As a week of mourning winds down for United States Senator Ted Kennedy, his constituents are remembering his contributions in the Senate chambers and eulogizing the end of Camelot.
Though certainly less known, Kennedy’s involvement with the Jewish community of Massachusetts throughout his 46-year tenure as Senator is also being quietly remembered.
“He always came through for us,” reveals Rabbi Herschel Fogelman from his Worcester home. “Whether it was visas or help with or immigration papers for Jewish immigrants, Russian and Iranian, the Senator helped our community.”
“We would call his office after we had exhausted all of the regular avenues and he always delivered,” recalls Rabbi Fogelman.
As an emissary of the sixth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneerson, Fogelman has been serving the Jewish community of Massachusetts since 1943. He has known the Kennedy family for much of that time.
The senior Chabad emissary who also corresponded with President John F. Kennedy at the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s request concerning a strong movement to ban shechita, religious slaughter, in the United States during the 50s, says the elder Kennedy was also supportive.
“JFK Kennedy responded in complete support of ritual slaughter and promised that “Jewish shechita should be good,” says Fogelman.
The Massachussetts Senator also arranged several Oval office meetings for the rabbi. Through their acquaintanceship, the Senator and the Rabbi were able to effect positive change for the people of their state.
“He always cooperated,” says Fogelman.
Amongst his many other titles, Fogelman is dean of the highly regarded Yeshiva Academy. Senator Kennedy was the guest speaker at the school’s annual gala dinner in 1980.
“He spoke about the importance of a yeshiva education, saving Russian Jewry, and about Israel,” recounts Fogelman. “The Senator brought his son to one of our dinners where he seemed quite at home.”
Senator Kennedy was the first of his colleagues to write a letter in support of the return of the Chabad-Lubavitch library from Russia. He argued vociferously for its lawful return and encouraged his associates to do the same.
“Senator Kennedy was a true friend of the Jewish community.”