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Investing in Judaism at Berkshire Hathaway Conference

Investors from around the world are streaming into Omaha, Nebraska, for Berkshire Hathaway’s famed shareholders weekend. They are eager for financial assessments on the company, world markets and the economy from Warren Buffett, the company’s legendary chairman and CEO.

from Chabad.org by Karen Schwartz:

Cynthia Simpson is on her way to Omaha. Accompanied by two other women from the Chicago-area suburbs, she is taking part for the first time in Berkshire Hathaway’s famed shareholders weekend, which draws people from around the world eager for financial assessments on the company, world markets and economy from none other than Warren Buffett, the company’s legendary chairman and CEO, and vice chairman Charlie Munger.

“The bottom line is: Being there in person is more educational than reading about it, at least for me,” Simpson tells Chabad.org. The 70-year-old’s husband, now 96, previously held a leading role at GEICO, one Hathaway’s holdings.

While Jewish participants like Simpson educate themselves economically, they often wind up making meaningful connections to Judaism as well through the presence of Chabad on site.

The annual meeting takes place on Saturday at the CenturyLink Center in Nebraska’s largest city. Shareholders have been streaming in from across the globe to take part in what has become several days of activities around the featured event, among them shopping, a picnic, a private shareholders dinner, a newspaper-tossing challenge and a 5K run/walk.

Meanwhile, in a borrowed storefront at 1011 Capitol Ave. just across the street from the shareholders meeting, another annual assembly will be taking place. Chabad of Nebraska, co-directed by Rabbi Mendel and Shani Katzman, will host a weekend of Shabbat activities, as they’ve done since the conference moved downtown nearly two decades ago. This year’s events return to a two-story space that offers plenty of room for praying, eating, speakers and learning opportunities available to conference-goers. Rabbinical students from New York will be on hand to help.

“I think the natural thing for Chabad is to be here and accommodate the people who want to tap into their Judaism and their commitment to Judaism while they’re exploring other things,” says Rabbi Mendel Katzman. “In this case, it’s the Berkshire meeting; in the summer, it’s the College World Series. Whenever we have events like that, we are always sure to see to it that people’s spiritual needs are met.”

Jews from around the world will gather for learning and a farbrengen, kosher food and the chance to congregate for Shabbat services and meals. Past years have brought in people who planned ahead to be there, as well as shareholders who chanced upon the venue after seeing the sign outside or the mitzvah tank, which rolls out Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

With all of the uncertainty in the world, Yiddishkeit, including the serenity of Shabbat, offers a tangible way to connect to others and to G‑d, explains Katzman. “People come here for different reasons, but people are looking not only for financial security, but all types of security—security in every sense there is. Our focus is to try and encourage people to embrace what we have and embrace each other, and find our security from within.”

Shabbos Away From Shabbos’

The rabbi says he expects more than 100 people to come through the pop-up Chabad over the course of the conference—a number that’s grown significantly since they started the program. At first, just a handful of people asked for accommodation; now, especially because the event is held in the city center, people who wouldn’t otherwise be looking for Shabbat activities join in.

“The Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory] said there should be an address in every locale for a Jew that he can turn to for everything he needs,” says Katzman.

Hillel Kamionski notes that he was hesitant to attend the shareholders weekend until he found out about Chabad’s presence there. He’s flying in from Los Angeles to attend the conference for the first time with his business partner, Harry Nelson; they run a health-care investment fund. But first, they are scheduled to speak to a delegation of Chinese investors at a parallel conference. “As Shabbos comes in after 7, we can really roll right from our investor conference into Minchah, which is why we love the fact that Chabad is going to be taking care of our food needs, our religious needs,” he says.

They plan on staying for Friday-night dinner, and Chabad will accommodate them for Saturday lunch. “I’m hoping to schmooze with the rabbi, and I’m hoping there is some type of shiur [lesson],” says Kamionski, “just to experience my home away from home, my Shabbos away from Shabbos.”

For Shabbat meals, RSVP here.

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