Four weeks before the celebration of the Jewish New Year, a group of 100 Rabbis convened to brainstorm, network, and strategize on methods to educate and inspire their communities.
The Jewish leaders, representing dozens of communities from throughout New York and New England, spent Sunday, August 23, at the Chabad Center in Glastonbury. They were there to participate in the Regional Conference of Chabad “Shluchim.”
The term Shluchim is plural for the word “Shliach,” meaning emissary. The Rabbis who were in attendance are “Shluchim,” representatives of the Chabad movement to their respective communities. The Grand Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, encouraged all of his followers to be active in communal life by educating and inspiring their friends and neighbors.
Even after the Rebbe’s passing in 1994, the institution of “Shlichut” continues to expand. In the last decade alone, hundreds of new Chabad centers have opened their doors. On college campuses and in communities large and small, in the United States and around the world, Chabad offers a one-stop-shop for everything Jewish.
“Our goal is to bring the joy of Judaism to every member of the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Yosef Wolvovsky, Executive Director of the Chabad Jewish Center and host of the conference. “We do this by sharing the rich knowledge of Judaism, as well as the true happiness that tradition can bring to peoples lives.” The Rabbi sees his role as offering local individuals and families multiple opportunities to grow in their awareness and observance.
Following registration and brunch, the Regional Conference was formally opened by Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of the educational wing of Chabad.
After a brief Torah study and prayer period, the Rabbis joined in performing acts of kindness by placing some coins in a charity box known as a “Pushka.” The funds collected are being distributed to local people in need.
The main session of the conference was dedicated to the organization’s response to the current financial climate. Presenters included Rabbi Yossi Deren of Greenwich, CT, Rabbi Yossi Laufer of Warwick, RI, Rabbi Tuvia Teldon of Long Island, NY, and Rabbi Joseph Gopin of West Hartford, CT.
The panel discussed cost saving and fundraising ideas, as well as advice on how to assist community members who have fallen on hard times.
“Despite the turbulent times – or perhaps especially because of them,” said Rabbi Teldon, “we must redouble our efforts to be a source of comfort and confidence to our surroundings.”
After a breakout period devoted to networking and honing each center’s mission statement, a special general session was held on the challenges and strategies of Jewish education.
Presenters included Rabbi Yitzchok Raskin of Burlington, VT, Rabbi Avrohom Sternberg of New London, CT, and Rabbi Levi Kaplan of Brooklyn, NY. “There is no substitute for education by example,” said Rabbi Raskin. “We must live our values, thereby instilling them in our youth.”
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky then delivered an uplifting talk on the unique role of the Shliach in his community. “It is indeed a great merit and an awesome responsibility to carry this special title,” he said.
Prior to going outdoors for the group picture, smaller roundtable discussions were held. Workshops were dedicated to: 1) affordable marketing (presented by Rabbis Tzvi Ehrenreich of Nanuet, NY, Yossi Yaffe of Branford, CT, and Yaakov Saacks of Dix Hills, NY); 2) adult education (presented by Rabbis Shaya Gopin of West Hartford, CT, and Yaakov Wolff of Longmeadow, MA); and 3) campus communities (presented by Rabbi Shlomo Hecht of the University of Connecticut, and Rabbi Yossi Kulek of the University of Hartford).
Following the Mincha afternoon services, the Shluchim sat down for a Gala Banquet. As host, Rabbi Wolvovsky opened the evening with welcoming remarks as well as a special tribute to two of the Chabad Center’s patrons – Mr. Harold Rothstein and Mr. Ilya Tsvok. He then introduced Rabbi Noach Kosofsky, Dean of Students at the Lubavitch Yeshiva Academy (LYA) in Longmeadow, who offered greetings from the school.
Rabbi Wolvovsky then introduced the Master of Ceremonies for the Banquet, Rabbi Yossi Hodakov of Westville, CT. Highlighting the preparation period leading to Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Avrohom Winner (Manhattan Beach, NY) sounded the traditional Shofar blasts.
In heartfelt prayer for the health, wellbeing, and success of the Shluchim, their families, and communities, Rabbi Aaron Isaac Benjaminson (New Bedford, MA) led the assembled in verses of Psalms. A special “Dvar Torah” was delivered by Rabbi Shimon Kramer (Merrick, NY).
In his remarks, Rabbi Kotlarsky spoke about the potent, positive energy that the Shluchim bring to their communities. “Tonight, in this room, we have a group of people who are tireless in their dedication to others,” said the Rabbi. “They are a force for good who will stop at nothing to uplift and inspire those around them.”
The Keynote address was offered by Rabbi Yisroel Deren, Regional Director of Chabad. Rabbi Deren spoke of how our greatest power is our unity. “When we work together, our success is manifold,” said the Rabbi. “It is the way it ought to be, and it will bring us many blessings.”
After reciting the Grace after Meals, led by Rabbi Yoseph Gopin, the Shluchim stayed on for a “Farbrangen” gathering.
“In my many years as a Shliach, I have attended tens of Regional Conferences,” said Rabbi Gopin. “I must say that this one stands out as being truly productive and inspirational.”