Jun 22, 2012
Living Legacy Felt in Washington
Photos: Baruch Ezagui
A gathering in Washington, DC honoring the Rebbe was a chance for Congress people and Senators to thank Chabad for inspiring them. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, for example, remembers the "Crown Heights Pegisha."
By COLlive reporter
Photos by Baruch Ezagui
Chabad rabbis from around the country and the world converged Thursday morning on Capitol Hill for a Congressional Leadership Breakfast paying tribute to the life and legacy of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
They are part of more than 350 people gathered in Washington, DC for the international Living Legacy Conference, organized by American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) and held in honor of the Rebbe's yahrzeit on Gimmel Tammuz.
A slew of members of Congress and Senate from both parties - Roy Blunt alongside Steny Hoyer, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch - came by to honor the Rebbe's legacy and Chabad's religious, educational and humanitarian work in close to 4,000 centers worldwide.
"There is no group anywhere that is working harder for the survival of the Jewish people like Chabad Lubavitch," senior Democratic Senator Senator Chuck Shummer told Shluchim, Shluchos, key supporters and student leaders seated in the US Capitol.
Some of them have been touched and can personally attest to the far and engaging reach of the Rebbe's Shluchim.
"I grew up in a Conservative synagogue," pointed out House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. "Then I met Rabbi Michel Gurkov who would do Hashem's work and bring deli and give a Dvar Torah every week which had a great impact on me."
Cantor, the highest ranking Jewish member of the House in history, said he was later taken on a Pegisha, the memorable Shabbatons in Crown Heights for unaffiliated Jews. "It helped grow my observance and commitment to my faith," he stated.
He also thanked Rabbi Gurkov, the shliach from his university days, for officiating at his marriage to Diana Fine, his wife of 23 years, and said "the failure to treat others according to values of our faith" warrants a study in Gemara of the Kamtza Bar Kamtza story of hate and to learn from Chabad the loving approach of every Jew.
Another example was Nevada Democrat Shelley Berkley who goes by loving moniker "the Yiddishe Mama of Capitol Hill," a title Washington, DC Shliach Rabbi Levi Shemtov bestowed on her and which she carried with pride.
"I arrived 14 years ago in Congress and Rabbi Shemtov is one of the first people I met. Rabbi Shemtov is the face and voice of Judaism on Capitol Hill," said Berkley who recently visited the Rebbe's Ohel gravesite.
"I didn't think I would be moved," she admitted about the visit to the Old Montefiore cemetary in Queens. "But seeing the reverence and respect was an inspiration for me. I love the Chabad movement because I know what it has done in my community, in Washington and the world."
Other lawmakers who came by to the breakfast that includes specially prepared kosher egg frittatas, cheeses and cinnamon rolls addressed various areas of concern to the gathered, in addition to the safety and security of Israel.
It was the opening event of the exclusive conference connecting the Chabad world, leading figures in commerce and academia and the government. Some 50 Mayberg Fellows, students leaders nominated and selected from around the country are attended as well and were privileged to be addressed by the Living Legacy's leading guests.
Following the breakfast, participants were shuttled down Pennsylvania Avenue to the McGowan Theater at the National Archives and Records Administration, for the Living Legacy Lecture which was delivered by world renowned author and pre-eminent Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz), in from Israel where he just received the Presidential Medal by President Shimon Peres for his lifetime work.
Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar, spiritual leader of The Shul in Bal Harbour, Florida, and founder of The Aleph Institute, introduced the lecture.
The lecture, which was also open to members of the local Jewish community, explored the origin of awaiting redemption and implored to recapture the excitement of the youth to make that a reality, and focused on the essence of enduring leadership.