Saluting them for “heroically turning on the light” after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Tel Aviv gathering of hundreds of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries from across the Soviet Union that their efforts could be directly linked to the Jewish revolution taking place in those countries and among Russian-speaking immigrants to Israel.

“They used to say that every place there is a Jew, there is Chabad,” Netanyahu said at a celebration marking the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Former Soviet Union’s 20th anniversary. “Today, I am able to report that there is Chabad, and [if] Jews are not yet there, they will arrive!”

The event’s governmental delegation included Information and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, Deputy Education Minister Eliezer Moses, and Knesset members Danny Danon, Avraham Michaeli and Yisrael Eichler. Joining Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar and Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger at the celebration were Rabbi Binyamin Klein, a former member of the secretariat of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory; Rabbi Yehuda Yaroslavksy, secretary of the Chabad Rabbinical Court in Israel; Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, chief rabbi of the Western Wall; Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, and Rabbi Gershon Mendel Gorelick, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Milan.

In his remarks, philanthropist Lev Leviev, the Federation of Jewish Communities president whose contributions have fueled the explosion of Jewish services in the former Soviet Union of the past two decades, pointed to the date of the celebration as significant. Held on July 14, the event coincided with the anniversary of the release of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, from a Soviet prison.

“The date that we are celebrating today is a holiday … for the entire Jewish people,” explained Leviev. The Sixth Rebbe “fought the anti-Semitic Soviet regime, which prevented Jews from leading Jewish lives.”

His son-in-law and successor, the Rebbe, “stated long before the fall of the Soviet government that the future Russian government would allow freedom of religion,” continued Leviev. “And when we see that everything occurred as he said it would, we can only marvel at the Rebbe’s wisdom.”

Netanyahu extended that point, noting that like their counterparts in Russian-speaking countries, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries strengthen Jewish communities the world over, “from the mountains of the Himalayas to the Rockies, in Russia, America and Asia.”

“You combine abiding faith with great openness to all people, especially to our brothers, the people of Israel,” said the prime minister. “Your sacrifice, your leadership, your kindness, your work and your dedication is what moves all parts of the Jewish people.

“Thank you my friends,” he added, “for everything you do for our people.”