Washington – ‘Jewish power is a complicated term. There is this notion that when the two words are used together, it’s essentially an anti-Semitic slur. To some, the very idea of Jewish power invokes lurid stereotypes of influential Jewish bankers and greedy, controlling Jews who are clearly to blame for the world’s economic woes.
In an effort to ascertain the extent of Jewish power today, Hamodia spoke to Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of the AFL and a Chabad shaliach. Rabbi Shemtov’s father, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, the current chairman of Agudath Chasidei Chabad, is noted for being the first shaliach to Washington, D.C., sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zy”a.
Like his father, Rabbi Levi Shemtov came to Washington as a shaliach and the leader of the AFL. In these roles, he brings Yiddishkeit to the area; only here some of his clients just happen to be noted and powerful individuals.
Rabbi Shemtov recalls, “The Rebbe sent my father to Washington to direct the efforts of Lubavitch in the area. It got to the point where he was spending a lot of time in D.C., and it became too [big a job] to be done part time. … [And when] I moved to D.C., I discovered there was no real Jewish outreach operation on Capitol Hill.
“One of the people who helped me start the Capitol Jewish Forum [a group organized to reach out to Jewish legislators] turned out to be a pretty famous person — Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush. … We started with about a dozen people and now have a network of about four to five hundred members.”
Rabbi Shemtov is well known in the halls of Congress, and Sue Fishkoff, author of The Rebbe’s Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch, writes: “It’s not enough that Chabad’s man in D.C. knows the name and phone number of just about every congressman, senator and foreign ambassador in the nation’s capital — he also knows their legislative assistants, their secretaries and the people who clean their offices. … He lunches with prime ministers and navigates political jungles with firm good humor.”
Officials and staff members from all walks of life affirm that Rabbi Shemtov is exceptionally well liked and that he has amazing rapport with a wide range of political leaders.
Because Rabbi Shemtov has such a vast network, his finger is on the pulse of the state of Jewish power today.
The article appeared this past week in ‘Inyan’ Magazine a Hamodia publication.
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