President of the Dominican Republic, Mr. Leonel Fernandez visited the international headquarters of Chabad-Lubavitch in Brooklyn, Tuesday evening, where he met with the leadership of the movement.
Accompanied by his wife, Dr. Margarita Cedeño de Fernández, the President expressed his gratitude for the installment of a permanent Chabad representative to his country two years ago.
Reiterating a promise he made in June when he met the Dominican Republic’s Chabad representatives, Rabbi Shimon and Michal Pelman at the National Palace in Santo Domingo, the President said, “If there’s anything you need in terms of support from the government, you have my full support. We want to be helpful in any way we can.”
Mr. Fernandez and the First Lady, in New York for the UN’s 64th General Assembly, took an interest in the scope of Chabad-Lubavitch worldwide, the history of the movement under the leadership of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, and its outreach activities.
Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, Chairman of the educational and social services division, recalled that he had visited the Dominican Republic in 1957, as a rabbinical student when the Jewish community counted only about 70 Jews.
Today, Rabbi and Mrs. Pelman reach out to 200 Jewish residents in Santo Domingo, with a host of educational programs for adults and children, and kosher amenities for locals and visitors.
“Since Rabbi and Mrs. Pelman have opened a Chabad center in S. Domingo,” Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos, the Chabad-Lubavitch educational division, told the President, “we have been getting 400-500 calls a year from Jews traveling to your country wanting to know where the Chabad center is.”
Representing Rabbi Pelman was his sister, Mrs. Nechama Peles, who spoke to the President and the First Lady in Spanish. Mrs. Fernandez was especially interested in the women’s international conference of Chabad representatives, coming up in February.
As the President was presented with a gift of a silver embossed shofar, Rabbi Krinsky told Mr. Fernandez about the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur.
In greeting non-Jews at this time of year, said Rabbi Krinsky, the Rebbe told them that G-d blesses the all of humankind at the Jewish New Year. Rabbi Krinsky likewise extended blessings to the President and his country for a good year.
Before leaving, the President and his entourage toured the Jewish Children’s Museum, pausing for some time to explore the exhibits on the six days of creation, the giving of the Torah at Sinai, and mitzvahs encouraging kindness and sharing.
The visit was coordinated by Rabbi Yirmi Berkowitz and Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz of Lubavitch Headquarters.
Photos: Menachem Kozlovsky for lubavitch.com