American Friends of Lubavitch Hosts Annual Benefit

Hundreds of Washington’s leaders from the political, diplomatic, academic and corporate arenas gathered at the prestigious East Hall of Washington, DC’s Union Station for the Annual Benefit Event supporting American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad).

The event, which was chaired by Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) and is typically regarded as the premier annual social event in Washington’s Jewish community, honored Hon. Jane Harman, a former Congresswoman and senior member of the House Intelligence Committee who is now the President and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center, Hon. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Hon. Jules M. Genachowski, who just completed his term as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

In addition to unparalleled glatt kosher cuisine prepared by renowned chef Maestro Avi Harouch, guests were able to mingle with numerous members of Congress, senior White House and other Administration officials and ambassadors and senior diplomats from dozens of countries as diverse as Japan, Korea, France, Morocco, Costa Rica, Lithuania and Nepal, to name just a few – and Israel, of course, which was represented by Ambassador Baruch Binah, a senior Israeli diplomat currently serving as Charge D’Affairs at the Israeli Embassy while Ambassador Michael Oren is in Israel for a family occasion.

A highlight of the reception was the customary bipartisan appearance and greetings by the directors of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Aaron Keyak and the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks. Several shluchim (emissaries) of Chabad Lubavitch from Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia as well as prominent figures in the Washington, DC community who had previously been Honorees were also in attendance, including (former) Secretary of Homeland Security Hon. Michael Chertoff and Mrs. Meryl Chertoff, Secretary of Agriculture and Motion Picture Association boss Hon. Dan Glickman, Undersecretary of Defense and Pentagon Comptroller Hon. Dr. Dov S. Zakheim and Mrs. Deborah Zakheim, Washington Jewish community pillars and prominent international philanthropists Louis and Manette Mayberg, as well as previous Award recipients Hon. Tevi D. Troy, Bill Knapp and Jeanie Milbauer, Mark and Nancy Penn, Jay and Connie Krupin, Tom and Susie Kahn, and others.

There were also several special guests attending to show support for the event as well as the honorees, including longtime Washington, DC, Jewish community stalwart Ambassador Joe Gildenhorn, who serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Woodrow Wilson Center, and his wife, Alma, as well as Hon. Sander Gerber, Vice Chair of the Woodrow Wilson Center. Mr. Azriel and Adele Genchowski, and his wife Rachel Goslins and son Jake Genachowski, the interim Chair of the FCC, Hon. Mignon Clyburn (whose father, Senior Democratic member of the House Leadership Jim Clyburn, was an honoree at this same event in 2007), as well as the newly designated Chairman of the FCC, Mr. Tom Wheeler, were present for the evening. In another bipartisan tradition, Hon. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the US House of Representatives, was on hand to present the International Leadership Award to Chairman Royce, a Republican, who was joined by his wife, Marie.

The invocation was delivered by Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, Chairman of the Executive Committee of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the umbrella organization of the international Chabad-Lubavitch movement, and a special greeting from President Barack Obama (incidentally, a classmate of Chairman Genachowski at Harvard law School) was read by Hon. Zach Kelly, Special Assistant to the President, working in the Office of the White House Chief of Staff and White House Liaison to the Jewish Community. Mrs. Nechama Shemtov, Director of Women’s and Education issues at American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), opened the evening with greetings.

Each of the honorees spoke movingly of their support for Israel and the Jewish people, as well as of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad).

In introducing Chairman Royce, Congressman Engel spoke of his longstanding relationship in Washington, DC with Rabbi Levi Shemtov, and his own involvement with Lubavitch in his hometown of Riverdale (where the shliach is also named Rabbi Levi Shemtov, a cousin) and indeed all over the world, as well as his pride in supporting the work of Chabad-Lubavitch in our nation’s capital, especially the Capitol Jewish Forum, its project which reaches out to strengthen Jewish awareness and identity among Jewish Hill staffers and Members of Congress. After accepting his award and thanking American Friend of Lubavitch (Chabad) for its service, Chairman Royce delivered a moving and impassioned speech expressing support for Israel and underscoring the absolute unity in his Congressional Committee on the issues affecting the present situation in the Middle East. It is well known that he and Ranking Member Engel enjoy a very close personal relationship even as they are of different political persuasions, a crucial point reinforcing the strength of American foreign policy.

Chairman Genachowski shared his impressions of the similarities between the work of Chabad Lubavitch and the scope of “communication” an area in which he served for over four years as the most senior United States Government official. Both seek greater bandwidth, better reception, expanded ability of people to properly “tune in” and ultimately good proper delivery of an important and clear message. He also spoke of the special opportunity he cherishes every year to attend, with his family, the lighting ceremony of the National Menorah on the Ellipse opposite the White House.

Particularly moving was when Hon. Jane Harman, who once responded to a colleague being introduced as the Yiddishe Mameh of Capitol Hill by saying she was the Yiddishe Grandmameh of Capitol Hill, shared how she is now a Yiddisheh Great Grandmameh, as one of her grandchildren had just given birth to a child, Sidney, named after her late husband, Sidney Harman, who recently passed away. Ms. Harman also spoke very movingly of her rewarding interaction with Chabad-Lubavitch in Washington, DC, as well as her former Congressional District in California, where she has been very supportive of the great work of Rabbi Yossi Mintz and other shluchim in the area.

And, remarkably, this premier annual event has now developed a new, important reputation – one for ending on time, as bentching (Grace after Meals) concluded just after 9:30 pm, leaving plenty of time for coffee, dessert and even more shmoozing.

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