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Wednesday
Nov192014

UNITING THE NATIONS UNDER THE BANNER OF SHEVA MITZVOS

Our reporter Yaron Tzvi met with RYaakov Dovid Cohen, a Lubavitcher Chassid who is a familiar figure in the corridors of the United Nations building. He articulately conveys the Rebbes message about the Seven Noachide Laws. * A one-man public relations machine: a television program with a million viewers a week, an Internet site, a Facebook page, a few documentaries and a book that has been translated into English, Chinese and Korean. * An ambassador at the UN.

visited the United Nations building in order to meet with the Chabad shliach who is active there for a number of years now, RYaakov Dovid Cohen. I wanted to hear about his work with world leaders and their ambassadors. It so happened that when I was working on this article, entry to the UN building was difficult because of the annual opening session that takes place at this time of year. When I arrived there, I was surprised to see that for RCohen there are no roadblocks.

The stories that he told me showed how influential a Jew can be and to what extent the world is progressing toward the hisgalus of the Rebbe MH”M and is preparing, knowingly or unknowingly, for the Geula.

I accompanied R’ Cohen at his work. In the midst of lots of hand shaking with numerous people walking about the UN, he told me about his experiences with world leaders and key figures, some Jewish and some not. American presidents Obama and George Bush, the prime minister of Spain, the ambassador from Guinea, the ambassador from Korea, and many more influential people. These are not people you come in contact with every day. Some of them can even be considered his mekuravim when it comes to the Seven Noachide Laws or learning the Shaar Ha’Yichud V’Ha’Emuna. He has shown a video of the Rebbe translated into English at a gathering that he arranged at the UN. He conveys the Rebbe’s messages about Moshiach, the Geula and Shleimus Ha’aretz whenever the opportunity arises.

R’ Yaakov Dovid Cohen is a born and bred New Yorker and Lubavitcher. His parents, who emigrated from Poland, arrived in the neighborhood and looked for a school for their son. His father (Eliezer) contacted the principal of Oholei Torah, R’ Michoel Teitelbaum a”h, and decided to register his son in that school. As someone who grew up in Crown Heights and absorbed Chassidus from a young age, he was constantly focused on the Rebbe’s idea of shlichus. He studied dayanus and was involved with various things until he came to his primary shlichus twelve years ago when he helped produce a video. The work he does today goes under the name of an organization he started, INC (Institute of Noachide Code).

“I founded it in 5762 following a video production that I was involved with. At that time, R’ Gansburg, who was one of the founders of the center for disseminating the Seven Noachide Laws, wanted to produce a video on the topic, and he asked me to help him. I got involved, and realizing the tremendous importance and influence this has on world peace, I decided this is my primary shlichus. 

“My organization is active in twenty-six countries. The activities include conferences and lectures and even arranging for study partners when there is an interest. There is a Lubavitcher woman, Leah Engleson, who gives shiurim in Tanya in Hebrew and Arabic to non-Jews.”

He visits countries like China or Korea from where he returned before Rosh HaShana. The trip was for the purpose of giving a lecture on the Seven Noachide Laws after publishing a book called Divine Image. In his book, he explains the ideas behind the seven mitzvos through many stories in the Talmud and from Chassidus. R’ Cohen also flew to Paris where he spoke to a group of judges who serve in the Hague as part of the International Criminal Court on the topic of the Seven Noachide Laws and world peace.

“This past year, for Yud-Tes Kislev, I flew to London to organize a Sheva Mitzvos event with R’ Chaim Yitzchok Cohen of Beis Menachem in London. It was attended by diplomats, people from the UN, and people from the British royal court. This is a fascinating and multifaceted shlichus which opens the door to global hafatza.”

PRINTING THE TANYA IN THE UN BUILDING

As we know, the Rebbe urged the printing of the Tanya all over the world because of the spiritual effect the printing would have on the place and the people. The Rebbe even had the Tanya printed in Beirut during the war of 1982. R’ Cohen figured, what could be better than printing the Tanya in a place where world leaders come and go on a regular basis, at the United Nations?

In order to operate under the auspices of his organization to spread the Sheva Mitzvos in the UN, he formed a NGO (non-governmental organization) which enables him to work in a place like the UN. This past year, in honor of 24 Teves, the day the Alter Rebbe passed away, he and R’ Sholom Jacobson decided to print the Tanya in the UN building.

