Hundreds “Aspire to Inspire” in the Conejo

 

A capacity crowd exceeding 500 guests joined with Chabad of the Conejo and friends on Sunday, June 10th, at the world-class Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake, California, for a memorable Banquet-Gala event, titled “Aspire to Inspire.”  

“Everyone who learns can teach. Everyone who is a recipient of G‑d’s blessings must, in turn, be a source of blessing to others. Everyone who is inspired should aspire to inspire others,” said Rabbi Yisroel Levine, Director of Development of Chabad of the Conejo, in establishing the theme of the evening. 

Rabbi Levine then went to speak of the many opportunities available through Chabad to do exactly that – whether it’s via the Friendship Circle for children with special needs, under the direction of Rabbi Eli Laber, or the Sunshine Club for seniors under the direction of Chana Stery Kahanov.

His message was further driven home by Mr. Daniel Peck, a cancer survivor who, as a participant in Chabad’s services and classes in Agoura Hills, now utilizes his remarkable journey as a catalyst for strengthening and inspiring others faced with adversity or a sense of emptiness in their lives. “With faith and determination you can overcome virtually anything,” he said. “Without it, you can be overwhelmed by virtually everything.” His story was met with a standing ovation. 

After paying tribute to all the rabbis, rebbetzins, teachers and staff of Chabad of the Conejo, Associate Director Rabbi Yitzchak Sapochkinsky proceeded to highlight the organization’s multifaceted youth activities. He introduced 17-year-old Daniel Neymit, who recounted his unforgettable experiences as a member of Chabad’s C-Teen program, under the direction of Rabbi Mendy and Mushkie Friedman, and how those experiences have proven instrumental to his becoming a proud and engaged member of the Jewish community.

Another tone-setter for the evening was a tribute – in words and in song – to the miracles and wonders experienced by Israel over the past 70 years. The words were delivered by Chabad of North Ranch’s Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky, who provided example after example of the Divine Providence that enabled a tattered and shattered people to “rise up like a lion” to become a thriving and industrious country, now serving as a beacon of light, hope, healing, progress and advancement for the entire world.” 

In providing the spiritual and historical basis for Jerusalem being the “eternal and irrevocable capital of the Jewish People,” Rabbi Bistritzky praised America’s bold move of relocating its embassy to Israel’s rightful capital. This, too, brought the audience to its feet, as did a tribute to all the veterans of the Israel Defense Forces and the American Armed Forces in the room. This segued into a rousing performance of popular Israeli songs by singer Itay Benda. Other entertainers to take to the stage were violinist Asher Laub and comedian Avi Liberman.

Following dessert, Rabbi Moshe Bryski, Executive Director of Chabad of the Conejo, opened “Part Two” of the evening’s program by analyzing the dichotomy between the perspective conveyed by a popular song from the 1970’s called “Dust in Wind” – ostensibly based upon the teachings of Kohelet – versus the authentic Jewish/Chassidic perspective on the issue. He called upon the eclectic audience to recognize the difference between those things that are, in fact, “dust in wind” and those that are “L’chaim” – i.e. that live on eternally – and to thus pursue actions of the latter dimension as a way of establishing a lasting legacy. 

Taking issue with the lyrics which posit, “nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky,” Rabbi Bryski said, “The Torah perspective is that even as our physical bodies do not last forever, our spiritual selves – who we are, what we stand for and what we contribute to this world – are, in fact, no less forever than the earth and sky… An essential credo of Judaism is ‘M’dor L’dor,’” he said. “We look out - not only for ourselves in our days, but also for others in days to come.”

Rabbi Bryski then introduced the Honorees of evening: Robyn Perchik and David and Hanna Horenstein.

Lauding the manner in which Robyn Perchik skillfully blends her professional pursuits with her commitment to family and community, Bryski said, “I can go on at length about Robyn’s impressive achievements in the business and academic arenas, but I’d rather focus on what I believe to be her primary passion in life: the virtue and blessing of family. As she puts it, ‘We’re in the Family Business!’” The latter statement being something of a double-entendre, in that Robyn is the current owner and managing member of Beverly Hills Egg Donation, which matches potential egg donors with aspiring parents, and her husband, Dr. Michael Feinman, is a renowned specialist in the field of reproductive endocrinology.

In his introduction to David and Hanna Horenstein, Rabbi Bryski portrayed the couple as poster-children of sorts for the “Aspire to Inspire” motif.  “Ever since becoming part of this community, David and Hanna have been among the most active and influential ambassadors for Chabad,” he said. “Wherever they go, they talk-up our programs and bring new people around – out of a genuine desire to share and inspire... In their philanthropic endeavors as in their respective business endeavors, they are a very caring, conscientious, industrious, hard-working, goal-oriented and people-oriented couple… Whether it’s shopping-centers or people’s self-esteem, they love to build things up!” 

In reflecting on the evening, Rabbi Laibel Kahanov, Associate Rabbi of Chabad of Agoura Hills, observed, “While some of the elements of the program might have been scripted in advance, most of it consisted of folks speaking their own hearts. Yet, everyone who got up there seemed to be conveying the same underlying message – albeit in their own way – that what we’re doing here is bigger than ourselves in the here and now, and, as such, we must do everything we can to share of our love, knowledge, faith and resources with those who may not be quite as blessed as we are.” 

Apparently, the theme of evening – ‘Aspire to Inspire’ – spoke for itself.