George Rohr Visits Chabad House

George Rohr group pic













Back row, L to R: Ezra Solomon (QC ’00), Benji Goldsmith ’15, Shachar Lobl ’13, George Rohr, Joel Eckstein.

Front row, L to R: Shira Litchman ’15, Sara Just-Michael ’15, Haina Just-Michael, Tzipah Wertheimer.

“The Chabad House at Queens College is a vibrant place that provides for the spiritual and material needs of the significant Jewish population at Queens College. I am proud to partner with Rabbi Shaul and Tzipah Wertheimer in their critical mission, inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Chabad is the best bang for your buck!” – George Rohr

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This past Monday, June 10th, 2013, I was fortunate to host philanthropist George Rohr for a visit to the Chabad House. Mr. Rohr, together with his wife Pamela, have provided unparalleled support for the Chabad On Campus network in general, as well as the Chabad House at Queens College, in particular. I am truly grateful for this partnership with George and Pamela!

Mr. Rohr was one of the earliest Western investors in the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, which also led to his expansive involvement in literally hundreds of Chabad Centers across the region.

After the tour of the Chabad House, Mr. Rohr addressed the select group of students, alumni and friends, sharing some of his personal life an experiences.

One alum asked Mr. Rohr why he feels that Chabad is such a good investment, from a business perspective.

Mr. Rohr explained that a Chabad House is essentially like venture capital. When an investor is deciding whether to invest in a particular VC, he must take three things into account:

1. Do the people behind the venture have “skin in the game”? In other words, will it be very painful to them if they fail?
2. Is there a successful track record for this venture model?
3. Is there a market for what the venture will provide?

“Chabad,” concluded Mr. Rohr, “meets all three criteria. Chabad is the best bang for your buck.”

Another question posed to Mr. Rohr, was what inspires his giving.

In the course of his response, he shared a personal story. In 1991, he visited a synagogue in Manhattan, which had a “Beginner’s Minyan,” that is, a service specifically designed with guidance for those who were not familiar with the prayer services.

He was deeply impressed by this concept, and approached the rabbi at his synagogue in Manhattan, and suggested that the rabbi replicate this concept. The rabbi explained that he liked the idea, and had, in fact, always wanted to start such a program. However, the rabbi continued, they needed someone dedicated to take it under their wing as their project.

In typical Jewish fashion, the rabbi turned his gaze to Mr. Rohr, suggested that he spearhead this project. The rabbi assured him that he would provided whatever resources he needed. The services would be launched for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, 1991.

And a tremendous success, they were. Hundreds of beginners attended the services, giving Mr. Rohr a great sense of accomplishment.

“I had a custom,” Mr. Rohr said at the Chabad House on Monday, “to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur every year.

“During that time, the Rebbe would give a piece of traditional lekach (honey cake) to anyone who came. The idea is that if it had been decreed Above that you would need to receive a handout during the year, then this decree could be fulfilled by received a piece of the sweet cake from the Rebbe.

“When visiting the Rebbe, one generally asks for blessings, but this time, I decided to tell the Rebbe about my beginner’s minyan. After all, the Rebbe would certainly have much nachas from it!

“When it came my turn in line, I began to tell the Rebbe about the success of the minyan. ‘I wanted to notify that Rebbe that we started a minyan for Jews with no background.'”

“What?” the Rebbe said.

Thinking that perhaps the Rebbe had not heard what he said, he repeated himself.

“What?” the Rebbe said, again.

“I realized that the Rebbe had, indeed, heard me,” Rohr told us on Monday.

“I wasn’t sure what to do… then the Rebbe had rachmonus (compassion) on me, and said, ‘There is no such thing as a Jew with no background. Every Jew is a child of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah.'”

The Rebbe gave Rohr a piece of honey cake. Handing him a second piece (which was unusual), the Rebbe said, “This is for the Jews who you say have no background.”

“Ever since then,” concluded Rohr, “I have never referred to any Jew as having no background.”