Over 550 people filled the London Lancaster Hotel on March 22, 2016 for Chabad Lubavitch UK’s third ONE dinner.
Opening the evening, Dinner Chair Lana Saffrin Betesh related how back in Riga in 1929, a young Leah Merkin ran to the Synagogue to pray for her sister who was having life threatening complications during labor, and doctors gave no alternative other than to terminate the pregnancy.
At the Synagogue, Leah was taken to the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe who gave her a bracha in writing. Leah took the blessing to the hospital and a healthy child was born. Leah was Lana’s grandmother.
A Chabad bookstall was set up at the dinner in memory of Leah Merkin’s father, Rabbi Israel Merkin who spread Judaism by selling books all over Europe.
Instead of one keynote speech, there were 7 incredible ‘pop-up’ speeches, the ages of the speakers ranging between 11 and 94. Each speaker told their personal story, and explained how the magnificent work that Chabad UK carries out had deeply affected their lives.
They included 11-year-old Maya Grunschlag, 15-year-old Michelle Rapoport (both of Chabad Belgravia), and 19-year-old Jodeci Joseph (Chabad Buckhurst Hill) , who didn’t know he was Jewish until he was ten years of age and has since found the wonderfully supportive and inspirational Chabad to help him navigate his own path.
Also speaking was Gabriel Gendler, President of the Jewish Society at Cambridge University, who in an increasingly challenging climate for Jewish students on UK campuses, spoke about how vital Chabad is to Cambridge students.
Also speaking were Max Steinberg, a recent Graduate from Nottingham University, related humorous and inspiring experiences with Chabad Nottingham, and Louise Scodie, member of Chabad Islington.
And finally, West Hampstead resident Aubrey Nelson, who found Chabad at the age of 90 when he met his local shliach while walking down the street, shortly after having suffered the tragic loss of his wife and only son.
“It took me 90 years to discover Chabad,” he said. “But they have given me the strength to go on and on. Now I’m 94, but I feel 24. Chabad has given me a new lease on life!” The emotional crowd of 550 gave him a standing ovation.
Video: 7 individuals explain how Chabad impacted their lives
Rabbi Bentzi Sudak, Chief executive of Chabad Lubavitch UK, gave an insight on the “why” with humorous and inspiring anecdotes. He also spoke about plans for the future, disclosing to guests that “we plan to hire a new, talented and ambitious CFO who will enable us to take the organization to the next level, as well as putting us in a position to establish an endowment fund that will ensure that Chabad will be there for your children and grand-children and great-grand children.”
Video: Address by Rabbi Bentzi Sudak
Finally, an appeal was given by longtime Chabad supporter Mr. Henry Knobil, who related about his first Farbrengen in 770 on the same date exactly 50 years earlier.
Entertainment was provided by rapper Ari Lesser.