Why - I wondered - is the NYT running a whole piece about the growing number of rabbis in Montana, of all places? There are, for the record, now three, but that's hardly unique.
All became clear towards the end of the article, when the action switches to an official chanukah candle lighting ceremony at the Capital last year - which was watched by an officer and his dog.
When the ceremony was over, the officer approached the Hasidic rabbi.
“I’m Officer John Fosket of the Helena Police,” he said. “This is Miky, our security dog. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
Miky, pronounced Mikey, is in a Diaspora of his own. He was born in an animal shelter in Holland and shipped as a puppy to Israel, where he was trained by the Israeli Defense Forces to sniff out explosives. Then one day, Miky got a plane ticket to America. Rather than spend the standard $20,000 on a bomb dog, the Helena Police Department had shopped around and discovered that it could import a surplus bomb dog from the Israeli forces for the price of the flight. So Miky came to his new home in
Helena, to join the police force.
The problem, the officer explained, was that Miky had been trained entirely in Hebrew.
When Officer Fosket got Miky, he was handed a list of a dozen Hebrew commands and expressions, like “Hi’ sha’ er” (stay!), Ch’pess (search!), and “Kelev tov” (good doggy). He made flashcards and tried practicing with Miky. But poor Miky didn’t respond.
Officer Fosket (who is not Jewish) suspected he wasn’t pronouncing the words properly. He tried a Hebrew instructional audio-book from the local
library, but no luck. The dog didn’t always understand what he was being ordered to do. Or maybe Miky was just using his owner’s bad pronunciation as an excuse to ignore him. Either way, the policeman needed a rabbi.
And now he had found one. They worked through a few pronunciations, and the rabbi, Chaim Bruk, is now on call to work with Miky and his owner as needed. Officer Fosket has since learned to pronounce the tricky Israeli “ch” sound, and Miky has become a new star on the police force. The two were even brought in by the Secret Service to work a recent presidential visit.
So all is well in the Jewish community here because the Hasidic rabbi is helping the Montana cop speak Hebrew to his dog. It is good news all around. The officer
keeps the Capitol safe, and the Hebrew pooch is feeling more at home hearing his native tongue.
But 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.