Although belonging to a NGO provides him with an entry pass to the building and participation in various gatherings, this time it wasn’t at all easy. “I was unable to obtain official permission from the UN printing house, which generally censors things like this. So I decided to do it without official permission, in one of the offices there, without specifying what I was doing. We had to get all the printing equipment through security, boxes of papers, and toners with ink, not stuff you can get through without drawing attention especially in a place with such tight security.

“There are usually dogs whose job it is to sniff for anything suspicious and then they do a complete search. The materials we brought in would definitely have alerted them and gotten them to ask me a lot of questions. The first miracle that Hashem did for us is that the day we decided to print the Tanya at the UN, the dogs did not show up to work.

“Nevertheless, we still had a lot of unusual equipment that had to be brought in. I carried some boxes in myself but I knew that we needed special siyata d’Shmaya (heavenly assistance) here.

“One of my mekuravim is the Egyptian ambassador to the UN. In the past, I brought the part of Tanya called Shaar Ha’Yichud V’Ha’Emuna to the UN, material that can and should be learned with gentiles for it speaks about G-d’s oneness, which is one of the Sheva Mitzvos. The Egyptian ambassador found this particularly interesting material and we arranged to learn together. He became an ardent admirer of Tanya. That day, while I was still standing there and wondering how to get all the boxes past security, he suddenly appeared on his way into the building. He saw me and the boxes and said, ‘Rabbi Yaakov, do you need help with this?’ I told him I did, and the ambassador himself took some boxes. Thanks to his senior position, he went through security without any problem.” (See sidebar)

And that is how R’ Cohen printed the Tanya in the UN building along with Jewish mekuravim who work there and those who came from Eretz Yisroel, as well as a number of key people who are not Jewish. He does not want to say the names of those who were there, but the main thing, as far as he is concerned, is that it worked out and was a great Kiddush Hashem.

SHEVA MITZVOS CENTER IN PAKISTAN

R’ Cohen opened his Internet site and showed me people who were interviewed by him on a television program with a million weekly viewers. The program is called One People, One World, Under G-d. He showed me questions he has been asked on various subjects, his pictures with Moslem sheiks, government figures and people in the media and more. I noticed an email correspondence that he had with a Pakistani young man. Since the tension between the US and that area of the world is known, I asked him about this email exchange.

R’ Cohen explained that this young man likes the Sheva Mitzvos concept and has been in touch with him for that past three years. R’ Cohen advised him to spread the Sheva Mitzvos in Pakistan in a careful fashion so as not to endanger his life, and the young man decided to open a hafatza center there in Pakistan! That’s the reason he writes so often, in order to get instructions and information on the subject.

A MOMENT OF SILENCE IN NIGERIA

We went on to discuss the global situation and all the decidedly less than peaceful things going on in the world. He mentioned Nigeria and the wars there between Moslems and Christians:

“I know the Nigerian leaders in the UN. The way it works there is that the government and the various positions, including the appointment of the Nigerian ambassador to the UN, is all in the hands of one family. The situation there is horrendous. Nine months ago I decided to speak with representatives to the UN from Nigeria about the Rebbe’s Moment of Silence campaign. In the summer of 1983, the Rebbe wanted there to be a moment of silence in all schools in the world. At the start of every school day, the students would devote a moment’s thought to the Creator of the world.

“The horaa, said the Rebbe, was also meant for religious institutions for the purpose of bringing awareness of the existence of the Creator and the concomitant submission to Something Supernal, above the division of nations and continents.

“The Nigerian representatives really loved the idea after we explained to them who the Rebbe is, what the campaign is about, and how it has been successfully implemented in many places in the US and the world. Since the government there is family-run, within a week of our conversation at the UN they had implemented the campaign throughout Nigeria!”

FROM AL QAEDA TO E-L ECHAD

There is a Moslem girl, a former terrorist, by the name of Soumaya Sahla. She was arrested by the Dutch police a number of years ago for a terrorist act she was involved in. There was a shliach, R’ Aryeh Leib Heintz, who was active in the prison she was in. He learns Shaar Ha’Yichud V’Ha’Emuna with gentile inmates and talks to them about the Sheva Mitzvos. He also gave this Soumaya Sahla R’ Cohen’s book, Divine Image.  

