A capacity crowd exceeding 500 guests joined with Chabad of the Conejo and friends on Sunday, June 10th, at the world-class Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake, California, for a memorable Banquet-Gala event, titled “Aspire to Inspire.”
“Everyone who learns can teach. Everyone who is inspired ought to aspire to inspire others,” said Rabbi Yisroel Levine, Director of Development of Chabad of the Conejo, in establishing the theme of the evening.
Rabbi Levine spoke of the many opportunities available through Chabad to do exactly that – whether it’s via the Friendship Circle for children with special needs, under the direction of Rabbi Eli Laber, or the Sunshine Club for seniors under the direction of Chana Stery Kahanov. Levine’s message was further driven home by Daniel Peck, a cancer survivor who now utilizes his remarkable spiritual journey as a catalyst for inspiring others facing adversity or a sense of emptiness in their lives.
After paying tribute to all the rabbis, rebbetzins, teachers and staff of Chabad of the Conejo, Associate Director Rabbi Yitzchak Sapochkinsky proceeded to highlight the organization’s multifaceted youth activities. He introduced 17-year-old Daniel Neymit, who recounted his unforgettable experiences as a member of Chabad’s C-Teen program, under the direction of Rabbi Mendy and Mushkie Friedman, and how those experiences have proven instrumental to his becoming a proud and engaged member of the Jewish community.
Another tone-setter for the evening was a tribute – in words and in song – to the miracles and wonders experienced by Israel over the past 70 years. The words were delivered by Chabad of North Ranch’s Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky, who provided myriad examples of the Divine Providence that enabled a tattered and shattered people to “rise up like a lion” to become a thriving and industrious country, serving as a beacon of light, hope and healing to the world.
In providing the spiritual and historical basis for Jerusalem serving as the “eternal and irrevocable capital of the Jewish People,” Rabbi Bistritzky praised America’s bold move of relocating its embassy to Israel’s rightful capital. This, too, brought the audience to its feet, as did a tribute to all the veterans of the Israel Defense Forces and the American Armed Forces in the room. This segued into a rousing performance of popular Israeli songs of faith and resolve by singer Itay Benda. Other entertainers to take to the stage were violinist Asher Laub and comedian Avi Liberman.
Following dessert, Rabbi Moshe Bryski, Executive Director of Chabad of the Conejo, opened “Part Two” of the evening’s program by analyzing the dichotomy between the perspective conveyed by a popular song from the 1970’s called “Dust in Wind” – ostensibly based upon the teachings of Kohelet – versus the authentic Jewish/Chassidic perspective on the issue. He called upon the eclectic audience to recognize the difference between those things that are, in fact, “dust in wind” and those that are “L’chaim” – i.e. live on eternally – and to thus pursue actions of the latter dimension as a way of establishing a lasting legacy. “An essential credo of Judaism is ‘M’dor L’dor,’” said Rabbi Bryski. “We look out – not only for ourselves in our days, but also for others in days to come.”
Rabbi Bryski then introduced the Honorees of evening: Robyn Perchik and David and Hanna Horenstein.
In reflecting on the evening, Rabbi Laibel Kahanov, Associate Rabbi of Chabad of Agoura Hills, observed, “While some of the elements of the program might have been scripted in advance, most of it consisted of folks speaking their own hearts. Yet, everyone who got up there seemed to be conveying the same underlying message – albeit in their own way – that what we’re doing here is bigger than ourselves in the here and now, and, as such, we must do everything we can to share of our love, knowledge, faith and resources with those who may not be quite as blessed as we are.”
Apparently, the theme of evening – ‘Aspire to Inspire’ – spoke for itself.