Dalai Lama visits Washington, DC sukkah

The Dalai Lama popped in on a Sukkot celebration with a visit to the sukkah of a Washington, DC area synagogue on Saturday.

The Buddhist spiritual leader met with the congregation’s worshippers in the sukkah of Adas Israel Synagogue after Saturday’s Sukkot holiday prayers, YNet.com reports.

The Dalai Lama told the crowd that it was his first time inside a sukkah, and that he admires Jews very much for their perseverance through years of oppression.  He said he has "a lot to learn from the Jews" and sees them as an example for his own Tibetan people, who have been in exile for 50 years.

The meeting was arranged by policy stategist Steve Rabinowitz, the Dalai Lama’s press advisor in Washington and an Adas Israel congregant.  Rabinowitz helped the Dalai Lama secure a room in the synagogue to address a group of 400 exiled Tibetans living in Washington. 

The congregation has enjoyed a special relationship with the Dalai Lama since Rabbi Gil Steinlauf officiated at the wedding of Dalai Lama activist, Leslie Friedel, several months ago.  Adas Israel offered the room to the Tibetan leader free of charge.

Rabinowitz said that the date chosen coincidentally fell on the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, the end of the Sukkot holiday.  Arrangements were made for the Tibetans to enter through a side entrance so as not to disturb the congregants who came to worship for the holiday. Rabinowitz said that he took the opportunity to ask the Dalai Lama to come to the synagogue’s sukkah to say hello to the Jewish worshippers.

President Obama declined to meet with the Dalai Lama during his time in Washington for fear that it might aggravate the Chinese government ahead of the president’s upcoming visit to Beijing.  The president hopes to convince China to impose sanctions on Iran in the U.N. Security Council.

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