Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Head Shliach of Washington, DC, turned down an invitation to an event with President Donald Trump on Friday because it was likely to run into Shabbos. Until he received a phone call from the White House.
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch and the Rebbe’s Shliach to Washington, DC, was invited for a special event at the White House on Friday.
President Donald Trump was to sign the Securing American Nonprofit Organizations Against Terrorism Act of 2019. It provides federal money for the protection of houses of worship and other nonprofits, authorizing $375 million in funding to secure Shuls, Mosques and other religious institutions.
But Rabbi Shemtov was not sure he could accept the invitation. The ceremony as scheduled would likely run into Shabbos which began at 5:02 pm. As such, Rabbi Shemtov politely declined the invitation.
About an hour later, the White House contacted Rabbi Shemtov again, and informed him that they had moved the event back by about one hour, so that he and 2 other observant Jews could attend the event, and be ensured they would be home in time for Shabbos, even if they needed to leave in the middle of the event, should it be delayed.
Also attending along with Rabbi Shemtov were Howard Tzvi Friedman, Chairman of the Orthodox Union, who was spending Shabbos in Washington, and Eric Fingerhut, head of the Jewish Federations of North America, who lives there.
Rabbi Shemtov then agreed, since the event was now scheduled to end by 5 pm. That gave him a few minutes to get home by car, or if need be, he could walk the approximately 1.5 miles to his residence at Chabad Lubavitch Center of Washington, if necessary.
True to their word, the event ended just at 5 pm, and the dedicated White House staff whisked the Jewish leaders through security gates so that they could quickly exit the complex and return home before Shabbos, which they did with even a few minutes to spare.
People arriving at The Shul (Chabad) in DC were surprised to see Rabbi Shemtov arrive just before Shabbos, in time to join the congregation for Mincha prayers!
So, when there is a will there is a way… no compromise necessary to be a Yid in America today.