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Jewish Community Gathers To Honor Leader

Ceremony marks 11th anniversary of rabbi's death

On Thursday, June 29, over 250 members of the Northern Virginia Jewish community came together to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the death of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. The event, which took place at the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College, featured a buffet and a piano performance by Gershon Wachtel, entitled "Overcoming Life's Difficulties."

Event organizer, Rabbi Ahron Fajnland, explained the significance of the life and work of Schneerson and the importance of the event. "After the Holocaust, much of the Jewish community was successful in closing themselves off from society," he said. "Rabbi Schneerson instead wanted to correct the situation." He aimed at doing so by erecting Chabad houses that acted as places for members of the Jewish community to learn about and practice their religion free of charge. The absence of membership fees opened up the opportunity for Jews who might not have been able to pay, to learn about their religion while becoming active members of society.

Fajnland is a leader at one such Chabad house in Northern Virginia. "This center in Northern Virginia has been here for 17 years," he said. "It is an institution that provides anything Jewish, with an emphasis on classes and social activities."

According to Fajnland, such institutions may not be in existence if it weren't for the work and vision of Schneerson. "There is so much that the world can get by looking at the Rebbe and understanding what he stood for." Rebbe is Yiddish for teacher, and it is commonly used to refer to Schneerson.

Pianist Gershon Wachtel spoke at the event about faith in his life and its importance in times of overcoming great tragedy. After losing a child, Wachtel turned to his Jewish faith to help him cope.

"Here is a man who shared his life story with humor and frankness, including his hardships," said Rabbi Schalom Deitsch. "His message was that you can get through it by getting in tune with prayer, and knowing that someone is there listening to you."

Myra Gondos was among those who attended the event. “Wachtel played music to symbolize his faith and spirituality,” she said. “It was an emotionally moving and inspirational evening.”