More than 4,000 rabbis, scholars and other representatives of the Hasidic Jewish community will gather on Sunday for the closing banquet of the 28th Annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emmissaries, which started Wednesday, November 23, in the Crown Heights section Brooklyn.
The international conference is the largest rabbinic gathering in New York, and is a way for rabbis and other Jewish leaders to connect, network, re-focus and re-energize around the Chabad-Lubavitch global movement, which started 300 years ago in Russia and has grown to more than 4,000 centers in 80 countries.
In New York, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement is based primarily in Crown Heights.
“We like for this annual meeting to also serve as inspiration for the Shluchim (the organization’s youth), to remind them that they must live their lives in a way where they are helping to improve something or someone,” said Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, 30, who has been a rabbi since he was 21 years old.
“Our goal has always been to help people reconnect with their heritage and make this a better world through acts of kindness.”
“If you look around the movement, the average rabbi moves out of the house at the age of 23, 24, and 25, and then they go on to become leaders of their communities. The empowerment of the youth is a major part of what we do. Of course it’s all based on the traditions and directives of the elders.
But if you look at the organization, probably 60 percent of the rabbis are under 45,” said Kotlarsky, whose father, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, is one of the conference chairmen and vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
Tomorrow’s meeting will be especially poignant, as Saturday, Nov 26, marks the three-year anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks, (sometimes referred to as 26/11) marking the date of more than 10 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai by Islamist terrorist.
The attacks killed 164 people and wounded at least 308. Among those murdered were the Chabad-Lubavitch representatives Rabbi Gavriel Noach, his wife Rebbetzin Rivkah Holtzberg, and the four guests of the Chabad House, Rabbis Bentzion Kruman and Leibish Teitelbaum, Yoheved Orpaz and Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich.
Two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg and nanny Sandra Samuel were the only ones to make it out of the Chabad House in Mumbai, India, alive after attackers stormed the house. All will be duly recognized at tomorrow’s gathering.
“It’s something we look forward to all year. And if it weren’t three days and 30 days, I would be happy,” said Rabbi Danny Cohen who runs a Chabad post in Hebron, Israel, which is located in the middle of the West Bank.
“[I’m] in a very unique place (Hebron), because it is an area considered by many as controversial. It is really a hot spot and a war zone. We’re there to take care of the Israeli soldiers, preserve the historic sites and support the Jewish community that is there.”
“Judaism is a way of life, so our focus is on all aspects and all issues of life, not just the sensational or major issues of today. We’re working towards the ultimate Utopia,” said Kotlarsky.
Sunday's banquet can be viewed live here via Internet simulcast with a running Twitter commentary.