Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett explains his fondness for Chabad and how the chassidus brought him to leading an observant lifestyle.
Bennett explained that his parents lived in California and had almost no religious background. After the 1967 Six Day War they decided to move to Israel and they volunteered on Kibbutz Daphne in northern Israel. He and his two older brothers were born in Haifa, into a totally secular household.
When Naftali Bennett was 3 or 4, his father was sent as a shaliach of the Technion University to Montreal. The young child was sent to an area Jewish kindergarten which was operated by Chabad, hence his first encounter with Lubavitch. He explains it did not take too long until he came home wearing tzitzis and a yarmulke. He explains he began questioning why his parents are not shomer mitzvos. This he cites was the beginning of the long process in which his family returned to a life of adherence to Torah and Mitzvos.
Bennett sites his second encounter with Chabad was as a second grader in New Jersey, when he joined a local Tzivos Hashem and then becoming more involved with the chassidus. He explains he received his Zionism in Bnei Akiva and in high school.
Bennett adds his wife, like him, came from a non-frum home. She grew up in Kfar Oriyah. When they met, it was important for him that she gets an introduction to Yiddishkheit. This was the time he was running a high-tech start-up company. “One day we were talking down a Manhattan street and we saw a sign ‘are you looking for something new and interesting to do? Come and join our beginners’ minyan”. .He said this sounded interesting so they decided to attend.
Bennett continues to explain how they both grew spiritually due to the minyan and the connection with persons involved. He adds that while he never met the Rebbe personally, he was amazed how the Rebbe met so many people and never stopped caring and assisting Jews around the world. He continues to try to visit Chabad houses in every city he visits and each time there is a new experience.
He feels Chabad plays a vital role in keeping Jews around the world aware of their religion and their roots.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)