By COLlive reporter
Photos by Baruch Ezagui
The ornate Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, one of the most elegant venues in the nation’s capital, was transformed last week into a heavenly banquet hall for the closing event of the international Living Legacy Conference in Washington, DC.
By the hundreds, shluchim and supporters from over 40 states and more than 40 countries arrived in police-escorted motorcades and filed into the reception area, enjoying the finest kosher foods many of them had ever tasted, prepared especially for them under Maestro David Dahan.
After being welcomed and called to order by Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Director of American Friends of Lubavitch – the host of the conference, the room pulsated with an energetic “Sholom Aleichem” by Jewish music superstar Avraham Fried.
The song grew livelier and livelier until the hall erupted into dancing throughout, with people from all over the globe singing the famous, “Ule’achiv yoimar Chazak.”
After returning to their seats, everyone was mesmerized by a presentation of the Mayberg Fellows, a select group of students recommended by shluchim on campuses across the US to participate in the conference.
This initiative, organized together with Chabad on Campus International Foundation, brought these student leaders to Washington to interact with the many public figures and academics who were present, and who dedicated part of their time to meet and farbreng with them privately.
The students presented a conversation, “I am Chabad” a very moving account of their initiation and reconnection to their yiddishkeit through the Rebbe’s shluchim on their campuses. Particularly interesting was a presentation by a student at Berkley, whose own shliach and shlucha were themselves students attending this very event ten years ago, who met there and had since married and gone on shlichus to that campus.
Following dinner, the hall filled with two very moving addresses.
Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, Chairman of the umbrella group Agudas Chassidei Chabad International and national director of American Friends of Lubavitch, spoke movingly of the ultimately impactful mission of the Rebbe, and how when he was younger and saw the map on Lubavitch publications with arrows pointing to many far flung places.
He said it never dawned on him how that reach would be materialized to the point where there are now easily 600,000 Jews closely connected to shluchim around the world, not to mention the millions more who receive assistance and are connected to the thousands of shluchim comprising the international network of Chabad-Lubavitch.
Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel spoke of his meetings with the Rebbe, and how he had never met a Jewish leader quite like him.
“His pillow must have been burning,” said Wiesel, tears in his own eyes, as he related what must have been the heavy burden which the Rebbe carried for so many years of the plight of world Jewry.
Wiesel continued to relate how while he never thought he would survive the Holocaust, he always thinks about why he was lucky enough to be spared. “Every day, I try to live my life in a way that it would be a Kiddush Hashem.”
This is what the Rebbe taught, he said, and not only for Jews. If Jews will be better Jews, then Christians will be better Christians, and Muslims will be better Muslims.
“The Rebbe knew that we must work, but not only for ourselves, because we impact the world.”
His speech was a moving and uplifting end to an outstanding and unparalleled day of interaction with America’s highest echelons, and Kiddush Hashem, in Washington, DC.