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Former Governor of Hawaii Regales Students Over Shabbat Dinner

Former Governor of Hawaii Regales Students Over Shabbat Dinner

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A full Hawaiian-style dinner, complete with little umbrellas and hula skirts decorating the tables, was the setting for a Shabbat evening visit by former governor of Hawaii Linda Lingle.
A full Hawaiian-style dinner, complete with little umbrellas and hula skirts decorating the tables, was the setting for a Shabbat evening visit by former governor of Hawaii Linda Lingle.

Rabbi Chaim Brook was planning a special Italian-themed Shabbat at the Rohr Chabad House at California State University-Northridge. But when the former two-term Jewish governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, agreed to join the students at the Friday-night meal, out went the Italian theme and in came a full Hawaiian-style dinner, complete with little umbrellas and hula skirts decorating the tables.

“It was very exciting for all of us here to be joined by Governor Lingle,” says Brook, who along with his wife, Raizel, has directed the Rohr Chabad at CSUN for the last eight years. “We had 120 students join us, and when they saw a Jewish woman who was a governor of a state and is proud of her Jewishness, it’s really an inspiration.”

Lingle, who served as governor of Hawaii from 2001 to 2010, has the distinction of being both the first female governor of the state and the first Jewish one. Prior to her being elected governor, Lingle was the mayor of Maui County. A CSUN alumnus, she recently returned to her alma mater to teach a spring course on public policy at the university.

Lingle, who served as governor of Hawaii from 2001 to 2010, was the first female governor of the state and the first Jewish one. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)
Lingle, who served as governor of Hawaii from 2001 to 2010, was the first female governor of the state and the first Jewish one. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Over the course of her public career in Hawaii, Lingle developed a close relationship with Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky, the director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Hawaii, and as governor hosted regular Torah classes at the governor’s mansion, as well as a yearly Passover seder. When Brook invited her to join the Chabad House at CSUN for its Friday-night meal on Jan. 31, she happily obliged.

“Governor Lingle spoke about how she became involved in politics when she saw there was a need and encouraged the students to get involved, make a difference and remain a proud Jew,” explains Brook.

One Chabad House regular, senior Adam Gluck, who attended the Friday dinner, says that he sees Lingle’s joining the CSUN community as positive for both the larger university populace, as well as the Jewish one specifically.

“That a Jewish woman can become the governor of a state that does not have a lot of Jews living there just shows the type of adversity she had to overcome to be able to accomplish that,” says Gluck, “and she just brings a wealth of knowledge and experience here.”

As students dined on strawberry-mango spinach salad, pineapple chicken and coconut sorbet, they had the chance to interact with the former governor. In her talk, which echoed the theme of the Torah portion, Terumah, she touched on the concept of tzedakah (charity) and giving back to places such as the Chabad House after graduation, as well as elaborated on how she managed to integrate her public life with her Jewish one.

Rabbi Chaim Brook, right, with students at the Rohr Chabad House at California State University-Northridge (File photo)
Rabbi Chaim Brook, right, with students at the Rohr Chabad House at California State University-Northridge (File photo)

“Governor Lingle answered our questions, and she was open to talking to everyone,” says freshman Kaitlyn Furst.

The student speaker at the meal that Friday night, Furst especially appreciated that Lingle continued the charitable theme Furst had initiated, recognizing her in the process.

“It was great to hear from someone who was in the position that she was in,” says Furst, “and is still so passionate about her Jewish identity.”



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