An estimated 1500 people attended “The Triumph of Freedom – Chanukah and the Reagan Legacy,” a pre-holiday, last Sunday, December 5 at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley.
Chabad of the Conejo and Chabad of Simi Valley, California, joined with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for a tribute to the late 40th president.
Among the audience were dignitaries and political figures, including Commander Steve Smith, the chaplain of the USS Ronald Reagan, the newest United States aircraft carrier. U.S. Congressman Elton Gallegly greeted the audience with warm wishes and pledged his continued support for a strong and secure Israel. Doug McIntyre, host of the KABC Morning Show, was the master of ceremonies for the parade of dignitaries that came to pay tribute to President Ronald Reagan and his legacy.
Rabbi Moshe D. Bryski, executive director of Chabad of the Conejo, spoke of the special relationship between the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, and President Reagan and how fitting it was for the President to be presented with a menorah by the emissaries of the Rebbe (a photo of this presentation hangs in the Reagan Library at the entrance to the Oval Office). “The lights of the menorah represent the flames of goodness and freedom that can never be extinguished. The legacy of this president is highlighted by his determination to bring the light of freedom to hundreds of millions of people throughout the world,” Rabbi Bryski said. In addition to the photo of Reagan accepting the Menorah, the library features a display of the various Chanukah gifts the president received while in office.
The emotional kindling ceremony featured eight special guests, each holding a “Torch of Freedom.” The special guests were individuals who either found their freedom after the collapse of the Iron Curtain or are fighting for freedom today in the U.S. Armed Forces. They walked to the slab of the Berlin Wall that is featured at the library and then to the Reagan Memorial, the resting place of the president. The audience sang “G-d Bless America” and listened to excerpts of the president’s remarks challenging Premier Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” The torch holders then made their way to the huge menorah standing adjacent to the memorial, with a breathtaking background view of Ventura County. Commander Steve Smith and Doug McIntyre joined Rabbi Moshe Bryski on the lift for the symbolic lighting of the Menorah.
“The menorah lighting was such a moving spectacle with the torches visiting the Berlin Wall Memorial and finally President Reagan’s grave that I was overcome with emotion,” said Agoura Hills City Councilman Denis Weber.