By Karen Schwartz, chabad.org
Mendy Maierovitz flew in from Toronto specifically to attend a New York event supporting one of the oldest social service organizations in operation in Israel.
What attracted him to Colel Chabad’s International Awards Dinner was that almost 230 years after its founding by the First Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the network of food distribution centers, soup kitchens, and subsidized stores is still going strong. And in the midst of an economic slump, it just finished one of its best years ever.
“It’s just a great organization,” said Maierovitz, who joined 800 people mingling over hors d’oeuvres stations of sushi, soups, carved meat, falafel and dumplings before heading in to sit around 75 tables decorated with flowered centerpieces. “And they do phenomenal work.”
All told, Colel Chabad posted a 26 percent increase in distributions, announced the organization’s director, Rabbi Shalom Duchman.
In delivering the annual Shareholders’ Report, he reviewed Colel Chabad’s various units, including its mass Bar Mitzvah ceremony for Israeli orphans, reduced-cost dental clinics, daycare centers, and this year’s dedication of the 25,000-square foot Slager Logistics Center for food distributions.
“We don’t judge the poor, we feed the poor,” Duchman told the applauding crowd.
Over the past year, said the rabbi, Colel Chabad subsidized 420 weddings for poor families, bringing the total of such events to more than 6,000 since 1995.
For Maierovitz, who has attended the awards dinner for years, such numbers are inspiring.”They just want to help whoever they can,” he said.
That underlying desire was evident in Duchman’s speech. “We always need to strive higher and higher,” said Duchman.
The rabbi then went on to list a host of events planned for next year, including the opening of Colel Chabad’s 20th soup kitchen, its sixth not-for-profit store, three daycare sites and four new dental clinics.
“Everything we do,” he told the donors in the New York Hilton ballroom, “is possible because of you.”
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn commended the organization’s work as an example in the way it treats those it serves. She said it offered lessons on how to “bring that level of respect and dignity to our soup kitchens and food pantries.”
Newark Mayor Cory Booker delivered the keynote address. “We have a calling,” said Booker. “Life is not a spectator sport in which we can luxuriate in what we have.”
David and Eda Schottenstein, Sant Singh Chatwal, and Rickie Freeman-Platt were also honored at the dinner.
After the event, Colel Chabad director of development Rabbi Zalman Duchman said that he was impressed with the diversity of the crowd, and hoped people walked away with a sense of what individuals can accomplish by joining together.
“The energy was outstanding, very positive energy in the room,” he explained. “And the bottom line is the element of commitment for us to continue.”
Jatin Shah, professor of surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, said he attended to support Sant Singh Chatwal. “I met so many people I didn’t know,” he said. “The food is good, but that’s not the reason I’m here.”
Shah explained that he felt such functions were “crucial” to highlighting the shared priorities between communities.
“The family values and the cultural values of the Jewish people are very similar,” he offered. “Jewish people are committed to family and religion and so are” Indians.