Aug. 29-30, 17 families – each serving as Chabad shluchim (emissaries) – came together for an event known as a Kinus Hakhel. (photo from Chabad Lubavitch BC)
In a display of unity and camaraderie, 17 families – each serving the Jewish population across British Columbia as Chabad shluchim (emissaries) – came together Aug. 29 and 30 (12 and 13 of Elul) for an event known as a Kinus Hakhel. It was a celebration of shared purpose and a recommitment to serving the community.
Representatives from Chabad in Victoria, Nanaimo, Richmond, Surrey, Coquitlam, the University of British Columbia, Downtown Vancouver, Kitsilano and Kelowna joined the central Chabad Lubavitch BC in this heartwarming event. The theme of “sheves achim gam yachad” (“dwelling together in unity”) permeated the atmosphere with feelings of support for one another. It served as a reminder of the strength that arises from collaboration and left a mark on all those present.
Chabad today is the largest Jewish organization in British Columbia, with a presence in 10 cities across the province, 11 synagogues, 17 permanent rabbis and rebbetzins, three mikvahs, eight supplementary Hebrew schools, four Camp Gan Israel summer camps, dozens of weekly Torah classes, private counseling and social services.
Rabbi Yitzchok Wineberg, the head shaliach of British Columbia, reflected on the past 50 years of Chabad’s presence here. He congratulated all the shluchim for their dedication and hard work, acknowledging the efforts they have invested in reaching out to every Jew, no matter their affiliation or background, and establishing communities all over the province.
Rabbi Avraham Feigelstock, av beis din (the rabbi presiding over the religious court), director of BCK and one of the senior shluchim in British Columbia, took the opportunity to encourage the establishment of a vaad hapo’el, a permanent action committee, to take the inspiration from the Kinus and use it as a positive force for expansion.
The Kinus also featured an all-night farbrengen (spiritual gathering) led by Rabbi Sholom B. Levitin, regional director of Chabad-Lubavitch in the Pacific Northwest, lasting from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m., where participants engaged in discussions and spiritual connection.
In the spirit of this Hakhel year (an assembly that takes place every seven years), with the call of uniting men, women and children, a children’s program ran throughout the entire two days with more than 60 young shluchim participating. A special thanks goes to Tamara Feigelstock, who ensured that the youngest members of the shluchim had an enriching experience.
The Kinus wrapped up with a banquet. Featured speakers were Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman (Chabad Richmond) and Rabbi Shmuly Hecht (Chabad of the Okanagan Valley), plus a special Zoom address by Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice-chair of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad Lubavitch worldwide.
An unexpected, moving moment came at the banquet when Arnold Silber, Chabad’s first friend and supporter in British Columbia, took the stage. With emotion, he shared his deep connection to Chabad and to the Jewish community. He announced, “Don’t worry about paying for this gathering; I will cover the entire bill.” His generosity underscored the sense of unity and support that defined the event.
Silber also reflected on the past 50 years and expressed pride on his association with Chabad. He spoke metaphorically about how he had planted a tree a half-century ago and now sees a thriving forest. The growth and impact of Chabad in British Columbia fills him with joy and nachas (pride), he said. He pledged to continue and expand his support and partnership with Chabad’s “army of light and kindness” in the province. And he shared his vision of building an even stronger, more vibrant Jewish community in the future.
The Kinus Hakhel took place thanks to the dedicated efforts of Rabbi Dovid and Chaya Rosenfeld, co-directors of the central Chabad in BC, and the various planning committees. For the men’s program, that was Rabbi Meir Kaplan (Chabad of Vancouver Island), Rabbi Benzi Shemtov (Chabad of Nanaimo) and Rabbi Mottel Gurevitz (Chabad of Coquitlam). For the women’s events, Blumie Shemtov (Chabad of Nanaimo) and Rivki Yeshayahu (Kitsilano) coordinated the program, and the youth program was planned by Esti Loeub (Chabad of UBC) and Rivky Varnai (Richmond). Special thanks to Henia Wineberg (Lubavitch BC) and Chanie Baitelman (Chabad Richmond) for the beautiful setup.
As the shluchim of British Columbia left the gathering, they carried with them not only a renewed sense of unity but also a strengthened commitment to their shared mission. This gathering in Vancouver wasn’t just an event; it was a celebration of community, purpose and the enduring spirit of Chabad.
– Courtesy Chabad Lubavitch BC