Friday, March 06, 2009

Grieving Community Transforms Dinner into Joyous Honoring of Boy’s Life

In a letter they wrote to the dinner’s attendees, which was placed beside each table setting, the Wolowiks sought to encourage their community, referring to teachings of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, on dealing with tragedy.

“The only way to confront tragedy,” they wrote, “is to persist with even more energy and more joy.

“There could be no greater way to honor Levi,” the Wolowiks continued, than by each guest being there as an expression of Jewish unity. “[Levi] is no doubt looking on and having [pleasure] from this gathering tonight.”

After “hearing the Rebbe’s timeless message to us all, the atmosphere changed completely,” said Werner.

Charged with a renewed mission, the crowd enjoyed the music and the tribute videos. But the highlight of the evening was a round of traditional Chasidic dancing.

“We danced like we never danced before,” said Faivish Pewzner. “And I mean that everyone danced. With true joy. And at the end, we were all reinvigorated.”

While attendees had originally feared that the dinner would serve as a painful reminder of a deep scar in the community, afterwards, recalled Leah Muller, “people said that this was the most wonderful experience. There was so much unity.”

And instead of honoring the end of a young boy’s short life, said Faivish Pewzner, the dinner was “a means to continue his life.”

During the dinner, attendees filled out cards with pledges of good deeds in memory of Levi. After the event, the honorees joined Rabbi Meir and Hadassah Geisinsky, the youth directors at Chabad of the Five Towns, to deliver the pledges to the Wolowiks.“The family appeared to derive comfort from it,” said Werner. “The dinner turned out to be a positive experience for everyone, instead of a depressing one.”

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