Some 2,500 men, women and children across southern Florida packed the Broward Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale for a ceremony jointly marking 15 years since the passing of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, and 25 years since he publicly called for Jewish people everywhere to study on a daily basis Maimonides’ foundational legal code, the Mishneh Torah.

Sponsored by Guma and Jamie Aguiar on behalf of the Lillian Jean Kaplan Foundation and 110 Chabad-Lubavitch centers across the state, the event featured addresses from Rabbis Abraham Korf, regional director of Chabad activities in Florida; Sholom B. Lipskar, director of The Shul on Bal Harbour and the Aleph Institute, which advocates on behalf of Jewish prisoners and soldiers; and Yisroel Edelman of Young Israel of Deerfield Beach. Rabbi Dov Greenberg, co-director of the Rohr Chabad House at Stanford University delivered the keynote address, while the Lubavitch Educational Center’s boys choir provided musical entertainment.

Both organizers and attendees emphasized the June 14 gathering’s ability to join together Jews from all over the state.

“It really struck me to see so many people come out on a Sunday night, which wasn’t even a holiday, just to get together,” said Julia Steiner, a personal trainer from Cooper City whose son is studying for his October bar mitzvah at their local Chabad House. “It was so overwhelming to see so many kinds of Jews together. It was really touching.”

Others were impressed by the content of the various speeches, all of which, in keeping with the year of hakhel, focused on the theme of Jewish unity. Observed during the time of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the once-in-seven-year’s occurrence featured a gathering of men, women and children from all over the ancient Jewish world for a special Torah reading. The Rebbe, however, stressed that the year should be commemorated in the modern age by grand gatherings in cities all over the world.

“It was very moving how speakers discussed unity and tied in the teachings of [Maimonides] and the Rebbe,” said Stuart Baumel, who works in the health insurance industry in Cooper City. “The presentations really brought out who a Jew is and what a Jew should do in life: that there is always something to do and we have to do it right.”

Featuring a telecast address from former Israeli Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, who spoke from Tel Aviv, the event also joined some 360 communities worldwide for the third Unity Lecture sponsored by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute.

“Rabbi Lau’s address was very powerful,” said Allen Licht, a factory administrator from Hallandale. “There was a strong message of love and kindness toward each other.”

By the event’s conclusion, added Licht, “everyone was optimistic and looking forward to a brighter future.”

“This night was a collective effort of all of South Florida,” said Rabbi Pinny Andrusier, the director of Chabad Lubavitch of Southwest Broward who coordinated the event. “When you come together to do something positive, the sky is the limit.”

The entire event, which was broadcast live on the Web site, can be seen here.