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Lubavitch emissary leads U.S. Senate in opening prayer

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 (JTA) – Alluding to the Monica Lewinsky scandal and partisan conflicts in Congress, a Lubavitch rabbi has asked senators to “judge each other at least as favorably as we would like to be judged ourselves.” Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of the Washington office of the American Friends of Lubavitch, led the Senate in its opening prayer Sept. 17, becoming the second rabbi to lead the Senate in prayer this year. “As our nation faces tremendous challenges, we also posses a deep, enormous faith and capacity for healing,” he said to the Senate. Shemtov quoted the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, as saying, “The only way to soothe the differences between two sides is to seek how we are all ultimately on the same side.” Americans are facing issues of healing and judging, Shemtov said, and to not make that relevant would have been a mistake. “American society finds itself now in an unusually decisive time,” said he said. “People who have differences need to keep in mind the unifying factors among us.” Two guest chaplains are invited to lead opening prayers each month.
Shemtov is active on Capitol Hill with Jewish staffers and as the host of holiday parties. Shemtov said he was pleased to lead the Senate in prayer and said it is a magnificent thing for a Jew to be able to pray in the name of God in front of Congress. “This is an opportunity people before me dreamed about,” he said. “To speak before Rosh Hashanah was an opportune time to make an opening prayer.”

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