Last weekend, the Chabad of Pacific Palisades honored local police and firefighters with a community barbecue that drew guests from well beyond the Jewish community itself.
Roughly 200 people came to the event, in addition to representatives from two local fire stations and one local police precinct. According to organizers, the barbecue had been arranged immediately after the murder of five police in Dallas last month.
Children swarmed a fire truck and a police cruiser, and jumped for hours inside a bouncy house shaped like a fire engine. The rabbi, Zushe Cunin, presented plaques to each of the police and fire contingents, each bearing a prayer for safety, blessing the work of law enforcement and emergency response. He also honored one firefighter who had attended the Chabad preschool.
Chabad is a movement centered around the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died 22 years ago. Schneerson was the last of a line of seven rabbis, but the movement has defied expectations by continuing to grow. Its primary aim is reaching out to fellow Jews to increase their connection to Judaism.
Given that orientation, Chabad often takes a less active civic role than other Jewish movements. While the Union for Reform Judaism is eager to be seen in the forefront of such causes as transgender rights, and the Orthodox Union openly advocates for school choice, Chabad tends to avoid playing a role in public policy debates (although it supports the latter). One of the few exceptions has been the issue of prayer in public schools, which the Lubavitcher Rebbe enthusiastically supported, along with public displays of Chanukah menorahs alongside Christmas trees during the winter. In general, however, Chabad is apolitical.
When Chabad does become involved in the public arena, it is careful to use the opportunity to encourage the practice of Jewish mitzvot, or good deeds.
Therefore the theme of the barbecue was the mitzvah of mezuzah, the scroll that most Jewish families affix to their doorposts, bearing Biblical passages and offering protection from harm.
The L.A. Fire Department acknowledged the thanks of the community with a tweet:
— LAFD Talk (@LAFDtalk) August 1, 2016
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.