Photos: Mendy Moscowitz and Chana Blumes Photo
Last week, over one thousand Jews from all walks of life gathered for five days of learning and inspiration at JLI’s National Jewish Retreat in Chicago.
Our Jewish brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel were on the minds and hearts of participants who dedicated their studies to the merit of wounded IDF soldiers and in memory of the fallen Kedoshim. Whereas the program was planned months before, sessions about Israel took on special poignancy. JLI Chairman, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky emotionally shared about his recent trip to Israel when he visited wounded soldiers and grieving families and urged participants from 32 states and 6 countries to take on resolutions in their merit.
Throughout the Retreat meals and main sessions, several tributes were dedicated to Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, head shliach to the state of Illinois who was very instrumental in bringing the Retreat to Chicago this year and was deeply involved in the planning stages up until his sudden passing earlier this year.
In honor of 20 years since Gimmel Tammuz, many of the 150 sessions by over 80 renowned speakers revolved around the Rebbe’s life, legacy, and teachings. Fascinating lectures and inspiring workshops and farbrengens focused on the Rebbe’s outlook were presented by personalities of note, including Rabbi Adin Even-Yisroel Steinsaltz, Rabbi Shmuel Lew, Dr. Ira Weiss (the Rebbe’s physician), Rabbi YY Jacobson, Rabbi Moshe Bryski, Rabbi Yitzchok Schochet, Rabbi Shais Taub, Rabbi Benjamin Blech, and others.
On the first day of the Retreat, over two hundred attorneys from the greater Chicago area joined a CLE accredited legal conference, coordinated by Rabbi Meir Hecht of JLI of Metropolitan Chicago. In multiple sessions throughout the day, prominent attorneys and judges discussed perspectives from Jewish Law and their relevance to the modern legal system and to contemporary ethical quandaries.
Physicians earned continuing medical education credits for attending a Jewish medical ethics conference, coordinated by Mrs. Mindy Wallch and Rabbi Mordechai Dinerman and chaired by Dr. Alan Kaddish, president of the Touro College and University System and Rabbi Dr. Eddie Reichman of YU. There was also an inspiring women’s day organized by the director of JLI’s Rosh Chodesh Society, Mrs. Shaindy Jacobson.
“Participating in the National Jewish Retreat in Chicago was one of the most powerful and special gifts I have ever given myself,” wrote a first-timer to her shliach in Michigan. “The Rebbe’s mission was to create the foundation and love for Yiddishkeit in every Jew anywhere in the world, but the lighting of the match to ignite that love of Torah, he left to the individual. I am so grateful that I was able to strike that match for myself and join in the joy of celebrating ‘Am Yisroel Chai’ surrounded by 1000 or more Jews joined in unity and faith.” Since the retreat ended, JLI has been receiving dozens of such calls and emails praising the high caliber of the lectures, the luxurious setting, and the gourmet food, supplied by Greenwald’s Caterers under the supervision of Rabbi Don Yoel Levy of the OK.
One of the highlights of the retreat was a musical Havdalah led by Rabbi YY Jacobson in the Palmer House’s magnificent and historic lobby. Before breaking into heartfelt Chabad and Modzhitzer niggunim, Rabbi Jacobson explained the role of Havdalah in helping us descend from the spiritual high of Shabbos and in conferring its inspiration on the everyday activities of the week ahead.
As over one thousand Jews now return to their everyday lives in communities across North America and the world, moved by the Rebbe’s guidance and inspiration they begin ‘unpacking’ the spiritual treasures gained at the National Jewish Retreat, including scores of resolutions to increase in Torah and Mitzvos with vigor and joy.