Georgia's PM asks for rabbi's blessing

According to followers of Rabbi Steinman, Russia announced ceasefire shortly after blessing.

Lado Gurgenidze 224 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Lado Gurgenidze 224 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Georgian Prime Minister Vladimer (Lado) Gurgenidze made a special call to Israel Tuesday morning to receive a blessing from one of the haredi community's most important rabbis and spiritual leaders, Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman. The nonagenarian rabbi from Bnei Brak, known as the father of the yeshiva world, acquiesced to Gurgenidze's request and blessed the Jewish community of Georgia "and all who live in that place." According to Steinman's followers, shortly after the rabbi uttered the blessing Russia announced a cease-fire with war-torn Georgia. During Tuesday's morning prayers, Rabbi Shimon Bruk, the chairman of the Israel branch of The Council for Saving Lost Jews (Hava'ad L'hatzalat Nidchei Yisrael), a haredi organization that builds educational institutions in Eastern Europe, received a phone call from Georgia. "I was in the middle of my prayers so all I could do was grunt into the phone," recalled Bruk. "Shortly after I finished praying the amida my phone rang again. 'This is Prime Minister of Georgia Vladimer Gurgenidze speaking. You brought me a letter from a man named Stumen [sic]. Is he still alive? I've heard that he is a holy man. I want him to pray for us and our state.'" Bruk said he had met with Steinman around noon on Tuesday and presented Gurgenidze's request to the rabbi. "There were a lot of raised eyebrows when shortly after Rabbi Steinman made the blessing, we heard about the cease-fire," recalled Bruk. Bruk had met with Georgia's prime minister in March to thank him for his support for Jewish educational institutions built in Georgia by the council. During the meeting Bruk presented Gurgenidze with a letter from Steinman in which the rabbi referred to the Georgian government as a "regime of loving-kindness." Steinman's letter is reportedly hanging on the wall of Gurgenidze's office. The council has been operating in Eastern Europe since before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In Tbilisi, Georgia, the council runs a nursery school, two grade schools, a yeshiva for boys and a high school for girls. Many of Tbilisi's Jewish educators and rabbis, including Chief Rabbi of Georgia Ariel Levine, are products of the local educational institutions. In addition to blessing Georgia's prime minister, Steinman also answered the questions of concerned members of Georgia's Jewish community. He advised against sending educators and rabbis to Tbilisi until the fighting stopped. However, when he heard about the cease-fire he permitted rabbis to be sent to nearby Azerbaijan. "The Jews there need a lot of psychological and spiritual support," said Bruk. "They are going through some very traumatic times."