The Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre felt an inspirational type of energy over a sea of kippot, kindness and learning to celebrate the teachings and impact of Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson on the 25th anniversary of his passing.
To mark the occasion, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, The New York Times best-selling author, addressed the audience of 500 July 24 to summarize Schneerson’s teachings “that can change your life starting today.”
Also scheduled to speak at the “One People One Heart” event was Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, director of the Chabad of Poway, Calif., who cancelled because of medical issues. Goldstein was wounded in a shooting in April at the San Diego-area synagogue.
Before the main program, guests mingled with Teluskin at an underwriters’ reception featuring Atlanta’s new EB Catering Co. and an impressive cadre of Georgia’s Chabad rabbanim, and were greeted by the leader of Chabad of Georgia, Rabbi Yossi New.
Telushkin shared at the reception one of the rebbe’s teachings about how to be more successful with time management. “We cannot add one minute to any day. We must operate with intensity not thinking about the past or future. … The rebbe was fully focused on the present. That was his secret for accomplishing so much.”
Others at the reception had their own impressions of the great rebbe.
“The rebbe’s influence covers the Jewish spectrum in the universal message that every individual has the ability to bring goodness and godliness into the world,” said Rabbi Eliyahu Shusterman of Chabad Intown.
Dr. Paul Scheinberg reconnected with Telushkin, recalling their Shabbatot together with Scheinberg’s father, Louis, when they lived in Brooklyn.
Sponsor Carol Epstein of Morah Carol’s Place came to honor the rebbe’s values. Newly appointed Chabad Decatur Rabbi Avremi Slavaticki, whose father is the Chabad rabbi in Antwerp, Belgium, broke away from his newborn to be inspired by the program.
Inside the ballroom, emcee Liz Helgesen, a member of Chabad of Cobb and the “Voice of MARTA,” stated that it was one of her biggest honors to “begin the program, … a chance to open our hearts and rewire our neurons.”
After a video showing the rebbe as recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor – receiving it posthumously from President Bill Clinton – Rabbi New gave the medal’s history and meaning.
“In 1992, two-thirds of Congress supported this unprecedented action. This was prior to having a Chabad House in D.C., so it was up to me, from “Jorge-ah,” to arrange both Republican Newt Gingrich and Democrat John Lewis to move on this.”
New said he turned to fellow rabbi Alvin Sugarman of The Temple to use his connections to help bring the medal to fruition. At the time, Lewis compared Schneerson to Martin Luther King and said that giving the rebbe the medal was just “the right thing to do,” New recalled.
Lewis recently took some heat from the Jewish community for his co-sponsorship of a boycott resolution with Congressman Ilhan Omar that some interpret as giving the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement more momentum.
Meanwhile, New announced at the One People One Heart event a new program, CHARGE, in which Chabad of Georgia will further expand into rural areas all over the state with full-time support.
Next, Telushkin took the stage to share teachings of the rebbe that were relatable and useful, along with his own wisdom. He started with the rapid growth of Chabad, whose outreach stretches from South Dakota to Kathmandu in Nepal, where the world’s largest seder hosts 1,200.
Some of the teachings Teluskin cited were:
- Every individual step counts. We can’t always be thinking if each step leads to something else.
- Chabad’s practice of giving dollar bills stems from the teaching that something good should happen to a third person not involved in the transaction – good being passed along.
Speaking of money, Telushkin’s father was an accountant for the rebbe. Telushkin noted that some non-observant Jews defy the stereotype of those who support [financially] Chabad because they have the biggest fear that their own grandchildren will not be Jewish.
- Modify how we use our words. For example, hospital, meaning house of the sick, needs to be changed to house of healing. The rebbe eschewed language such as “house for the incurables.”
- Don’t use negative terms such as deadline. How about due date instead?
- Don’t attack people, only positions.
- When a troubled youth was brought to the rebbe, he honed in on the boy’s ability to be truthful, emes, rather than his voiced anger and insubordination.
In a video shown during the evening, Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of England, summed up the lessons: “Good things happen when someone believes in you more than you believe in yourself.