By COLlive reporter
U.S. President Barack Obama received a delegation of Chabad – Lubavitch leaders in the Oval Office of the White House on Monday afternoon.
The delegation visited in connection with Education and Sharing Day, USA, which was proclaimed earlier this month in honor of the birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of blessed memory.
President Obama received the delegation warmly, and discussed the shared values of the education as the essential builder of character rather than the mere transmission of knowledge – a core teaching of the Rebbe.
The President also stressed his effort at fighting anti-Semitism and hate and told how he is concerned about this issue, particularly in Europe, and raises this matter whenever he meets world leaders.
“We were pleased to be invited to meet with the President, and reiterate our determination to fulfill the Rebbe’s mission of bolstering education and awareness in every possible way,” said Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, Chairman of the Executive of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the umbrella organization of the international Chabad – Lubavitch movement, who led the delegation.
“In these times, this need for education, and understanding its essential role in the formation of character, as our Rebbe taught, cannot be overemphasized. Education and Sharing Day provides a unique opportunity to refocus our attention on this.”
The international Chabad-Lubavitch movement is the world’s largest network of Jewish educational, social service and outreach organizations – with over 4,000 affiliates in 49 states and more than 80 countries.
Rabbi Shemtov also shared with the President the Rebbe’s view that the situation in Israel must be viewed through the context of history going back to our patriarch, Abraham, to gain a deeper understanding of the matter.
Finally, he shared with the President how there are moments when the ultimate decisions by a leader must be made, and they can seem lonely. “But those are not mere lonely moments, as the Almighty is there with the one who must make the decisions.”
The delegation included Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) – Washington, DC, and two board members of Agudas Chassidie Chabad – Rabbi Moshe Herson, Dean of the Rabbinical College of America – Morristown, NJ, Rabbi Israel Shmotkin, Regional Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, WI.
This year’s proclamation was focused on the education of women and representing that theme was Rebbetzin Chave Hecht, a senior female educator in the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, who has taught and mentored thousands of Jewish women and girls for over 70 years, and Rabbi Yossy Gordon, Executive Vice President of the Chabad on Campus International Foundation.
Representing the President’s home state of Illinois was Rabbi Meir Shimon Moscowitz.
Joining the meeting were also the highest ranking members of Tzivos Hashem, the world’s foremost organization for Jewish children, founded by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1981.
Menachem Mendel Benjaminson, 11, of Morristown, New Jersey and Chaya Mushka Goldstein, 11 of Ann Arbor, MI, were both addressed by the President as “General”, their “rank” in the corp.
The President appreciated how they have achieved their high rank – through many missions of learning and Jewish community service deeds of goodness and kindness.
As the delegation departed, a White House official remarked “That was a profound meeting. I have been in many of these, and this one was really special.”
The President presented the delegation with a framed copy of the 2015 Proclamation declaring the Rebbe’s birthday “Education and Sharing Day, USA” and was in turn presented by the delegation with a silver menorah, symbolizing light in the face of darkness.
“We were honored to be invited to the Oval Office to visit with the President, and delighted at how he was so engaged and sensitive to our discussion,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad).
Official photos of the meeting have not been released yet by the White House Press Office.
TRIBUTE TO NEPAL
Just before heading to the White House, the delegation stopped by the Embassy of Nepal, which neighbors the Chabad-Lubavitch Center in Washington, DC, to offer condolences and support in light of the recent earthquake which has claimed thousands of lives.
The Charge D’Affaires (the new ambassador is due to arrive next week) at the embassy thanked them for their good wishes and prayers, reminding all of the wonderful relationship with the Nepalese people enjoyed by the Jewish community who live and visit there.
Chabad in Nepal, led by Rabbi Chezky and Chani Lifshitz, maintains a robust operation in that country, including what is regarded as the world’s largest Passover seder which draws thousands every year.