Father and son, both rabbis, take care of SoMa's troubled residents
SAN FRANCISCO - A pair of orthodox rabbis are coming up with some unorthodox ways to serve their South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco and beyond.
You might hear the two rabbis blowing the shofar for a special occasion, like for a friend's birthday on 6th Street. But most of the time, Rabbi Yosef Langer and his son, Rabbi Moshe Langer, are serving side-by-side in San Francisco.
"This is a thoroughfare downtown all the way through the town. And people are screaming in the streets," the elder Rabbi Langer said. "So we found it important to be here and serve the community."
One way they serve is through The Giving Kitchen, which cooks free food for dozens who are elderly and unhoused. Every week, Rabbi Moshe Langer leads volunteers in serving the food.
"The main ingredient that we put in our chicken matzo ball soup is love," he tells the volunteers, as they pack up the hot soup and donated hygiene kits for distribution to South of Market neighbors in need.
Rabbi Moshe Langer started the program in 2018, motivated by his father's kindness on a hot day to a person that no one else would help.
"And a guy was on the floor begging for water. And my father walked back, took the time out of his day, a simple cup of water. That guy came back afterwards and he told my father, He said, 'You saved my life,'" said the younger Rabbi Langer.
His father added, "A smile, a wink, a hug, good morning goes a long way in this world and people don't forget, don't forget it."
"It's really special to see that you really could make a person's day, save their life, you never know," Rabbi Moshe Langer said.
On this day, a group of Salesforce employees called Faithforce, volunteers passing out hot soup to unhoused people like Rodney.
"It means a lot to me," said Rodney.
And Rabbi Moshe Langer's leadership means so much to volunteer Karen Quastler, she keeps bringing the Faithforce group back to serve.
"He inspires other people to be like him, to do good deeds," she said.
But Rabbi Moshe draws inspiration from his father.
"I aspire to be like him, his creativity to touch people and get the community together," he said.
In fact, Rabbi Yosef Langer has been instrumental in starting and supporting chabads in northern California. He founded the Chabad of San Francisco in 1980, one of the first chabad centers in the state, and a focal point of community connection conventional or not:
For example, the rabbis and their staff throw an annual Super Bowl party for people living with homelessness.
But the pair also cooks up innovative ways to share their Jewish heritage. Their motorized Mitzvah Cable Car has offered tours and prayer services for the last 16 years.
You want to ride? Perform a random act of kindness.
In addition, Rabbi Yosef Langer has earned the nickname "Rally Rabbi" for blowing the shofar for San Francisco Giants games on Jewish heritage nights.
And that giant menorah every year on Union Square? Rabbi Yosef Langer started that in 1975 with music promoter Bill Graham. It was the first public menorah lighting outside Israel.
So for serving their South of Market neighborhood and highlighting their Jewish heritage, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Rabbi Yosef Langer and Rabbi Moshe Langer.
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