Today, March 13, marks twelve years from when my wife Chavie and I landed in Bozeman, making it our home. I’m a Brooklyn boy and Chavie is a San Antonio cowgirl, and while we both visited and loved Big Sky Country, moving here permanently was a very new, and perhaps different, experience for us both.

We didn’t know the history of John Bozeman or Nelson Story, we didn’t understand the difference between “City” and “County”, and we were unsure what terms like “East of the divide”, “Chinook” and “I caught a black-tail” meant. People drove patiently, were extremely gracious, and when they asked “how ya doin'”? they were seeking a truthful answer, not just chitchatting. Twelve years later, Chavie and I carry the title “Bozemanite” as a badge of honor and today I say thank you to the people of Bozeman.

Thank you Bozeman, for welcoming us with open arms, helping us settle in and teaching us the ins and outs of Montanan culture.

Thank you, Bozeman, for accepting our Jewish faith and lifestyle, and instead of judging us because we dress, celebrate and pray in a “different” manner, you simply ask questions and we do our very best to explain our way of life.

Thank you Bozeman for having the kindest first responders in the world, who even while handing me a ticket, earn my admiration for their class and wit.

Thank you Bozeman for an amazing Jewish congregation that has made my rabbinic leadership in the Treasure State an uplifting and deeply meaningful experience.

Thank you Bozeman for expressing solidarity and showing up in droves to our annual Menorah lighting on Main Street that has included guests like Senator Jon Tester, Senator Steve Daines and Mayor Cyndi Andrus.

Thank you Bozeman for embracing diversity and welcoming our five adopted children, including our black son, into the community with non-judgmental love.

Thank you Bozeman and the amazing school system for being considerate of Jewish holidays like Chanukah, Passover and Sukkot and doing everything in your power to give our Zeesy, who has special needs, all that she needs to succeed.

Thank you Bozeman for teaching me that there’s worse things in life than -30 degrees and that as busy as we are there’s nothing better than spending a day with the family at Bridger or Yellowstone.

Thank you Bozeman for incredible venues like the Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman’s Children Museum and Bozeman Public Library for giving our children great places to learn.

Above all, thank you Bozeman for teaching Chavie and I that the fusion of nature and spirituality is a recipe for a relationship with G-d on steroids!

Rabbi Chaim Bruk is Executive Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana & Spiritual Leader of The Shul of Bozeman. He can be reached at: rabbi@jewishmontana.com