The Chabad movement celebrated 20 years of presence in central Africa on Tuesday with a gala event at a Congo hotel, just two days after an attempted coup at the country's presidential palace and a parallel attack at the Kokolo military camp.
Hundreds of guests attended the celebration at the Grand Hotel in Kinshasa, Congo. Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch came in from Washington, D.C. to take part in the event, joined by other members of the movement who flew in from across the world..
Chabad spokesman Yaacov Behrman said that representatives of the movement were not deterred by the recent violence. “The streets of Kinshasa are calm, and we feel very safe here," he said.
Antoine Ghonda, the Roving Ambassador for the Congolese President, thanked the movement for its stalwart commitment even in the face of terror.
“Your people and your community have given the best proof of friendship by maintaining this event today despite the awkward situation that prevailed this past Sunday," said Ghonda. “So members of your community did not hesitate to travel from the U.S.A, Europe, Israel, and South Africa to prove to the international community that you trusted this country."
'"As you say yourself in Hebrew: 'Mazal [luck] is mazal'," he added.
“This gala diner is also an opportunity for us to remind the strong bond that exists between our two populations since the independence of our country," said Roving.
"For instance, I remember in 2004, Israel had decided to close its embassy in Kinshasa due to financial constraint. But each member of your community in Kinshasa has decided to fill out the vacuum by becoming the individual ambassador of Israel in DRC in various activities such as social development, political, agricultural, etc. Consequently, if someone goes out and ask to anyone that Israel doesn’t have an embassy in Kinshasa, no one will believe you," he added,
The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, called Chabad’s representative to the region Rabbi Shlomo Bentolila, to congratulate him and to express his support and gratitude for the “confidence that Chabad and the Jewish community have in his country".
Bentolila has hosted Chabad educational and social service programs in 14 countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. He announced at the gala on Tuesday that Chabad of Central Africa would soon appoint permanent representatives to Nairobi, Kenya, and Lagos, Nigeria.
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