Jewish South Florida Leads in World Unity Awareness Event

by Dvora Lakein - Floridia

June 16, 2009

( “Unity is necessary for receiving the Torah. It is the condition for our survival,” asserted Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, survivor of Buchenwald and former Chief Rabbi of Israel.

“The only place in the Torah where the Jewish people are referred to in singular is when they camped around Mount Sinai,” he said from Tel Aviv. “Unity gives us not only our existence, not only our continuity, and not only our Torah, but it gives us life and spirit. It is the uniqueness of the Jewish people."

About 360 communities tuned into the live telecast Sunday, the third installment of the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute’s Unity Lecture series.

The Broward Convention Center held one of the largest of these gatherings, with 2,500 South Florida residents in attendance. In addition to the live lecture, the South Floridians commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s passing and 25 years since the Rebbe initiated a daily study regiment of Maimonides’ work.

The gala affair, with major sponsorship by philanthropist Mr. Guma Aguiar, featured live musical entertainment and presentations by prominent rabbis, was organized by 110 Chabad representatives from Broward, Dade, and Miami counties. Members of every Jewish community in South Florida participated.

It was one of the last great events in Florida observing this year of “hakhel,” a Biblical commandment for the Jewish nation to gather for the purpose of Torah study. Despite there being no Temple or king in our days, the Lubavitcher Rebbe reinstated the practice, encouraging followers to hold large gatherings every seven years. “The evening is the ultimate display of Jewish unity,” explains Rabbi Pinny Andrusier, event chairman. “People were inspired to grow in their love for their fellow Jew and to pursue Torah study, particularly the works of Maimonides.”

In his remarks, Andrusier referred to Maimonides’ unique impact on the world of Jewish intellectualism. “Maimonides encompassed the entire Torah. He taught and explained every facet: faith, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, astrology, contemporary laws, the laws for when the Holy Temple is in Jerusalem, and the commandments that will apply with the imminent arrival of Moshiach.” Those teachings are the basis for the daily study rotation instituted by the Rebbe 25 years ago. It is the only daily study system that includes men, women, and children, all of whom were present last night.

Alan Veingrad, Super Bowl champion and motivational speaker, says the hakhel event had “tremendous passion in its focus on the Jewish people.” The speakers’ message of the importance of the Rambam and Rebbe’s teachings motivated him to increase in his personal Torah study. But it was the message of togetherness that truly impacted him.

Unity is a powerful force in South Florida, says Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus, who has served the local community since 1980. Today, he says, “you trip over a Chabad house everywhere you go,” (there are four centers within a two mile radius of his synagogue); “you can’t miss us.”Tennenhaus credits the Rebbe’s “continued influence and inspiration,” with the phenomenal growth South Florida Jewry has experienced in the last several decades. Working with the other emissaries on this project, and throughout the year, is, he believes, “our deepest strength. Unity between his shluchim gives the Rebbe so much joy and pride.”

As guests mingled after the event, with refreshments and a souvenir DVD in hand, they discussed their own plans for continued learning. Many committed to begin regular Maimonides study; shluchim pledged to start teaching his works to their communities.

“They have caught the fever,” says Andrusier. “We started a very positive energy here, demonstrating the importance of study and unity. Our communities have seen that the Rebbe’s leadership is still alive. We have achieved our ultimate goal.” 

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