(the following was submitted as a press release)
“Chazak–Stand Strong! Stand Proud!” That was the theme of “An Evening of Song and Solidarity” held on Wednesday, June 10, at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Featuring headliner Dudu Fisher in concert, with a special appearance by the recipient of Chabad’s “Voice of Courage Award,” Tony Orlando, the program saw the sold-out crowd of 1,800 jump to their feet for repeated thunderous ovations of exuberance and approval throughout the night.
“That was definitely one of the most inspiring and entertaining Jewish concerts I’ve ever been to,” said Noam Lotan, an enthusiastic audience-member, while exiting the state-of-the-art concert-hall en route to his car. The sentiment was echoed by many who called and wrote to Chabad in the days thereafter.
“If you come away from this evening feeling a little prouder of your identity, a little closer to your extended Jewish family and a little stronger about your connection to Israel – its history, its vitality and its destiny as the eternal homeland of the Jewish People – then we will have achieved our goal,” said Rabbi Yisroel Levine,Chabad’s Director of Development, at the opening of the program.
During the program, Jerusalem-born singer and Broadway star, Dudu Fisher, took to the stage, singing four strong opening numbers, including a Chassidic Niggun (melody), which he prefaced with a moving story about a woman in Riga, Latvia, who, in 1932, was told that the baby she was carrying would be stillborn. Undeterred, she sent for a blessing from the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was in Riga at time, which she received along with assurances that a healthy child would be born. Thus it was. That child would go on to be Dudu Fisher’s mother. The handwritten message from the Previous Rebbe’s secretary was then displayed on the auditorium’s large screen for all to see.
Following that, Rabbi Moshe Bryski, executive director of Chabad of the Conejo, appeared at the podium to establish the theme of the evening. “I think that we are all acutely aware that these are precarious times for the civilized world, in general, and for the Jewish People, in particular,” he told the crowd. “With the recent renewed threats of terrorism, a nuclear Iran and a spike in anti-Semitism, I think it is essential that we, as proud Jews and patriotic Americans, come together, to express our common resolve to stand for principle, for truth, for liberty, for human decency, and above all, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our brothers and sisters who are living in our beloved homeland, Israel!”
Bryski went on to invoke the memory of the three Israeli teenagers, whose yahrtzeits (anniversary of passing) had been marked by World Jewry just one week earlier.
Bryski hailed Israel’s supporters, singling out international entertainer Tony Orlando, who had taken the time to visit with the families of the kidnapped boys last summer to share in their grief and to show his support.
After his visit with the families, he had gone before the international media to denounce and condemn anyone who would use children as pawns and to call upon his fans all over the world to tie three yellow ribbons on the outside of their homes in solidarity with the missing boys.
Bryski explained Chabad’s decision to present Orlando with the Voice of Courage Award as an expression of “Hakorat Hatov” (recognition of gratitude) “for a man who well deserves the appellation of being a member of the “Chassidei Umot Ha-olom – the righteous among the nations,” he said.
Upon accpeting the award, Orlando, born to a Greek father and a Puerto Rican mother, said, “With your emphasis on family, on education, on faith, morals and ethics, it should be clear to all why you are G-d’s chosen people. Nothing is a more vile an insult to civilization than anti-Semitism and nothing should be of greater priority the non-Jewish world than our support for Israel and the Jewish People.”
Orlando was joined was then joined on stage by Fisher and the two performed several songs together.
Other highlights of the evening included the presentation of the “Champions of the Spirit Award” to Martin Glade, a courageous and resilient Holocaust Survivor, and his wife, Sandi Glade – both of whom spoke at an outdoor pre-concert cocktail reception chaired by Chabad of the Conejo’s Rabbi Yitzchak Sapochkinsky and Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky.