Israel – At a special meeting in the Knesset Thursday, Danny Danon, Chairman of World Likud and Chair of the Knesset Committee for Aliya, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, announced the formation of a panel to study and participate in the security needs of Chabad Centers around the world.
“Chabad is a brand,” said Danon addressing Knesset members and Chabad representatives from foreign countries invited to the session. Wherever a Jew travels, he said, “he knows that he has a place with Chabad where he will be welcome to spend Shabbat and the holidays.”
Danon referred to the recent earthquake in New Zealand, and Chabad’s critical role in working with the Israeli embassy to locate and help Israelis there.
“It’s time we take responsibility to secure these Chabad centers.”
The formation of the panel, in cooperation with The Jewish Agency for Israel, comes two years after the Chabad Center in Mumbai was attacked by terrorists, and at a time when security concerns are a priority for Jewish centers everywhere.
Rabbi Nechemia Wilhelm, Chabad representative to Thailand, one of the most heavily traveled routes on the itinerary of Israeli backpackers, confirmed that terror threats against meeting points for Israelis continue.
But, he added, “We alone are shouldering the financial burden of securing our Chabad center, to the tune of $60-$80,000 a year.”
Rabbi Berel Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia who oversees Chabad centers in some 426 communities in the FSU, recalled the plane crash in Sochi several years ago: “Jewish people gravitate to the Chabad Center whenever there is a crisis or calamity of any kind.”
“But not only then—they come when they need a place to spend the night, access to a phone, a computer, a good meal.”
“We should not be struggling to provide the necessary security for these centers,” Lazar said.
Natan Sharansky, head of the Jewish Agency for Israel, supported the initiative, and underscored Chabad’s critical role for Jews.
“Wherever we [the Jewish Agency] do not have Jewish educational centers, we depend on Chabad,” said Sharansky, who revised the Jewish Agency’s mission since he assumed its leadership, and is focusing on education for Diaspora Jewry as a necessary step if its original mission of Aliyah is to succeed.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky of Lubavitch Headquarters confirmed Chabad’s cooperation with Israel’s agencies, and said that in effect, “Israel has 4000 representatives around the world,” referring to Chabad representatives who promote Jewish education and Israel advocacy around the world.
Ronen Plot, Director-General of the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs invited Chabad representatives to submit proposals for cooperation and promised to give them serious consideration.
Rabbi Yakov Fridman who provided MK Danon with the inspiration for this idea when he hosted him at a Shabbat dinner in Moscow several weeks ago, said the meeting was a first.
“This is the first time that the Knesset is taking Chabad as a project worthy of their support, seriously. The Knesset members at this meeting recognized that Chabad is a major player in world Jewry, and that it must flex its muscle to help Chabad centers around the world continue their incredible service to world Jewry.”
The panel is set to meet again in three months.