This week in New York City, the Mitzvah Tanks are out in full force. They’re RVs tricked out by the Chabad-Lubabitch Hasidim to function as mobile synagogues and places where lapsed Jewish-Americans can reconnect with traditional, felt-hatted Judaism. As a child, I remember being traumatized when, walking down the main street of my small town in New Jersey, I was ambushed by two Hasids in the full regalia, who said “Hey! Hey! Sonny! Does your mother kindle the Sabbath lights on Friday nights?” It sounded like a lewd come-on.
But now, I have to say I appreciate the comedy of the Mitzvah Tank hustle. Yesterday I was walking past a convoy of Tanks parked along 42nd Steet, wearing the most English thing I own–a pinstriped suit made by Anderson & Sheppard of Savile Row–when a Hasid started walking in lockstep with me, saying “’Scuse me? ’Scuse me? You Jewish? You gotta be Jewish! You look too Jewish!”