By COLlive reporter
Photos by Meni Ben Shahar
A full crowd filled the large shul at Camp Gan Israel in Parksville, NY, for the culmination of the worldwide Yarchei Kallah, the annual gathering for Chabad Rabbonim and Rosh Yeshivahs.
Coming from around the Catskills, participants sat around set tables on Motzoei Shabbos and got a glimpse into the proceedings and caliber that has gathered over the last few days.
Yarchei Kallah is held annually in connection with Chof Av, the 72nd yartzeit of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson, the Chief Rabbi of Yekaterinoslav and father of the Rebbe who exemplified self-sacrifice under extreme hardships and suffering.
When the Yarchei Kallah was founded in 5734 by Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, head of Gan Israel and Chairman of Agudas Chassidei Chabad International, the Rebbe responded with rare expressions of appreciation. The Rebbe once referred to the gathering as “This is my project.”
Mexico’s Chief Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Hirschberg once mentioned that he had participated in Yarchei Kallah and the Rebbe commented 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.
Today, the summit serves as a meeting of minds and an opportunity for the scholars – some of whom living far from the centers of Torah erudition – to bounce ideas of each other and sharpen their understanding through interaction with their peers.
“The Chinuch of our generation lies in the hands of the people in this room,” Rabbi Shemtov noted in his remarks about the participants. “They shape the future of not only the future but also the current generation. And they are influencing the students, their parents and their future children.”
Rabbi Shemtov went on to call the Roshei Yeshiva and Mashpiim “Shluchim of the Rebbe.” He explained that “there are Shluchim to many places in the world and then there are Shluchim of the Rebbe to ourselves – our children. They are the channel through which our children connect to the Rebbe.”
Rabbi Shemtov said it was the camp’s “merit for us to host these important rabbonim and as the Rebbe said upon the purchase of the campsite in Parksville that the activities there should bare fruit for the entire year.”
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 hosted by Gan Israel, directed by Rabbi Yossi Futerfas and catered by Rabbi Shlomo Futerfas. Yarchei Kallah is coordinated by Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin, a Chabad Shliach and Associate Rabbi of Congregation Young Israel of Tucson, AZ.
Helping with the organization are Shloimy Ceitlin of Montreal, Mendel Shemtov of Tucson, Levi Goodman and Shmaya Goodman of Ashdod, Levi Glitzenstein of Israel and the dedicated staff in camp.
The Melave Malka was emceed by Rabbi Zev Katz with speakers including Rabbi Yoel Kahn, the Rebbe’s choizer and Rabbi Yitzchok Yehuda Yaroslavsky, head of the Chabad Court in Israel. Singer Eli Marcus sang Chabad niggunim accompanied by Aharon Balashnikov.
A key speech was given by Rabbi Ezra Schochet, Rosh Yeshiva Ohr Elchanan Chabad in Los Angeles, California, who opened his remarks by saying “I don’t have what to say to the Roshei Yeshivos, but I can speak to the bochurim” present.
Proceeding to talk in English, Rabbi Schochet candidly spoke about the challenges bochurim face today in their pursuit to grow in their learning and understanding.
He quoted commentary from the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chassidus, on the verse in Tehilim (19:9) “Pekudei HaShem yesharim…” that it is the study of Torah that gladdens the heart. “When you see someone who is sad, it’s a sign that he isn’t learning,” Rabbi Schochet concluded.
He said that attending Yarchei Kallah has “encouraged me to learn more sugyos,” but called on bochurim to “Be truthful. Everybody needs to be what he could be. The Tanya explains that we all have a ‘part’, a role. The Yetzer Hara will fight you but you need to immerse yourself in learning.”
Putting his call into play, Rabbi Schochet sat with a group of bochurim after the conclusion of the formal part of the evening for a late-night Farbrengen. It was with that scene of interaction between generations and dedication to education that the Yarchei Kallah 5776 was completed.