For the first time since the United States began observing the day as a lasting testament to the moral and ethical code advanced by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, Alabama added its name to the growing list of states officially marking Education and Sharing Day.

With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Robert Bentley endorsed the Alabama proclamation Monday at his capitol office in Montgomery during a Monday morning meeting with Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries. He called on all his constituents to take notice of the day – occurring on the 11th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, it coincides with what would have been the Rebbe’s 109th birthday – and its message of empowering the younger generation.

“I am proud to proclaim April 15, 2011, as Education and Sharing Day in Alabama,” the governor announced. “Education and Sharing Day is a day for all Alabamians to reach out to our students and work with them to create a better, brighter and more hopeful future for all of us.”

With the backing of the Washington, D.C.-based American Friends of Lubavitch, a joint Congressional resolution declared the first Education and Sharing Day U.S.A. in 1978. Annually, the U.S. Congress and various local authorities issue proclamations in honor of the birth of the Rebbe. Last year, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed his state’s proclamation at a meeting with Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries.

In Montgomery, Rabbis Yossi Posner, executive director of Chabad of Alabama; Yossi Friedman, program director of Chabad of Alabama; Laibel Berkowitz, director of Chabad of North Alabama; and Eli Posner flanked Bentley as he signed the document. Following the signing, the delegates delivered a brief explanation of the upcoming holiday of Passover and presented the governor with a box of matzah and a Seder plate.

Berkowitz called the Alabama declaration a “call to action.”

“It’s a tribute to the Rebbe’s commitment and dedication to his country and to all of humanity,” he said. “The point is not to get into the politics of education policy, but to focus instead on education with a purpose: To promote not just textbook knowledge such as math and science, but also the values and morals which really bring education to life.”

Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries discuss education with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley
Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries discuss education with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley

The event comes less than three months after Bentley took office.

“This proclamation demonstrates greater understanding between different groups of people, especially in the upper echelons of government,” said Friedman. “It is very important and gratifying that the governor is aware of the value different communities place on education.”

The rabbi noted that Hunstville, a hub of aerospace technology and home of the United States Space and Rocket Center three hours from Montgomery, is a melting pot of ethnic diversity; its residents collectively speak more than 25 languages.

“Education and Sharing Day is relevant to people of all nationalities and ethnicities,” he continued. “It’s the Rebbe’s call to humanity to recognize the importance of teaching values. A good place to do that is in the public school system.”

“Nothing is more important than the education of our children,” echoed Yossi Posner.

For Friedman, the importance of the event went beyond a symbolic declaration.

“We are encouraged by the fact that the governor is using the power of government for something positive,” he said. “This is the gift of living in America.”