BY DAVID JACOBS • djacobs@rgj.com • August 18, 2009

Rabbis Yosef Silverstein, left, and Shalom Cunin are part of a traveling rabbi program.

With the High Holy Days approaching, two young rabbis are visiting the Reno area to bring Jewish life to residents

Rabbi Yosef Silverstein, 24, and Rabbi Shalom Cunin, 23, are in town from Brooklyn, N.Y., through the international Roving Rabbi program of Chabad, a movement within Jewish tradition.

Silverstein and Cunin are targeting Jewish residents of Northern Nevada who might not already be involved with a synagogue or Judaism.

"We want to make them feel comfortable," Silverstein said. "We want to make it accessible because it is something very special we want them to share."

The rabbis are not taking the approach of "this is what you should do," he said.

"We just want to bring traditional Judaism to them. If they end up coming to Chabad or whatever (synagogue) that would even be better, but we don't want them to go ahead of themselves.

"We think Judaism should be on a level that they're ready to take," he added.

As part of their outreach, the rabbis are stopping by homes and businesses and conducting classes.

Rabbis across the world are taking part in the effort. An aim, Cunin said, is to "try and get people to do more mitzvoth — good deeds."

"Especially over here (America), there are a lot of people who did not really get a taste of Judaism. They never did a Jewish prayer before. We help them and take them to the next step."

During their stay in Reno this month, the two rabbis have led prayers and Hebrew songs.

His brother is Rabbi Mendel Cunin of Chabad of Northern Nevada, 3600 Clover Way in southwest Reno. The young rabbis also are helping him with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur preparations, which are observed next month.

"As always, Chabad's doors are open to everyone regardless of affiliation or prior synagogue experience, and no one is ever turned away," Mendel Cunin said in an e-mail. "Our services, as well as our prayer books, are in Hebrew and English, with beautiful uplifting insights interspersed throughout the service."