“She was so affected by this that she decided to make this her new path in life instead of the terrorism that she previously considered sacred. This woman wrote a book on the subject for the purpose of affecting world peace in connection with the Sheva Mitzvos.

“The connection I made with her in recent years had us bring her to the UN to give a lecture based on what she learned with us and about her new path and message for the world. We see how hafatza, based on the Rebbe’s directives has an effect on the deepest of levels.”

AN EVENT WITH R’ KALI IN A HOTEL IN EAST JERUSALEM

“Since I am active in the Sheva Mitzvos, I am in constant touch with R’ Boaz Kali who works a lot with Moslems in this regard. Just recently he met with an influential sheik who has a television broadcasting network in Turkey. 

“This past year I helped him arrange an event in East Jerusalem in which we sat with representatives of Arab sheiks to learn Shaar Ha’Yichud V’Ha’Emuna from a booklet in Arabic,” says R’ Cohen excitedly. “The impact is indescribable. They related to it and we saw how they accept it and believe and know that truth is to be found within Judaism. The event was a success and I want to mention how happy I am about my work with R’ Kali.”

NOT JUST GENTILES

I noticed that we were talking mainly about kiruv work among non-Jews so I smilingly asked, “Are there any kiruv attempts with Jews at your Chabad house?”

R’ Cohen’s response was to tell me three stories about Jews.

“In one case, I realized there was a problematic situation with an Israeli, a 56 year old in India. He was supposed to testify in some case in India and was not allowed to leave the country until the trial. The problem was that he was very sick, and in India things schlep along and a trial like that could take place years later. 

“I flew to Eretz Yisroel and went to the Indian ambassador to speak to him, in light of the connections I have at the UN. He understood the importance of the matter and worked to release the Israeli so he could go home and get the treatment he needed.”

Another story:

“There is a Jew by the name of Francisco Del Salvio who has a senior position in the EU and is someone with a strong Jewish identity. Starting from last year, I am in constant touch with him. When he comes to the UN we learn together or do the mitzvos of the holiday like taking a lulav on Sukkos. He puts t’fillin on regularly and he has his own t’fillin. When he is in Europe, we learn Chassidus on the phone. The shliach in Brussels, R’ Shmuel Pinson, also works with him.”

R’ Cohen goes on to relate:

“Whenever I am in the UN building I have t’fillin with me and I have a line of people who work there or who come for various reasons and I put t’fillin on with them and even learn with them if possible. There was once a Jew who had not celebrated a bar mitzva and he was deciding between having a bar mitzva ceremony or, G-d forbid, a Christian baptism. I said to him, ‘Pick whatever you choose but first come and we will do a small prayer,’ and I put t’fillin on with him. After he realized what I was doing, i.e. a bar mitzva, he asked me to explain myself. I said, ‘You can immerse in all the waters of the world and it won’t change the fact that you are a Jew. And now you are a Jew who has had a bar mitzva!’”

I asked R’ Cohen whether he has encounters with Israeli leaders in the UN and he told me about one of the events that took place as part of the annual meeting in which Arab representatives spoke, followed by Netanyahu. At a certain point, Shmuel Kaufman, an assistant to the ambassador in Washington came over to him and asked what the Rebbe’s view about the territories is. “I explained to him that the concept of ‘occupied territory’ is that we conquered it and there is some discussion about our returning it and this is completely opposed by the Rebbe. I emphasized that Eretz Yisroel belongs to the Jewish people in its entirety according to Torah and explained the Rebbe’s view.”

AMBASSADOR TO EVERY SHLIACH

These days, R’ Cohen is working on a special program for the Kinus HaShluchim, a surprise for the shluchim, an opportunity for them to personally get to know the ambassador of the country where they are on shlichus and to get him involved in the Sheva Mitzvos and world peace, a relationship that can prove advantageous in the future. At a special gathering to take place on 2 Kislev 5775 (November 24, 2014) at the UN, he will offer this opportunity to any shliach who requests it. The goal, in addition to strengthening world peace and the observance of the Sheva Mitzvos, is also to foster cooperation between the shluchim and the local government in their place of shlichus, and to utilize the meeting for the benefit of their issues. Every shliach interested in taking part in the event can go to R’ Cohen’s website and see the details there: www.noahide.org

 

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