Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Rabbi, a Policeman and a Dog Walk Into a State Capitol...

No, this is NOT a joke.  You just can't make this stuff up.  Eric A. Stern, writing in The New York Times' Religion Journal column yesterday, told the story of how a rabbi with a long beard, black hat, and long black coat helped to solve a problem for the Police Department in Helena, the capital city of Montana.  

It seems that the Helena Police Department needed a dog trained to do searches for bombs, but didn't want to pay the going price of $20,000.  After shopping around, they found that Israel had a surplus of these trained dogs and was willing to give the dog to Montana for the price of a flight.  So that's how Miky (pronounced Mikey), a German shepherd, landed in Montana.  

But there was one problem.  Miky had been trained by Hebrew speaking handlers.  When he arrived in Helena, he wouldn't respond to commands in English.  The officer, who was given a list of Hebrew commands like "Hishaer" (stay) "Chapess" (search) and "Kelev Tov" (good doggy), suspected that his pronunciation was not good enough for the dog to understand.  

So the policeman and the dog showed up at the Capitol on the first night of Hanukkah last year.  When the candle lighting ceremony was over, the policeman approached the Hasidic rabbi, who helped him with his Hebrew pronunciations, and made himself available as needed to help the officer communicate with his security dog.

The article relates interesting information about Jewish life in Montana, and how it is experiencing a minor revival.  The article concludes,
...the big winner is the rabbi, a recent arrival from Brooklyn who is working hard (against tough odds) to bring his Lubavitch movement to Montana.  He has been scouring the state for anyone who can speak Hebrew, and is elated to have found a German shepherd he can talk to.