a Mitzvah Tank?
In 1974, the concept of “Mitzvah tanks” first made its appearance. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, had sent his tanks into the battle for the soul of the American Jew.
It was a standard van of the “U-Haul” or “Ryder” variety. Its back door was rolled up, showing a cargo of one large wooden table, two wooden benches, and a dozen young men with beards and black hats. From a loudspeaker taped to its roof issued forth a medley of Chassidic songs played on high volume—that is, high enough to make itself heard above the din of a Manhattan street corner. Large posters taped to the sides of the moving van proclaimed: “MITZVAH TANK”, “Teffilin on board” and “Mitzvot On The Spot For People On The Go.”
Eventually, the Ryder vans were replaced with mobile homes equipped with shelves for books and comfortable seating for a quick discussion or even an impromptu class. But the concept remained the same: Go out there and get a Jew to do a mitzvah.
What is a Mitzvah?
“Mitzvah” means “commandment”. A mitzvah is one of the 613 divine instructions to the Jew contained in the Torah. The word also means “connection”: a deed that connects the human being who performs it with G‑d, who commanded it.
Why a tank?
"A tank is undeterred by trenches and pits and simply crosses them to reach the other side. An iron barrier—the weight of the tank simply crushes it. This is the purpose of the [mitzvah] tank if: there is a (spiritual) pit or trench, or even a barrier—things that are not associated with holiness—it nevertheless can go and fulfill its mission—to dispel evil and introduce good and G‑dliness into the world."
From an address by the Rebbe, 1974 (free translation)