Joshua Runyan – Chabad.org
For the first time in history, the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia welcomed a rabbinical delegation to its modern headquarters along the Rhine River in Dusseldorf, Germany.
A total of 21 Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries from 15 cities throughout the country gathered in the state capital for their annual two-day conference; they met with State President Eckhard Uhlenberg on Tuesday to discuss Jewish communal affairs.
Coming on the heels of several similar conferences throughout the world, the gathering celebrated the more than 22 years since the establishment of the country’s first Chabad House. Today, according to Rabbi Yisroel Diskin, the Munich-based director of Chabad of Germany, Chabad-run schools serve all segments of the Jewish community, while its centers help locals and new immigrants embrace their heritage.
“I’m familiar with the rapid growth of Chabad activities in Germany,” said Uhlenberg. “We all must strengthen Jewish life in our state, and I am sure that we can together.”
In an interview after the conference, Rabbi Chaim Barkahn, director of Dusseldorf’s Rohr Chabad-Lubavitch Center, credited the years-long support of the philanthropic Rohr Family for underwriting an entire infrastructure dedicated to fueling the Jewish rebirth taking place throughout Germany.
“They planted the seeds many years ago, and today, we are all reaping the fruit,” said Barkahn.
At the presidential reception, Uhlenberg received a silver menorah from Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, and chairman of the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries. In remarks to the president, Kotlarsky hailed the growth of Judaism in Germany as remarkable, and an ongoing necessity.
“I was not privileged to know my grandparents,” said Kotlarsky. “I didn’t have uncles and aunts; everyone was murdered by the Nazis.
“But our focus is, and always has been, on the future,” he continued. “Our goal is to strengthen tradition and values.”
Also at the meeting was Matthias Schreiber, the state representative to religious communities, who received a book from Kotlarsky, and presented a book about Dusseldorf to the visiting delegation.
“There are 31,000 Jews who live in this region,” said Barkahn. “The parliament’s embrace of our group was powerful” and underlined the importance that the government accords the Jewish community.