(lubavitch.com) Despite chilly temperatures blowing off the New York Harbor Sunday evening, the ambience at the Gala Banquet of the International Conference of Chabad Shluchim was warm and inspired. The backdrop of the podium, designed as a brightly lit living room lined with bookshelves filled with Jewish books was meant to convey the warmth of a Jewish home. The Pier’s bare structure, beautifully transformed for the event with handsome lighting, draped walls and ceilings, was the venue for the 4500 person sit-down dinner at elegantly set candle-lit tables. The dinner capped off the five-day International Conference of Chabad–Lubavitch Emissaries.
Workshops and lectures at this year’s conference focused on the Jewish home, highlighting the necessity of an authentically Jewish environment as the setting for success in reaching outwards to others. As illustrated in a video segment shown at the dinner, Chabad representatives do not shy away from difficult circumstances, accepting appointments to places where essentials like kosher food and Jewish schooling for their children are not readily available. What they lack in the conveniences of life in an established Jewish community, they compensate for with a can-do resourcefulness. But there is no compromising, they insist, when it comes to the quality and centrality of the home environment they create for their children.
Rabbi Moshe New, director of the Montreal Torah Center addressed the theme of the conference. “Outside of our homes we perform, but when we come home we can be who we truly are.” It is how we conduct ourselves in the comfort of our own space, he said making his point, that we succeed in creating a nurturing home for those we love, and those in search of the warmth that Shluchim offer.
“Never before have people needed a haven, a place to nurture their Jewish roots as today. We can provide that by bringing the aura of our Jewish homes wherever we are, in whatever we do.”
Apropos the Conference theme, Ukrainian mining and metals magnate, Mr. Gennady Bogolubov, who has been sharing his largesse to help Chabad Shluchim fund their family life-cycle events, delivered the keynote address. Bogolubov established the Simcha Fund in 2007 and participates in celebrating the birth of a child, bar mitzvah or wedding of every Chabad representative, with a gift from the fund. Donating millions, said Bogolubov, has made him a partner in Chabad’s work across the globe. “Now I want to become not a partner, but a part of Chabad.”
Bogolubov held the audience’s attention as he described the unlikely turns of his life, as a result of the inspiration of his own Chabad mentor, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzki of Dnepropetrovsk. “Today it’s my pleasure and a big honor to be a Jew in Dnepropetrovsk. Although I used to be shy to wear a Kippa, I now wear Tzitzit.”
Even under duress, the family unit of the Chabad emissary is resilient, and the sense of purpose is not lost. Ten-year old Moshe Cohen from Manchester, England, whose mother, Mrs. Esty Cohen, a respected Chabad representative died suddenly last month, won the audience’s quiet admiration as he spoke of his role as a young Chabad Shliach, and his determination to honor his mother’s passion for Shlichut. His mother’s sudden absence leaves Moshe and his five siblings together with their father, in mourning but not unmoored.
“As I stand here tonight in the presence of thousands of Shluchim (emissaries), we re-commit ourselves to our Shlichus (mission) and hold on to our mission. My mother is proud that I am carrying on my Shlichus with a smile just as she told me,” he said in a specially prepared thought on the weekly Torah portion.
Eric Dorfman of Hanesport, NJ, was one of the many lay leaders who joined their Chabad rabbis at the Conference. “It’s evident from tonight’s banquet that the Rebbe continues his legacy,” he told lubavitch.com.
Sean Gadd of Naperville, IL, said encountering Chabad has brought fulfillment to his life. “It’s very spiritual, very touching and fulfilling. I attended the lay leader’s conference today as well; it was very good to hear how other people like me now feel so fulfilled in their lives after meeting Chabad.”
Leading the Conference, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky of Lubavitch Headquarters brought the audience to its feet in lively dancing that lasted nearly half an hour. Joining the roll call next year, he promised, will be a Chabad of Saskatchewan.
Photo credits: Baruch Ezagui & Meir Alfasi