Dalai Lama visits sukkah, says has a lot to learn from Jews
He didn't get invitation to White House, but Adas Israel Synagogue in Washington receives Tibet's spiritual leader with open arms. He tells amusing stories of Israeli tourists who flood into India, says he wants to learn from Jews how they survived in Diaspora
WASHINGTON - What is a Buddhist leader doing in a synagogue's sukkah? Though he was not invited to the White House, the Adas Israel Synagogue in Washington received the Dalai Lama with open arms on Saturday. He met with the congregation's worshippers in the synagogue's sukkah after the Sukkot holiday prayers.
The relationship between Tibet's spiritual leader and the congregants at the largest Conservative synagogue in the American capital started a few months ago when Rabbi Gil Steinlauf officiated at the wedding of Dalai Lama activist, Leslie Friedel. Many senior Tibetans active in the US attended the wedding, where they became friendly with the rabbi.
Policy strategist Steve Rabinowitz, the Dalai Lama's press advisor in Washington and an Adas Israel congregant, helped the Dalai Lama book a hall at the synagogue for the leader to address 400 Tibetan exiles living in Washington.
'My first time in a sukkah.' The Dalai Lama at Adas Israel (Photo: AP)
Rabinowitz said that the date requested turned out to be the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, the end of the Sukkot holiday. Arrangements were made for the Tibetans to enter through a side entrance so as not to disturb the congregants who came to worship for the holiday. Rabinowitz said that he took the opportunity to ask the Dalai Lama to come to the synagogue's sukkah to say hello to the Jewish worshippers.
The congregants were just in the middle of doing Kiddush – the ceremonial benediction over wine in honor of the holiday – when the Dalai Lama entered the sukkah. The Tibetan leader said that it was his first time in a sukkah and that he likes the Jews very much.
He told the crowd he has "a lot to learn from the Jews" who were in exile for generations. He said he would like to learn how the Jews survived so long in exile as an example for his own Tibetan people, who have been in exile for 50 years.
The Dalai Lama amusedly told the worshippers that the largest group of tourists who visit his exile residence in Dharamsala are Israelis.
Because of China
Obama's senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, recently traveled to Dharamsala to explain to the Dalai Lama why the US president would not be able to meet with him during his current visit to Washington, citing an important meeting next month with China. She, however, ensured the Tibetan leader that a meeting between the two will be held in December.
President Obama did not want to aggravate the Chinese ahead of his visit to Beijing as part of his efforts to convince China to impose sanctions on Iran in the UN Security Council.
The Dalai Lama decided to let the issue slide by quietly, but human rights and anti-Communist activists put the issue in the headlines. They accused Obama of being ready to meet everyone, even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but not the Tibetan leader.
In recent years, the Dalai Lama has gone to the White House ostensibly to meet with the president's security advisor, during which time the president would join the meeting, relegating it as "unofficial." This time, because the president said he would not be able to meet him, the Dalai Lama decided not to meet with other senior officials at the White House.
On Tuesday, the Dalai Lama was awarded the first Lantos Human Rights Prize, named after Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos, who had served as