Hundreds of people from across the Washington, DC community turned out for a special “Evening of Inspiration” marking the upcoming 20th yahrtzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of blessed memory.
The inspiring program, held in the Betts Marvin Theater at the GW University, featured Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of (the NY Times Best Seller) “REBBE: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the most influential rabbi in modern history” in a fascinating conversation with CBS News National Correspondent Dan Raviv.
Despite the 100-degree heat and much of official Washington away, the prestigious communal event, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, The JCRC of Greater Washington, the Washington Jewish Week and American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), brought together many government officials, diplomats, rabbinical and communal leaders and scholars, along with students and even some summer interns.
Federation President Mrs. Liza Levy marveled at the work of Chabad-Lubavitch in the Washington community and around the world, even pointing out the ongoing weekly class she personally attends, given by Rabbi Mendel Bluming, a prominent Chabad Rov and Shliach in Potomac, MD. JCRC Executive Director Ron Halber spoke of how in his opinion “no one has impacted Jews around the world more than the Lubavitcher Rebbe” as he lauded the warmth of the Shluchim, and expressed pride in his work with American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) as well as his relationship with his own local shliach, Rabbi Sholom Raichik of Chabad of Upper Montgomery County. He spoke of how one can just “walk in to any Chabad House and know what it means to feel loved just because you are a Jew.”
Mr. Louis Mayberg, a successful businessman and one of Washington’s most prominent philanthropists, spoke of his own journey in yiddishkeit which began about 25 years ago (through Aish Hatorah) and noting the presence of its director at the event, said: “I think the greatest tribute to the Rebbe is seeing, so many years after his passing, the enormous sustained growth of his efforts literally across the globe, which he and his family see on business and personal travels. “The shluchim do so with one overriding goal, said Mr. Mayberg, “to do whatever it takes to hold the Jewish people together, even in the most trying times.
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) recalled how the Rebbe who loved all Jews and all of humanity despised one thing – despair. And though it seemed so impossible after the Holocaust, nevertheless inspired and guided the resurgence of Jewish life all over the world and urged the community to focus on that theme as we mark this special day.
Rising Jewish music star Benny Friedman wowed the crowd with renditions of some of the Rebbe’s nigunim, offering brief explanations as to their significance.
The evening then offered its highlight – a lively exchange between Telushkin and Raviv followed by questions from the audience.
In closing, Mr. Les Ulanow, a longtime and beloved community activist, recalled how he challenged Rabbi Shemtov several years ago when presented with the booklet “An Appreciation (of the Rebbe)” calling it a huge waste of resources. “Please read the booklet”, Rabbi Shemtov implored, “and if you still think so afterward, we can then debate the value”. The next time they met, Mr. Ulanow relayed how indeed reading the booklet changed his mind – and his life! And this time, said Mr. Ulanow, “I urge you all to take one home and read it, as it literally has changed my life”. Needless to say, the evening’s supply of the booklet was all but depleted.
A wonderful, uplifting opportunity for the Washington, DC Jewish community to prepare for this significant time.