By COLlive reporter
Hundreds of students (and many faculty) packed the Morton Auditorium (former location of CNN’s Crossfire) for an event featuring his Excellency Sallai Meridor, Ambassador of Israel to the US.
The evening, which was sponsored by Chabad GW – Lubavitch Jewish Student Center, was entitled “Beyond Gaza – Why Israel Deserves To Be Heard”, and garnered a great deal of interest (and a demonstration by a Palestinian student group) around the campus of The George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Co-sponsoring the event were Hillel at GW (represented by Director Dr. Rob Fishman), The GWU Judaic Studies Program (represented by Chairman Professor Rob Eisen) and the Jewish Students Association.
The program was opened by Rabbi Yudi and Rivky Steiner, the newly minted and hugely successful shluchim serving the George Washington University, which boasts one of the largest Jewish campus populations (over 3,500) in the US.
The Steiners moved to Washington, DC just five months ago, and have already managed to exponentially expand the presence of Chabad-Lubavitch on the GWU campus since their arrival. With nearly 100 students jamming into their now-famous Shabbat dinners every week, and another hundred (so far) attending a host of private and public classes on a variety of Jewish topics throughout the week, Jewish life on the campus has taken on a whole new dimension which is meeting with great acclaim and appreciation.
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Director of American Friends of Lubavitch in Washington, DC, which is the sponsoring organization of Chabad GW, then greeted the event and introduced University President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, followed by Ambassador Sallai Meridor.
Ambassador Meridor, accompanied by Mrs. Noa Meridor and a security and staff delegation from the Israeli Embassy (security was tight due to the nature of the event) spoke beautifully and very meaningfully about the situation in Israel and its struggle to maintain legitimacy in the face of great adversity in the world, thanking the United States for its staunch support of the Jewish homeland not only today but going back to the days of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington (it was one day after Presidents Day).
But perhaps the highlight of the event was when he urged the students to refer to the Torah, specifically last week’s parsha, for guidance on the qualities required for Jewish leadership — to be brave and strong, to remember the proper use of power, to fear Hashem and know his blessing is paramount, not be greedy, etc. he reiterated the importance of seeing not only the surface, but looking deeper into the meaning of these things. “we have these guiding principles not from today, but from over 3,500 years ago”
Many people present, who have seen the ambassador often, thought this was his best speech they had ever heard.
After his address, in the question and answer period, in response to one who complained about the recent operations in Gaza, the ambassador replied, “We want peace. (When we have to), we use weapons in order to protect our children, while Hamas uses children in order to protect their weapons.”
The ambassador also spoke of the great danger presented by Iran, specifically its pursuit of nuclear weapons, not only to Israel but to the US and the rest of the world.
The program was concluded by Alex Sasson, president of the Chabad-Lubavitch Student Group at GW, and Natalie Lazaroff, Vice President of the group who urged everyone to consider a summer trip to Israel with Mayanot/Birthright.
Everyone agreed it was a hugely successful event, in large part due to the dedicated team Rabbi Yudi and Rivky Steiner have helped build, who worked all aspects of the organization and logistics. No doubt Chabad GW goes to even greater heights from here.