Chabad Lubavitch this week marked 18 years of activity in Rome with a gala dinner and the establishment of a foundation in the name of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson.
About 250 people, including Rome Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff and other leading members of the Rome Jewish community, attended the Tuesday dinner at the Hilton Hotel, said Rabbi Yitzhak Chazan, the Chabad representative in Rome.
“In my speech, I told them the rebbe sent me here 18 years ago, and when we left he gave me $18,” Chazan said. “Maybe he knew it would take 18 years to make our first dinner.”
Rabbi Judah Krinsky, a senior Chabad official a New York who was a chief aide to Rebbe Schneerson, addressed the gathering. Entertainment was provided by Chasidic pop star Avraham Fried.
The primary focus of Lubavitch activities in Italy has long been Milan, but Chabad has expanded greatly in Rome in recent years.
In addition to outreach programs and Shabbat and holiday celebrations, Chabad runs an afternoon school, kindergarten and Sunday school.
“Lubavitch is becoming very popular over here,” Chazan said.
He said the Schneerson Foundation had been set up in order to further Chabad educational and other activities in Rome. Primary goals include the purchase of a building for a school and funds to send another Lubavitch family from New York to Rome, he said.