By COLlive reporter
350 people gathered on Wednesday evening to pay tribute to the Rebbe in a community wide event organized by Chabad of Columbus and held at the Jewish Community Center in Columbus, Ohio.
The entire spectrum of the Jewish community was present, from leaders of the Columbus Jewish Federation, Columbus Jewish Foundation, local rabbis and heads of Jewish communities and synagogues.
Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann, Executive Director of the Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center in New Albany and Chabad of Columbus, opened the program explaining the incredible continued growth of Chabad 20 years after Gimmel Tammuz.
He was followed by Rabbi Levi Andrusier, Director of Chabad Hebrew School of Columbus, who spoke about the Rebbe’s educational teachings that are pertinent to all people of all ages.
The central part of the event featured speakers of international renown sharing their personal connection to Chabad and how the Rebbe influenced their lives.
The first was Jay Schottenstein, the respected entrepreneur and philanthropist who is serving as Interim Chief Executive Officer of American Eagle Outfitters.
He said that the first time he met the Rebbe was during the celebration of the Rebbe’s 80th birthday at Lubavitch Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway, alongside Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, known as “the Rav.”
Schottenstein mentioned his years of involvement with Chabad. “I travel all over the world and find Chabad flourishing wherever I go,” he said. “Like the saying goes, the sun never sets on the British Empire and the sun never sets on Chabad.”
The second speaker was Jon Diamond, founder and CEO of Safe Auto Insurance Company and a philanthropist himself, who told of the lasting impact an encounter with the Rebbe had on him.
“The Rebbe had a profound clarity and inspired us to inspire others to get more involved with their Jewish essence,” he said.
Eric Fingerhut, former U.S. Congressman and President and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, thrilled the audience with his story of how he met the Rebbe for the first time.
It was during his run for the Ohio State Senate. His sister’s chuppah was at 770 Eastern Parkway and the Rebbe was walking out to travel to the Ohel. Before he know it, Fingerhut says he found himself face to face with the Rebbe.
He tells that the Rebbe reached into his pocket and pulled out 6 cents which he gave to him. “I felt so honored and excited that I really wanted to be able to list this as a campaign contribution,” Fingerhut joked.
“I am privileged to see the profound impact that the Rebbe has had on college campuses around the world,” he added. “There is not a campus that I go to, when I visit Hillels, where I do not see a Chabad House that welcomes everyone.
Fingerhut admitted that “sometimes people have a misunderstanding and think that Chabad and Hillel are in competition,” but stressed that “nothing could be further from the truth.”
“Until we reach every single Jewish College student, there is work enough for both of us. And for students that are impacted by both, it’s a double blessing,” he added.
“I want to make sure and I certainly hope that Hillel fulfills its mission and works to its fullest capacity. I do know for a fact that Chabad does work to its fullest capacity, especially in this Chabad of Columbus Community.”
The keynote speaker, Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, Director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Maryland, deeply inspired the audience with insights to the Rebbe’s ability to instill a piece of himself into all of his shluchim.
“In 1978, the Rebbe had a severe heart attack and the doctors wanted the Rebbe to put off opening his letters for 6 weeks with the rationale that he would be able to help more people later on if he reserved his strength,” Rabbi Kaplan told.
“The Rebbe could not fathom valuing some people over others and making a calculation that could prevent helping others now. The doctor was absolutely stunned that the Rebbe never thought about his own health or self. That was not even a consideration. The Rebbe only thought of others.”
Rabbi Kaplan concluded by emphatically stating that we are not lost, the light is still with us and we will reach the ultimate goal and vision of bringing Moshiach, an era of true world peace.