Photos: Shimi Kutner, Shneur Shiff/COLlive
By COLlive reporter
In midst of a full day of sessions and discussions, participants of the International Kinus Hashluchim sat down for lunch at the Grand Ballroom of the Leonardo Palazzo magnificent event space in Great Neck, New York.
As a catered meat lunch was served, Merkos Vice-Chairman Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky welcomed the Chabad rabbis who arrived from around the world. He proudly noted the record attendance of the Kinus, leading them to add an additional 250 seats for Sunday’s banquet.
The emcee was Rabbi Shneur Raitport, Shliach in Yangon, Myanmar. Leading the crowd in reciting Tehillim was Rabbi Ari Edelkopf, the newly appointed Chief Rabbi of Montenegro. He was followed by Rabbi Yosef Minkowitz, Principal of Beth Rivkah girls academy in Montreal, Canada.
The main speaker was Rabbi Mendel Kaplan, Director of Chabad @ Flamingo, a suburb of Toronto, and a prolific teacher of Torah and Chassidus on the internet.
In an impassioned speech, using Kabbalistic terms and modern terminology, he spoke to his colleagues about “The challenge of bringing the message of Moshiach to every Jew,” emphasizing that the world is ready to hear such a message – even gentiles.
As an example, he told of his first meeting with Maurizio Bevilacqua, the Italian-Canadian politician who is currently serving as mayor of Vaughan, Ontario.
Hearing that Rabbi Kaplan was from Chabad, the mayor asked: “Were you ever at a Farbrengen? As a boy, I would sit in front to the television and flip through the channels. I once saw a Farbrengen of the Rabbei (as he called the Rebbe). I loved watching them.”
Later that year, before the municipal elections, Rabbi Kaplan called the mayor from the Ohel and asked for his name and father’s name to be mentioned for a blessing.
After the mayor replied with the names, he asked: “Why haven’t you ever invited me to visit the Ohel of the Rabbei?”
“Because you never asked,” Rabbi Kaplan replied, somewhat flabbergasted.
The mayor was re-elected and a few months later contacted Rabbi Kaplan for a date he would be able to visit New York. It was March 11. With Divine Providence, that Hebrew date was the 11th of Nissan, the Rebbe’s birthday.
“If that’s the case, I’m definitely coming,” the mayor said, learning that a community trip for that date has already been planned with Rabbi Kaplan. During the visit, Rabbi Kaplan said, the mayor prayed intensely “with his eyes closed and in tears” of emotion.
“My friends, it is not only Jews, but also gentiles that know there’s a Rebbe in this world,” he concluded.