A 28-foot 1987 Travelmaster Class A motorhome is being used on the streets of Chicago for an unusual purpose: to bring fallen Jews back into the fold, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.
The motorhome has the words “Mitzvah Tank” plastered along its flank and is driven on weekends by Yehuda Sugar, a former journalist, the story said. He now is a member of Chicago’s Lubavitch Chabad community, a branch of Judaism that believes following the precise letter as well as the joyful spirit of the Torah, and that spreading its message is the sure way to bring on the Messiah.
Sugar, who supports a wife and children by working Mondays through Fridays as an executive recruiter and career coach, drives the motorhome around Rogers Park, a neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side that, for many years, has been the entry point for various ethnic groups into the mainstream of American life, the story said.
He also drives the Mitzvah Tank south to Chicago’s Gold Coast, the northside retail district where Jews and non-Jews who have eschewed their traditional faith for a more secular, materialistic lifestyle, go to expensive restaurants and posh boutiques.
Sugar also performs good deeds for Jews and non-Jews while Hassidic tunes blare from the tank’s rooftop speaker.
He bought the motorhome 18 months ago at an auction at a county fairgrounds located near the Wisconsin border, after kicking the tires on 300 RVs, he told The Tribune.
The 1987 Travelmaster’s engine had 51,500 miles on it and its previous owner was a minister/farmer/mechanic who used it for a similar purpose.
He converted the motorhome’s pantry into a reference library and now uses the back bedroom to store extra menorahs.
Sugar estimates he spends $150 a month on gas and $1,000 a year on maintenance and repairs to keep the Mitzvah Tank running.
The Tribune reports there are three mitzvah tanks in the U.S., with Sugar’s being the only one in the Chicago area, and 20 in Israel.
“Inch by inch, rabbi by rabbi, mitzvah tank by mitzvah tank, transforming the darkness permanently to light, that’s the pull of the moshiah (promise of redemption from the arrival of the Messiah),” Sugar told the Tribune.