By Zalman Nelson, lubavitch.com
Rabbi Shimon Pelman, Chabad emissary to the Dominican Republic, was formally welcomed to the country in a meeting Thursday with President Leonel Fernández Reyna at the National Palace in Santo Domingo.
Following the president’s greeting, Pelman discussed the Lubavitcher Rebbe, noting that he was meeting the President on the third of Tammuz, the day of the Rebbe’s passing. He spoke about the mission of Chabad, its global network of embassy-like Chabad Houses, and the need to develop and grow in the Dominican Republic.
“It was very warm and positive meeting. The President welcomed us and called it an honor to have Chabad in the country,” Pelman told Lubavitch.com. Rabbi Mendel Zarchi, Chabad representative to Puerto Rico, and a group of Jewish businessmen active in the Domincan Republic joined Pelman at the meeting.
“We acknowledged the Dominican Republic’s efforts to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust by taking in immigrants,” said Pelman. “I told the president that we want to give back by using the Chabad house and its services to encourage Jewish business and investment in the country.”
Reyna discussed his upcoming trip to Israel where he plans on meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres and other officials to learn how to reproduce the country’s technological development and advancement.
“It is very impressive to me to see what Israel has accomplished in 60 years. It’s a modern and beautiful country, and we can also do it here. I’m going there to learn how,” Reyna said, according to Pelman. “Anything you need to help Chabad grow here, let me know. It will greatly help our country.”
Reyna provided a government liaison for future communication and collaboration. Pelman said his official acknowledgement as one of the country’s spiritual leaders entitles him to police protection, should he request it, and will facilitate his efforts to obtain program funding as well as a larger facility in the country’s capital.
The group of 10 American and Israeli businessmen, dependent on Pelman for kosher food and synagogue services during business trips, arranged the meeting. “They told me that they want to see Chabad and Jewish business and investment increase in the Dominican Republic,” shared Pelman.
Rabbi Pelman opened his Chabad center in Santo Domingo just under two years ago, serving an estimated 200 Jewish residents, as well as businessmen and tourists. The city’s two largest hotels are nearby and Chabad’s kosher catering service is busy. Rabbi Pelman and his wife Michal operate a kindergarten and Hebrew school, and lead adult Jewish education.