It was not a typical scene in the office of Florida Governor Jeb Bush last Friday, when the governor danced the Hora with rabbis wearing black fedoras. The rabbis, representatives of 101 Chabad Lubavitch Centers in the State of FL, did a circle dance with the governor as Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings, Attorney General Charlie Crist and the Governor’s office staff clapped hands, looking on at the spontaneous joy.
At a Chanukah lighting ceremony, the rabbis launched their “Celebration 101” campaign highlighting the message of light over darkness – a theme reminiscent of the elder Bush’s “One Thousand Points of Light” campaign of 1992 – and discussed the opening of Chabad’s 101st center in the State of Florida, home to the country’s 3rd largest Jewish population.
Bush gratefully accepted the rabbis’ wishes from Chabad of Florida and appeared very honored to have been named the “Shamash” or Lamplighter of the State of Florida for his courageous leadership during and after the four hurricanes that devastated Florida this past summer.
“The Shamash is the “Server Candle” which lights up the rest of the Menorah,” said Rabbi Zvi Konikov, Chabad representative to Florida’s Space Coast. “Everyone in Florida is so lucky to have you as our Shamash to light up our Menorah. And the light of the Menorah will never be extinguished. Not even four hurricanes will extinguish the light which burns in the heart of this great state of Florida,” Konikov said.
The Governor learned first-hand of Chabad’s large nationwide and international presence, with over 3000 centers worldwide and the spiritual message of its founder and “Rebbe,” Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn.
Following the lighting of the menorah, the Governor and Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, local Chabad representative, jointly proclaimed Friday, December 10th, 2004 “Sharing and Education Day” across the State of Florida, calling upon citizens of all backgrounds to join in sharing and education efforts throughout the day.
“Sharing is a universal idea and education is a universal value,” said Rabbi Oirechman. “‘Sharing’ means shining light faith onto others, [which is] the message of Chanukah, and ‘education’ is that all people, regardless of or background, be given a sense of direction in life and these are the trademarks of Chabad Lubavitch and its grassroots organization of Jewish centers spanning the globe.”
Rabbi Oirechman reminded the Governor of his promise of the previous year to always add something extra as reflected by the tradition of the increasing Chanukah lights each day. The Governor enthusiastically accepted the suggestion to join in the dancing with the rabbis following the Chanukah Lighting Ceremony.
Governor Bush took special interest in the upcoming Dinner Gala scheduled for January 16, 2005 celebrating Florida’s 101st Chabad Lubavitch Center.
Expressing surprise and amazement at the work of Chabad and the incredible number of its centers, he praised the Rebbe for his selfless work on behalf of all humanity.