On April 18, 1978, former President Jimmy Carter recognized the first Education and Sharing Day, USA.
Forty years later, following in the footsteps of every president since, Donald Trump signed and issued a proclamation last week recognizing March 27 as Education and Sharing Day, USA in honor of the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. The day corresponds with the 11th of Nissan, the 116th anniversary of Schneerson’s birth.
The White House invited a delegation of Chabad rabbis to attend the signing. The delegation included Rabbi Levi Shemtov of Washington.
Across the country, governors from all 50 states and the mayor of the District of Columbia issued proclamations or the equivalent of them recognizing the day.
“As the Rebbe noted, when something is important to society, that is underscored by the attention given it by its leaders,” said Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad). “It is certain that, in these days, good education and building the character of the children in our society is an appropriate focus that we need.”
After passing through security, the group went to the Roosevelt Room, where National Security Adviser John Bolton greeted them.
The group then was escorted into the Oval Office, where they met with Trump.
Rabbi Abraham Shemtov of Philadelphia, the national director of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), said the traditional blessing made when meeting a head of state, and Trump expressed respect for Schneerson, particularly the work he did with education.
Quoting the president, Levi Shemtov said, “The impact that the Rebbe had is … the importance of a child’s education, as well as … the Rebbe’s view that even a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness.”
Abraham Shemtov continued by talking about Schneerson’s message about birthdays being a time for introspection and reflection.
Levi Shemtov presented two gifts to Trump on behalf of the delegation — a silver menorah, which was given with an explanation about the shamash as a symbol of a public servant, and a leather-bound Haggadah with Trump’s name embossed on the cover. Trump also inscribed an identical Haggadah, which was sent to Jewish active-duty soldiers.
“The Lubavitcher Rebbe believed that even in the darkest place, ‘the light of a single candle can be seen far and wide,’” a press release from the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary said. “His life is an example of the power of one person to influence the lives of many.”
Selah Maya Zighelboim is a writer for the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.