Chabad delegation meeting Obama includes woman, a first

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A Chabad delegation meeting with President Barack Obama included a veteran female educator, a nod to the president’s emphasis on the need for education for girls.

The meeting at the White House Monday was led by Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, the chairman of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, the umbrella organization for the Lubavitch movement.

Such delegations routinely meet with the president on or around the issuance of the annual Education and Sharing Day proclamation, marking an initiative launched by the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

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Until now, the delegations have comprised only males. This year, the nine-person group included Chave Hecht, a rebbetzin who has been teaching in the movement for more than 70 years, and Menachem Benjaminson and Chaya Goldstein, two 11-year-olds who are leaders in Chabad’s Jewish Children’s Corps.

In his March 31 proclamation, Obama made a point of noting Schneerson’s focus on educating women, saying he “worked to tear down barriers that stood in the way of girls who wanted to learn.”

In addition to education, the meeting included a discussion about Israel’s importance to Jews and about rising anti-Semitism in Europe.

The delegation presented Obama with a menorah, and he presented the delegation with a signed framed copy of his proclamation.