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The President bowed to the picture of his Rabbi
Former President of Poland Lech Walesa in Israel
Lech Walesa and the Rebbe’s dollar - 1990
By Mr. David Chase
In 1989, someone suggested that I should visit Poland, my birthplace and where sixty members of my family were murdered. He told me that while I was there I should meet with Lech Walesa who was then head of the Solidarity Union.
Though I had neither reason nor inclination to return to Poland, I reported the request to the Rebbe during a private audience with him.
The Rebbe replied by saying that since there were still many Jews in Poland, a visit could be helpful to them. However, he was adamant that I should not encourage any Jew to return to Poland to live.
On my trip, I met with Lech Walesa. Though I expressed my pleasure at meeting with him, I told him that I had no desire to do business in Poland. I told him that my family - including my mother, father, sister and grandparents, were murdered in Poland during the holocaust and that I thought the Polish people continued to exhibit much anti Semitism.
His response was surprising. He gave me a very sincere look and said, “Your G-d is my G-d.” I remember his words clearly.
On my return to the United States, I gave a report to the Rebbe. The Rebbe then gave me a number of dollar bills and told me to give them to Jewish people who live in Poland and who want to be Jewish and continue to feel Jewish. He also instructed me to give some of the dollars to non-Jews either who help Jewish causes or who could be good to Jews in the future. He did not mention any names and I asked him how I would know to whom I should give the dollars. “You will know,” he said.
I saw Lech Walesa frequently, and on one of my trips to Poland, he told me of his decision to run for President. I then decided to give him one of the dollars. “Here is a dollar that you should hold on to,” I said to him. “When you become president I’ll tell you who gave me this dollar to give to you. Do not ask me before then. When you become president, and I am sure you will become president, you will find out who gave you this dollar.”
He took the dollar, folded it, and put it inside his jacket. Until today, he carries that dollar with him wherever he goes.
He won the election and became president. Sensing that the dollar had carried some blessing or luck with it, he then asked me, “David, who was the person who gave me the dollar?” I told him that it was the Lubavitcher Rebbe and I explained who the Rebbe was. I told him about my feelings and deep respect for the Rebbe: about his greatness, his dedication to people, his wonderful behavior, his perception and essence of kindness and goodness, how he looks at the world and is respectful to everyone. I also told him that the Rebbe had specifically instructed me to give the dollar to non-Jews who were inclined to help and befriend the Jewish people.
Walesa was very grateful and appreciative that I had given him the dollar, and expressed his respect towards the Rebbe.
My relationship with President Walesa continued. I began to do business in Poland and traveled there frequently. Two years after his election I encouraged him to go to Israel and to make peace with Israel. I wanted him to establish Israel/Polish relations.
He later informed me that he and ten ministers would fly to Israel on Polish Air force One to meet with Prime Minister Shamir, and he asked me to accompany him.
I told him, “When you meet Shamir, don’t try to placate him. Tell him the truth, tell him how you feel and explain to him how you feel about the Jewish people and what happened in Poland.” He said, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of what I have to do.” But I did not know what he meant by that, or what he intended to do.
In the meeting with Shamir, the Prime Minister asked Walesa about continued anti Semitism in Poland. He mentioned the PLO office in Warsaw and Poland’s arms dealings with Iraq, Iran and Syria, as indication of Poland’s continued anti-Jewish, anti-Israel sentiments.
In response, Walesa turned to Shamir and said, “Mr. Prime Minister, for the Jewish blood that was spilled in Poland, I, on behalf on the Polish people beg your forgiveness.”
We were all shocked. This was a tremendous statement. Neither I, nor any of us ever expected such a full-hearted apology.
Shamir respectfully accepted his words continued to challenge him about the PLO office in Warsaw and arms dealings with Israel’s enemies.
Walesa said, “When I get back to Poland, I will shut down the PLO office immediately and stop selling arms.”
Personally, I thought he had just committed political suicide. With 25% unemployment in Poland, reducing sales would cause the loss of even more jobs and I thought that the people would politically kill him.
But he did it. He shut down the PLO office immediately. I traveled back to Poland with him and witnessed it. Then he stopped selling arms directly to Syria, Iraq and Iran.
As part of the trip to Israel, President Walesa, others and I went to the Diaspora museum. In one exhibit, there is a wall with the faces of about 40 prominent Jews, including the Rebbe. As we were looking at the picture, I said to Walesa, “This is a picture of the Rebbe, your Rabbi.”
He said to me, “That
is my rabbi? The one who gave me the dollar?”
The curator of the museum who was accompanying us said, “My G-d, what is he doing? Is the President of Poland bowing to the Rebbe?”
“Right,” I said. “He’s bowing down and showing his respect to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.”
I reported to the Rebbe what had occurred and the Rebbe was very pleased that Walesa was now increasing his efforts on behalf of the Jewish people.
I believe that the Rebbe’s message, sent through me and the dollar, was so effective that it literally changed Lech Walesa’s whole attitude and feeling about the Jewish people and Israel. To close the P.L.O. office, to see them as an enemy and to stop sending Iran, Iraq and Syria arms drastic measures, which were directly or indirectly caused by my message from the Rebbe.
Walesa knew the Rebbe had sent
his blessing through the dollar. And from that time on his actions were
consistent with the Rebbe’s directive “to give the dollar
to a non Jew who could help and befriend the Jewish people.”
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