The 2019 “class photo” of Chabad shluchim who attended the Kinus Hashluchim in New York. Among the 4,000 Chabad emissaries attending were 14 from British Columbia. (photo from Chabad-Lubavitch)
Fourteen B.C. Chabad emissaries (shluchim), including one from Victoria and one from Nanaimo, recently converged on New York City for the annual five-day International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries (Kinus Hashluchim), which brings together shluchim from more than 100 countries around the world and other Jewish communal leaders, almost 6,000 people.
The Kinus Hashluchim reflects directly on the influence of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, z”l, leader of the Chabad movement, who, decades ago began sending young Chabad couples to far-flung corners of the world to serve and, in some cases, build Jewish communities. The shluchim, or Rebbe’s Army, now comprises 5,000 Chabad couples worldwide. The newest shluchim just established a Chabad centre in Kigali, Rwanda; one in Myanmar; and one on the Caribbean island of Turks and Caicos.
The November Kinus conference focused on the work that has been accomplished. “It’s an opportunity for shluchim to share the various challenges they encounter and the countless accomplishments they achieve. We get a chance to share ideas, inspiration and guidance not only from the Rebbe’s teachings, but from each other. And these enable us to go home spiritually refreshed and ready to implement new things,” said Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman, director of Chabad Richmond. “We definitely gain strength from each other, and our challenge is to celebrate and share Judaism with joy, and to continue optimistically and positively empowering Jews around us.”
During the five-day gathering, the shluchim participated in seminars and workshops on combating antisemitism, inspiring pride in the Jewish people, and much more. They also engaged in study, prayer and celebrations, including a gala dinner. The spiritual high point took place on the Friday, Nov. 22, when shluchim visited the Ohel, the Rebbe’s resting place. Thousands of emissaries waited in line to deliver handwritten notes and prayers to the grave.
“It’s an opportunity for us to rededicate ourselves to the Rebbe’s spiritual and social vision for the world,” said Rabbi Yitzchak Wineberg, director of Chabad Lubavitch of British Columbia. On Shabbat, shluchim and lay leaders spent time learning and praying in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighbourhood, which houses the worldwide headquarters of the Chabad Lubavitch movement at 770 Eastern Parkway. They also took part in farbrengens (traditional Chassidic gatherings). On Sunday, the annual “class photo” of more than 4,000 shluchim took place at Chabad headquarters.
The Sunday evening gala, which Baitelman described as “vibrating with uncontainable energy, renewed enthusiasm and an undeniable sense of mission,” was held at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Centre. Emcee for the evening was Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice-chair of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational branch of the Chabad movement. He spoke of the challenges Chabad emissaries encounter in their work, and praised them for their enthusiastic and unflagging commitment to making a difference in the world.
The gala’s keynote address was given by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. He related that he has been Torah study partners with a Chabad rabbi in Woodmere, N.Y., for more than two decades, and said that helped prepare him for his current role as ambassador to Israel.
Many of the gala’s speakers emphasized how shluchim are deeply connected to Jews in every part of the world, and that each individual Jew is important to them. Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, a Chabad emissary from Mill Hill Synagogue in London, England, said: “Ask yourself, where would the world be today without the Rebbe’s vision? Who else goes looking for Jews all around the world, in every corner of the world?… What would have become of [Jews] were it not for the unconditional devotion of every shaliach and shalucha?”
The gala wrapped up with the annual “roll call,” at which Kotlarsky read out the names of the countries that have permanent shluchim. The evening ended with dancing and singing. For those who are interested, the banquet was livestreamed by chabad.org at tinyurl.com/twu2x7z.
In addition to Wineberg and Baitelman, the B.C. contingent of shluchim included Rabbi Avraham Feigelstock (Community Kollel), Rabbi Schneur Wineberg (Chabad East Vancouver), Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld (Lubavitch BC), Rabbi Mendy Feigelstock (Kosher Check), Rabbi Levi Varnai (Chabad Richmond), Rabbi Binyomin Gordon (Kosher Check), Rabbi Falik Shtroks (Chabad White Rock/Surrey), Rabbi Chalom Loeub (Chabad UBC), Rabbi Shmulik Yeshayahu (Community Kollel), Rabbi Meir Kaplan (Chabad of Vancouver Island), Rabbi Bentzion Shemtov (Chabad Nanaimo) and Rabbi Binyomin Bitton (Chabad of Downtown Vancouver).