“Who Is A Jewish Hero?” was the intriguing theme of the 16th annual Agudath Israel of Florida Shabbos of Chizuk took place last Shabbos, Parshas Vayechi.
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The event was sponsored by the Irwin Sacks Charitable Foundation Inc. and was attended by hundreds of enthusiastic participants in Miami Beach and North Miami Beach. The roster of speakers included the well-known Russian refusnik Rabbi Yosef Mendelevitch, Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, Rabbi Yaakov Bleich, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel and Executive Director of Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Labish Becker.
The Shabbos began with a gathering of the regional leaders of Bnos Agudas Yisroel who heard Rabbi Becker speak about the positive impact an individual can have in a changing the world. On Friday morning the speakers traveled the width and breadth of southern Florida, speaking in many schools to hundreds of eager students who were profoundly moved by the words of the speakers. There were dual Friday night Ongei Shabbos where hundreds of participants enjoyed hearing divrei Torah from Rabbi Mendelevitch and Rabbi Zwiebel in Miami Beach and from Rabbi Bleich and Rabbi Becker in North Miami Beach. They focused on the theme of the Shabbos, with a specific emphasis on the Parshas HaShavua providing deep and penetrating insights. On Shabbos day and at Shalosh Seudos the speakers spoke in many of the local shuls.
By the time the Keynote Melave Malka came there was an intense feeling of anticipation in the air. Hundreds joined the exciting program which was chaired by Rabbi Moshe Matz, Executive Director of Agudath Israel of Florida. He shared many of the achievements the Florida Agudah has had over the past year. He began by introducing Rabbi Bleich who shared with the assembled that he was celebrating his 25th anniversary as the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine that week. He discussed the strength of Russian Jewry despite government efforts to strip them of their religious beliefs. Rabbi Zwiebel spoke about the dangerous spiritual trends in society and how to create an atmosphere of Kiddush Shem Shomayim. There was great emotion in the air when Rabbi Mendelevitch recounted his experience in the Soviet Gulag. He explained in detail how he maintained his Yiddishkeit despite the incredibly harsh atmosphere. A highlight of the evening was the video produced by the Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center on the legendary Agudah askan, Reb Elimelech Mike Tress, a true Jewish hero.
Dr. Jonathan Rubin, President of Agudath Israel of Florida commented, “The entire Shabbos left the participants with a profound admiration for those who give so much of themselves to make a difference in the lives of thousands of Jews.”