NJ Senate President Steven Sweeney took a long sweeping glance at the large crowd of worshipers at the Western Wall Plaza on Friday evening and remarked “The history of this place is so amazing, and the story of the Jewish people is so inspirational I always knew I had to come and visit!”
He was not alone in his feelings, as 11 other legislators, 7 Senators and 5 Assemblymen and Assemblywomen in total, spent 4 days in Israel meeting with political and business leaders, and discovering the country and its people.
Accompanying them and representing The Rabbinical College of America and The 51 Chabad Centers of NJ under the directorship of Rabbi Moshe Herson, was Rabbi Avi Richler, Executive Director of Chabad of Gloucester County and Chabad of Rowan University. Although he has been to Israel many times, helping the legislators discover the Jewish story was an amazing way to further the connection between the State of New Jersey and the State of Israel.
“People don’t realize how similar in size and population our 2 states are and there are so many ways that a relationship between these states can be mutually beneficial,” said Richler. “A number of Israeli companies that operate in the U.S. often pick New Jersey as their base of operations, given its close access to Wall Street capital but lower cost of living compared to New York. A significant amount of Israelis also live in New Jersey, and many of them attend our Chabad Houses. Our constituents depend on us as leaders of the community to ensure that their voice is heard in all levels of government and that was the reason for my accompaniment on this trip.”
The importance of US support to Israel was not lost on State Senator and Congressional Candidate Donald Norcross. “It will take a while to process everything we experienced, but I will certainly take a strong support for Israel with me when I am in Washington.”
While the trip only lasted for 4 days, the lessons and impact were far greater, and each of the legislators were sure they would return some day.