Coming Together for Education & Sharing Day

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Chabad of Forest Hills North Receives Proclamation from BP Richards

By Michael Perlman

The 121st anniversary of the birth of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902 – 1994), best known as the “Lubavitcher Rebbe,” was commemorated on April 2 with a ceremony at Queens Borough Hall. Following last year’s invite by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Rabbi Mendy Hecht, director of Chabad of Forest Hills North, was presented with another proclamation designating this day as “Education and Sharing Day.” 

Rabbi Mendy Hecht, BP Donovan Richards’ Community Liaison Avi Weinberg & Chief of Staff Michael Mallon, Photo by Michael Scholl, BP Press Officer

“One-hundred twenty-one years of the Rebbe’s birthday is 121 years of the Rebbe’s impact on the world, and how the Rebbe brought a more moral compass to society, fostering greater education, especially for our youth. He contributed to the betterment of their future, making this world a better place for all mankind,” said Rabbi Mendy.

Education & Sharing Day proclamation presented to Rabbi Mendy Hecht

Present for this year’s proclamation on behalf of Richards was Chief of Staff Michael Mallon and Community Liaison Avi Weinberg. The borough president furthered a unifying message by sharing the proclamation on social media. 

The tradition originated in 1978, when President Jimmy Carter launched a proclamation, and ever since, the Rebbe’s Jewish birthday is proclaimed “Education & Sharing Day” by US presidents, governors, mayors and borough presidents. Therefore, by spreading the light of morals to the masses, Education & Sharing Day is celebrated and proclaimed to honor the Rebbe.

President Ronald Reagan signs the Education Day USA proclamation, Courtesy of Chabad

The Rebbe was born in Nikolaev, Ukraine on April 18, 1902, which is the 11th of Nissan on the Jewish calendar. His father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, was a foremost Kabbalist and Talmudic scholar, whereas his mother, Rebbetzin Chanah, descended from a prestigious rabbinical family and was an aristocratic woman.

Richards’ proclamation referenced the Rebbe as “a passionate advocate for children and stressed the importance of educating children in ways that will help every child develop a strong intellect and a solid moral character.” It states, “The Rebbe helped turn this guiding principle into reality by establishing a network of several thousand schools and education centers in the U.S. and around the world.” He then referenced Americans being called upon to follow the Rebbe’s example by working toward the furtherance of education and the betterment of society. 

“The 2.4 million residents of Queens, ‘The World’s Borough,’ wholeheartedly join in this year’s commemoration of Education & Sharing Day, USA, as we pursue the Rebbe’s goal of helping all children receive an education that will help them succeed in all facets of life,” the proclamation continues.

Rabbi Mendy explained ways to further implement universal values and acts of kindness throughout our communities on various levels, including schools, as well as the importance of achieving inner unity and world peace. 

“The chaos and destruction that unfortunately surrounds us is causing havoc to our innocent youth,” Mendy said. “The Rebbe saw how important it was to bring our youth additional meaning to their lives and become better human beings, to the extent of encouraging others to become leaders and make our world a brighter place.” 

The Rebbe advocated for a moment of silence when the school day begins. “It should begin with a reflection on something more meaningful than the chaos, which unfortunately may stem from the street or the home. Preoccupying our child’s mind with a meaningful thought is essential, and it is something that a parent can guide their child to think about. The Rebbe used the phrases ‘an eye that sees and ear that hears’ for a moment of silence, to indicate that there must be accountability,” said Rabbi Mendy.

A mandatory moment of silence is already legislated in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The most recent states are Arizona, Florida and Kentucky, which Chabad played a major role in implementing. In several other states, it is optional. “Now we need it to be mandatory in New York, where it is optional,” said Rabbi Mendy.

“Along with my colleagues, we request BP Richards’ support of this important legislation, beginning in Queens, and hopefully will bring it on a state level as well. We hope to work further with him to achieve this,” he continued.

Rabbi Mendy takes pride in his role as a chaplain on Rikers Island, where he recognizes how society has negatively affected its youth and adults. He explained, “It is so important when younger to make sure they receive the best education and take this moment to reflect, as I have heard about its impact upon our youth, and how it spared them from very destructive thoughts.” Therefore, he begins his services on Rikers Island with a moment of silence and receives productive feedback. 

Rabbi Mendy Hecht giving a Rikers Island officer matzah on Erev Pesach

Reminiscing timeless teachings, he said, “The Rebbe advocated for rehabilitation of those incarcerated, to reunite them with society through better education and moral values that we provide. The results and feedback from the inmates are positive, as they feel human again.”

Education & Sharing Day was held three days prior to Passover, which celebrates the redemption of the Jewish people. The holiday bears relevance to the proclamation, which also generates awareness of how everyone should bring freedom into their lives with true freedom, which signifies better education and moral values and initiates a more peaceful society.

Rabbi Mendy explained the importance of Jewish Day Schools practicing their religion freely. As Jewish people, there is an ancient tradition that dates to Moses and the giving of the Torah, which is essential to preserve with much freedom. “It deserves to be respected and kept dearly by those that chose to,” he said. “These traditions also bring a more moral compass to society and better education to our youth. Last year, BP Richards told us and continues to assure us that he will not take these important values from our Jewish Day Schools.” He envisions holding a meeting with the borough president in upcoming weeks to build upon the ceremony and values.

Richards received gifts from Rabbi Mendy, which included a Passover Haggadah, which is newly printed in a soft cover and hard cover edition. “This Hagaddah is creative with beautiful art and is very clearly written and serves as an effective guide of when to perform each tradition. It even has the tunes for songs and meaningful explanations, as well as more mystical ones based on Chabad’s philosophy,” said Rabbi Mendy.

VP Walter Mondale addresses the inauguration of Education Day USA in the House Caucus Room, Courtesy of Chabad

The Hagaddah was produced early on during the pandemic when everyone was in lockdown at the time of Passover, and society had to reinvent itself when it came to daily pursuits and celebrating holidays. He explained, “It was a downloadable Hagaddah during the pandemic, which I shared with the community at the time. This was another positive accomplishment along the lines of many others due to the pandemic.” This is an indication of light that can be found through darkness. 

For Passover, the Torah teaches that it is forbidden to eat chametz, which consists of foods that have been leavened or risen, since ancestors were unable to wait for bread to rise while departing Egypt. Also gifted to Richards was traditional round shmurah matzah, which was produced in Israel and only by hand. Rabbi Mendy explained its significance. “The more special way to do the mitzvah (good deed) at the Seder is with this kind of matzah and with Jews from all walks of life. Handmade means it is watched better, preventing chametz from its production. Its roundness symbolizes the identical shape that the Jews took out of Egypt and represents the idea that G-D has no end or limit.”

Rabbi Mendy expressed much gratitude to Richards and his staff, as well as the importance of implementing the ideals of Education & Sharing Day year-round. He said, “A proclamation is to take action, as it says on it. I am very hopeful that we will all make our days filled with more education and sharing for our youth. The world is not a jungle, but it is a beautiful garden that we must nurture with more goodness, kindness, and moral values. Amen!” 

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