By COLlive reporter
Photos by Baruch Ezagui
A host of the leading Chabad rabbis, Rosh Yeshivas, mashpiim, halachic authorities and scholars traveled from around the world to attend an exclusive gathering that is billed as a “personal tribute.”
The Global Yarchei Kallah, which opened today in the pastoral setting of Camp Gan Yisrael in Parksville, NY, was uniquely referred to by the Rebbe as “This is my project.”
The annual gathering, amid hundreds of campers in their formative years, is the largest, ongoing gathering of Torah scholars of this generation, uniting the best and the brightest minds that occupy themselves with Torah.
Exactly 40 years ago, on the occasion of the 30th yahrzeit of the gaon and kabbalist, Rav Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, of blessed memory, consideration was given to highlight his contributions to our spiritual heritage and to honor him as the father of the Rebbe, the foremost Jewish leader of our generation.
Spurred by that purpose, Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, head of Gan Israel who today chairs the umbrella Agudas Chassidei Chabad International, suggested to renew the age-old custom of Yarchei Kallah by gathering sages and scholars for a convention of study and inspiration overlapping the date of 20 Av, Rav Levi Yitzchak’s yahrzeit.
The plan was accepted and approved by the Rebbe and the Rebbe himself identified with this initiative. Our Sages emphasize that the greatest honor it is possible to pay to a person’s memory is to dedicate Torah study to his memory.
And when Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Hirschberg, the chief Rabbi of Mexico, told the Rebbe that he had participated in Yarchei Kallah, the Rebbe highlighted the connection to his father, explaining that the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents continues after their passing and that the most consummate honor that can be paid is the study of the Torah.
Not only scholars from the surrounding area, but also Torah leaders from Jewish communities all over the world join in this communal Torah enterprise. Of course, Israel is well represented, but also scholars from England, France and South America regularly take time off from their own busy schedules to make the trip so that they can share Torah insights and learn from their colleagues.
The gathering serves as a meeting of minds, an opportunity for the scholars – some of whom living far from the centers of Torah erudition – to bounce ideas off each other and sharpen their understanding through interaction with their peers.
Yarchei Kallah is sponsored by Mr. Ronald Perelman, a person whose efforts to preserve, perpetuate, and enhance our Jewish heritage led to the Lubavitcher Rebbe recognizing to him as “my partner.”
“Like a true partner, he has dedicated himself to advancing the Rebbe’s purposes, including the sponsorship of these Yarchei Kallah conventions,” Rabbi Shemtov notes.
The summit is coordinated by Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin, a Chabad Shliach and Associate Rabbi of Congregation Young Israel of Tucson, AZ. Helping with the organization are Boruch Ceitlin of Montreal, Yaakov Yosef Raskin and the very dedicated staff of Gan Israel, directed by Rabbi Yossi Futerfas. The meals are catered by Rabbi Shlomo Futerfas and Bentzi Futerfas.
Though the focus is on the Torah leaders who attend, they are not the sole participants.
A main session Thursday – tonight, starting at 7:30pm, is open to the public and will be held in the main shul of Camp Gan Israel, at 487 Parksville Rd. Parksville, NY 12768. Vacationers from the surrounding area are welcome to attend.
It will be chaired by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Groner, a Rosh Yeshiva at the Chabad Yeshiva in Kiryat Gat, Israel. Its speakers will be:
Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi, Chief Rabbi of Kfar Chabad, Rabbi Menachem Meir Weissmandl, the Nitra Rav of Monsey, Rabbi Shamai Ende, Rosh Yeshivas Lubavitch in S. Paolo, Brazil, and Rabbi Avrohom Boruch Pewsner, Chabad rov of Paris, France
It will be concluded with a presentation by Rabbi Dovid Dubov, Director of Chabad of Mercer County in Princeton, NJ, who led the monumental project to bring the teaching of Rav Levi Yitzchak to the wider public in the new book “Yalkut Levi Yitzchok al HaTorah.”