Jewish residents from across the state of Michigan joined a veteran Israeli diplomat to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

At the June 16 event, Yehuda Avner – who in a career spanning decades represented Israel during several stints in New York – told the more than 600 people at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi about former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s first visit to the Rebbe in the 1970s. The Lubavitch Foundation of Michigan sponsored sponsored the evening, which also marked 51 years of Chabad-Lubavitch centers serving the state.

In his 45-minute address, Avner, who served as an advisor to Rabin, as well as Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres, offered insights into the Rebbe’s life as seen from the perspective of Israeli politicians. He said that Rabin, in particular, was at first uncomfortable meeting with the Rebbe in his office at Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y.

As the meeting progressed, however, Rabin developed an appreciation for the Rebbe’s understanding of international affairs and Israeli society, despite having never stepped foot in the country.

“The Rebbe’s face beamed a broad welcoming smile; it was an angelic face,” said Avner. “But Rabin seemed unmoved, seemed uninterested. Once the Rebbe spoke to him about Washington affairs, he was amazed at his knowledge and insights.

“When we left, Rabin said to me, ‘That man is an extraordinary leader of the Jewish people. He knows more about what’s going on in Israel and the Middle East than all the members of our Knesset put together.’ ”

Throughout the evening, speakers emphasized the uniqueness of the Rebbe’s concern for every Jew, and his reach across Jewish communities around the world.

“The more that people learn about the Rebbe, the more people can gain focus in their lives and see what can be gained through Jewish values,” said Rabbi Avrohom Susskind, director the Novi-Northville Center for Jewish Life and one of the evening’s organizers.

The M Generation boys’ choir entertained the crowd at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi, Mich.
The M Generation boys’ choir entertained the crowd at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi, Mich.

After the event, which also featured a musical performance by the New York-based M Generation boys choir, audience members said they left with a greater appreciation for the Rebbe’s vision and leadership.

The speech by Avner, which even touched on present-day issues in global politics, “was very positive and informative,” said Arthur Goodman, an executive recruiter.

“My husband said that this was the best speech he has ever heard. [Avner] really was very inspiring,” said Cami Golding, a registered nurse and party planner from Toledo. “It was so nice to be in one room with so many Jewish brothers and sisters. It really opens the mind and broadens your experience to see extensions of the Jewish people all together.”

For his part, Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, director of The Shul in West Bloomfield, stressed the importance of integrating the evening’s lessons into one’s personal life.

“I hope that guests walked away inspired and with a greater commitment to Judaism and the work and teachings of the Rebbe,” he said. “The most important thing is to learn how to better treat another Jew and take this message into our own lives.”

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