The Mitzvah Tank in Times Square

Parked in front of the Times Square subway station, surrounded by neon and flashing lights, was a large vehicle bearing signs that identified it as a Mitzvah Tank. A what?

Mitzvah Tanks are a fleet of specially-outfitted motor homes used by followers of Menachem M. Schneersohn, commonly known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe. His adherents, who are called Lubavitchers, use the vehicles as portable educational and outreach centers.

To understand the purpose of the Mitzvah Tanks, it is necessary to know that the Lubavitchers are Orthodox Jews who encourage secular Jews to learn about and practice Judaism.

The Lubavitchers are not like traditional missionaries or evangelists. They aren’t trying to convert anyone who follows a different religion; rather, their goal is to reach those who have drifted away from (or never really learned) the teachings of their own faith.

The name Mitzvah Tank combines two important concepts: a mitzvah is a good deed (or a holy obligation), and the Lubavitchers cheerfully compare their outreach efforts to a military campaign in which motor homes serve as “tanks.” 

Mitzvah Tanks are often seen around town just before major Jewish festivals. Since Passover (Pesach) begins tonight, the tank in Times Square was surrounded by kids offering boxes of hand-made matzoh and information about the holiday.

When I guessed that the kids lived in Brooklyn (location of the Lubavitcher World Headquarters), they were delighted to give me kosher-for-passover snacks and pose for a few photos.

They also urged me to visit their neighborhood, Crown Heights, including a trip to the Jewish Children’s Museum that opened last year. Well, the weather is getting warmer …

In front of the Times Square subway station
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Let’s welcome Moshiach with acts of goodness & kindness
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Step up to the Mitzvah Tank
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Parked on 42nd Street
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Boys with boxes of hand-made matzoh
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Wikipedia: Mitzvah Tank
Gothamist: Mitzvah Tank Invasion
Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters
Beit Chabad: Pesach
Tank Parade


16 Responses to The Mitzvah Tank in Times Square

  1. What a great thing they do and lovely photos you have taken! :o)


  2. Pendullum says:

    These pics just had me smiling…


  3. Meg says:

    Interesting juxtaposition of Mt Rushmore and other pictures on the ‘tanks’ and the Mitzvah message.


  4. Erica says:

    I cannot say enough good things about Chabad-Lubavitch. They are such good peeps, and in my opinion represent all that is good and holy about organized religion (because, as we know, organized religion is not always such a good thing).

    Very cool pics.


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