Photos: Bentzi Sasson
This year’s second annual JLI Shabbat in the Heights program was a huge hit with visiting shluchim and their congregants.
With over 200 guests hailing from 42 communities in attendance, the turnout for JLI’s Crown Heights shabbaton was more than double that of last year’s program.
Participants were treated to riveting lectures, captivating classes, inspiring farbrengens, and gourmet Shabbos meals served by welcoming Crown Heights hosts.
Following candle lighting and mincha in Oholei Torah, Mrs. Shimona Tzukernik delivered a spirited speech to welcome Shabbos. After a lively Shabbos meal in Oholei Torah attended by all of the participants, Rabbi Manis Friedman delivered the keynote address titled “The Future is Not What it Used to Be” with characteristic humor and depth.
Shabbos morning began with a group study of Chassidus led by Rabbi Zalman Abraham followed by a soulful Shacharis davening featuring Rabbi Yossi Klein as chazzan and a drasha from Rabbi Zalman Marcus. A historic Torah saved from Kristallnacht was used for the Torah reading.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson delivered an inspiring and engaging talk while participants enjoyed a lavish kiddush. Afterwards, the guests were treated to the warmth and hospitality of Crown Heights residents for Shabbos lunch.
Next on the program, Mrs. Saranne Rothberg delivered an eye-opening lecture titled “Torah, Comedy and Healing” about miracles and the power of laughter. This was followed by a challenging Crossfire panel discussion between Rabbi Chaim Hanoka, Rabbi Naftali Silberberg, and Mrs. Tzukernik featuring Mrs. Molly Resnick as the moderator. The panel tackled tough questions about Judaism providing quick and clear answers to every query.
After mincha, the women experienced a farbrengen with Mrs. Shaindy Jacobson and Mrs. Sara Lieberman while the men farbrenged with Rabbi Mordechai Dinerman and Rabbi Levy Dijan.
A moving havdalah was followed by a tasty melava malkah, a speech from Hindy Markowitz and a keynote address delivered by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer.
The festivities didn’t stop on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, the guests toured Crown Heights with Rabbi Beryl Epstein and took a course developed by JLI about the meaning and significance of the Ohel before visiting the holy place as well as the Rebbe’s house and library.
All in all, this event was a huge success for everyone involved. “My group of 11 left on such a high that they could have floated back to California and skipped the TSA at JFK,” remarked Rabbi Chaim Hanoka who came to Crown Heights with his congregants from Pasadena, California. “JLI literally took care of everything from soup to nuts.”
“[It was an amazing] Shabbos experience,” agreed Rabbi Zalman Marcus. “A huge thank you to JLI. They did not disappoint. It is quite incredible to create the feel of a 5 star event in Crown Heights. The programming was top rate. Everything was well thought out. Very professional feel – from the personalized programs, [the] house gifts, [and] even having brand new crocs at the Ohel. The hosts worked out well and overall [it was] a great experience. Everyone in our group of 7 plans on returning and bringing more people with them.”
Participant Sam Feldman explained how inspired he was by the Shabbaton in a touching email that he sent to his rabbi after he returned home. “The JLI provided speakers that were top notch and extremely qualified,” Sam wrote. “Each speaker touched my heart greatly – and the food was amazing! When I am tired now, I think that if the Rebbe can find the strength to support a nation 24 hours a day, I can certainly find strength to do the few things on my plate daily. I now think of the Rebbe, and push myself just a little harder. He gives me strength.”