An overflow crowd of 3,000 filled the 69th Regiment Armory on Sunday, November 14. It was the banquet dinner of the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Shluchim (emissaries). For Shluchim arriving from the remote backwaters of China, Peru, Siberia, Greece and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—to name just a few—the conference is that once-a-year opportunity to join their colleagues at home base.
Over a five-day period that began on November 10, Shluchim chose from among sessions scheduled back-to-back covering a wide range of interests. Among them, professional presentations on hi-tech solutions for maximizing Chabad House productivity, fundraising and development, working with the media, campus activities, day school development, adult education programming, and Shluchim in the rabbinate. No less valuable, the Shluchim savored a few days of camaraderie with like-minded company devoted to the same cause and grappling with similar challenges.
Chabad-Lubavitch representatives worldwide number somewhere around 4,000 today. But with new positions continuously being filled by young couples, the numbers grow by the week, with no sign of the momentum letting up. Last year the Conference registered 1,800 Shluchim. This year, the number is expected to grow by 700, with registration anticipated at 2,500.
Drawing the largest crowd—including a lay leadership contingent of about 400—is the banquet session. It’s the high point of the Conference when all the Shluchim convene in one hall. An event so unusual, rabbinical students will engage in a bit of arm-twisting to get an entry pass. “It is awesome,” says one young student who has cut deals with conference organizers every year for the past three years to get into the hall. “When you’ve got 2,000 Shluchim in one room, you are both humbled and inspired by the incredible energy that the Rebbe unleashed, and the way he empowered his Shluchim to be effective leaders.”
Delivering the keynote address was Rabbi Mendel Lieberman of Ashkelon Israel, who focused on the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s contribution to Jewish scholarship and the study of Torah. “The conference resolution,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Conference Chairman and Vice Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch, the educational division of Lubavitch, “announced the establishment of a chevrusa system of Torah study classes worldwide so that anyone wanting to make a commitment to daily Torah studying will be paired up with a teacher.”
A lay-leadership conference at the Brooklyn Marriott convened on Monday, and a separate program for the 200 shluchim from the Former Soviet Union honored Mr. George Rohr, philanthropist and major benefactor of Chabad-Lubavitch activities in the FSU.
Strongest representation at the Conference was from the United States, with some 850 Shluchim representing 46 states. Israel and the FSU had 400 and 200 Shluchim respectively, followed by Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Far East.
A special program for the sons of Shluchim—who travel with their dads to the conference—ran simultaneously. Grooming for the position from a young age, the boys enjoyed five days with their peers growing up in similar situations—role models to their classmates, and often living by a whole different set of values from the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. At the banquet session, the children took turns at the podium offering international representation in foreign languages, as they spoke about the trials and triumphs of life as junior Shluchim.
“The extraordinary qualitative and quantitative growth of the conference is testimony that the Rebbe’s inspiration continues to be the primary motivating factor in the phenomenon of Chabad-Lubavitch shlichus,” says Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, Chairman of Machne Israel and Merkos—the respective social services and educational divisions of Lubavitch worldwide. “Almost daily, we see young Shluchim—so many who never saw the Rebbe, and many who were just children when they last saw the Rebbe—make a commitment to a life of Shlichus, and focus all their skills and talents towards promulgating Jewish identity and continuity around the globe.”
The International Conference of Women Shluchos will follow in January.