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First Impressions at AIPAC

In September 2009, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to American Jewish leaders at the 92nd Street Y, he recalled that as a young ambassador to the UN, he was advised by the Lubavitcher Rebbe that he would be entering “a house of darkness and lies.” The Rebbe gave him a “mission to light a candle for truth and for the Jewish people,” he said.

In recent times, it is not only the predictable UN and Israel’s sworn enemies that paint her with darkness and lies. New to the mix are progressive and enlightened bodies. European countries have shown anti-Israel sentiment coming from the top down; in the halls of higher learning, in Europe, Canada and the US, college campuses have turned into hotbeds of propaganda where students quickly learn that it is cool to demonize Israel.

The effect is corrosive. Any lie repeated persistently enough begins to resonate credibly. At the very least, it erodes the confidence of those who know better. Some begin to doubt themselves; others recognize the false narrative, but are intimidated to dispute it.

So hearing Mr. Netanyahu speak, first last week, then at AIPAC and then to a joint meeting in the Congress, I had the feeling that he was carrying the Rebbe’s message close to his heart.

Although his words were parsed this way and that by political analysts trying to tease out his position on peace with the Arabs, on President Obama’s mid-east policy speech, with some suggesting that in the end, these speeches were a lot of talk about “nothing,” it seemed to me that if in fact he accomplished nothing else, Mr. Netanyahu lit a candle for truth and for the Jewish people.

This AIPAC conference was a first for me. Seeing 10,000 people—Jews of every denomination, non Jews, and an impressive bi-partisan representation from Congress and the Senate—stand up for Israel, for the Jewish homeland, for the truth—was like seeing a bright break in the dark clouds that hang low over Israel today.

AIPAC and Chabad-Lubavitch have distinct missions: Chabad-Lubavitch is religious, AIPAC is not. But as a Lubavitcher, I found shared values, particularly as concerns the security and integrity of the Jewish homeland, that made me feel at home. The feelings were mutual.

US Senator Mark Kirk, a member of the Senate appropriations subcommittee, spoke to packed sessions on the dangers of a nuclear Iran. At the end of his talk, I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

The Senator from Illinois who enjoys warm friendships with Chabad-Lubavitch of Chicago and of Highland Park said he saw Chabad-Lubavitch as playing a vital role for Israel.

“Chabad gives a new force to pro-Israel advocacy,” he told me. “At a time when the generations are changing, Chabad gives hope that in the 21st century, a new generation doesn’t forget, and remains strong supporters of Israel.”

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the Chabad-Lubavitch representative to Washington D.C. is a familiar face at AIPAC. Working the halls of the convention center, Rabbi Levi greeted Chabad-Lubavitch colleagues and friends who walk the corridors of Congress and the Senate, making introductions, connecting people like puzzle pieces—not for political purposes, but for the benefit of a Jewish community, a Jewish cause.

“There is no one in Washington that does what Rabbi Levi does,” Howard Friedman, the President Emeritus of AIPAC told me. “He’s not political. He is completely dedicated to promoting Torah here.” Presidents come and go, Friedman offered, but Rabbi Levi is always there doing his thing.

Talk around the Shemtov Shabbos table this past Friday night was lively. Among the guests were the Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, a former Congressman seeking to regain his seat in the new elections, and an AIPAC political activist, as well as several journalists and college students from Canada.

As Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi of the nation’s capital, Levi has supervised the koshering of the White House kitchen on many occasions during several administrations—most recently earlier this month for the Jewish Heritage Month dinner, raising appreciation and awareness for Jewish tradition at the world’s most famous address.

Back at AIPAC, ten thousand people, different in many ways stood together in support of transcendent causes that empower Jewish unity worthy of celebration: the eternal covenant of the Jewish people, the Jewish homeland, the Torah.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe often said that there is no such thing as coincidence. To this Lubavitcher, the fact that the AIPAC conference fell on Lag B’Omer, a historic holiday celebrating unity among the Jewish people, seemed no small coincidence.

7 Comments

  • 1. not a Bibi fan wrote:

    “So hearing Mr. Netanyahu speak, first last week, then at AIPAC and then to a joint meeting in the Congress, I had the feeling that he was carrying the Rebbe’s message close to his heart.”

    is this a joke? to say Bibi is “carrying the Rebbe’s message” is an insult to the Rebbe and anyone else who belives in protecting EVERY jewish life. Bibi talked about painful compromises, what that means is Jews will die so there can be a so called Palestinian state

  • 3. Avrohom wrote:

    #2
    you can not pick and choose what the Rebbe said, The Rebbe was very clear about not giving away not even an inch of Eretz Yisroel, The Rebbe said that EY. belongs to all yidden and that no one has a right to give it away. The Rebbe was also upset about just talking of giving away land, and said it causes more terrorism rl.

  • 4. CRITICAL OF NEW YORK JUDGES wrote:

    to number #2: You can pick and select what Bibi said, and a lot of his talk was for public relations and to defend his positure in the world. The painful compromise was his way of saying we are willing to negotiate but Obama has made this impossible by demanding that we return to the 1967 lines–which The Rebbe as well– called indefensible. So how can we make and compromise over land swaps if you are violating the infamous resolution #242 which at least called for redefinition of the two states(Israel and Palestine) based upon defensible borders for Israel?
    The Rebbe stated that you should ask the military about what would be defensable borders and they stated their position and now Obama tells Bibi that is irrelevant. So Bibi replied that we were willing to negotiate borders and territorial land swaps which might be painful for peace–but you Mr. President destroyed that option. You have to understand what was said, why it was said and how it was said; bib gave obama a daunce cap and placed him in the corner facing the wall.

  • 5. Focus on the positive wrote:

    I actually agree, I think that he did carry the Rebbes message, along with some not, but that is a big step in the right direction, and who cares anyway, nobody is making peace or giving away land…he spoke really well.

  • 6. You misunderstood the authers point wrote:

    she did not write that he gave the Rebbes message to the people, she said that he carried the Rebbes message in “his heart”, I think that she is correct

  • 7. Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone wrote:

    The Rebbe zy’a spoke clearly, the Land of Israel is not negotiable real estate.
    No part of the Land can be give away under any condition.
    The illusion of a ‘peace treaty’ is of no consequence.
    We in Chabad should not allow ourselves, in our quest to be niskarev our fellow Jews to be seduced into becoming fellow travellers in this experiment.
    Bibi’s appearance in the Congress was dramatic and eloquent but of little significance because his entire premise was falacious.
    The zionist ‘dream’ is a delusion.
    Am Yisroel Chai
    Moshiach Now

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