By COLlive reporter
A full crowd of rabbis and cantors filled one of the halls at the annual AIPAC conference this week in Washington, DC to hear from one of Israel’s rising political stars, Naftali Bennett.
Bennett, who is Minister of the Economy and of Religious Services, spoke about his work to strengthen the Jewish identity in Israel and connecting Diaspora Jews to the Holy land.
He argued that Israel lost the Second Lebanon War in 2006 against the Hezbollah terrorists because of lack of spirit. “They were fighting a war that they had no feeling for,” he said. “Half the IDF soldiers had never even been to the Kotel.”
At the question and answer session following his speech, the first question was presented by Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Director of American Friends of Lubavitch and the Chabad Shliach in Washington.
Hearing that, the American-bred Bennett called out with a smile, “Chabad! I love you guys!”
“Bennet appealed to us for suggestions on tackling the decline in Jewish identity,” said Rabbi Getzy Markowitz of Crown Heights who was in the crowd. “Rabbi Shemtov being first to respond is indicative of Chabad being on the forefront of effectively addressing the issue.”
The presence of Chabad Shluchim at the annual pro-Israel lobbying convention, addressed this year by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State John Kerry, was visible throughout.
They were warmly greeted by Senators and Congress members from their hometowns and were seen helping Jewish men put on Tefillin or engaging in discussions and sharing a word of Torah with participants.
Shluchim in attendance were Rabbis Levi Klein – Memphis, TN; Mordy Rudolph – Shadyside, PA; Rabbi Mendel Pewzner – S. Petersburg, Russia; Moshe Shapiro – Hoboken, NJ; Berel Levertov – Santa Fe, NM; Shloime Beitch – Maryland; Mordechai Newman – Arlington, VA; Hershy Novak – Washington University, St. Louis; Berel Wolvovsky – Silver Springs, MD; Mendel Silberstein – Larchmont, NY; Zev Katz – Miami Beach, FL; Elazar Green – Lancaster, PA; Shmaya Friedman – Swampscott, MA and Yossi Lipsker – Swampscott, MA.