Thousands of the Hasidic movement's representatives in dozens of countries worldwide – known as "shluchim" (emissaries) – arrived in New York City to take part in what has been defined by organizers as "the biggest Jewish conference in the world."
What began in the early 1980s as a meeting of several dozen emissaries from the United States, turned into an international annual event over the years – and one of Chabad's strongest traditions.
This year the conference is being held for the 30th time in a row, attended by more than 5,000 "shluchim" – rabbis and scholars from Israel and the world.
Visiting Lubavitcher Rebbe's grave (Photo: Baruch Ezagui)
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, deputy chairman of the "education affairs center", is the person responsible for the Chabad emissaries, who have managed to reach remote places in recent years and create infrastructure for Jewish life from scratch.
The next destination is Nigeria, which will soon be visited by a couple of pioneers.
Lectures and conferences for emissaries (Photo: Baruch Ezagui)
Despite the impressive deployment worldwide (and perhaps because of it), a role has yet to be found for 500 young Chabadnikim who have trained themselves for the mission. The waiting list grows longer – until a place is found for the establishment of a new Chabad House.
Morning Prayer (Photo: Baruch Ezagui)
The spirit of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, hovers over the gathering. Exactly 20 years ago, about two and a half years before his death, he spoke at the event for the last time, summarizing the goal of the Hasidic mission: "Welcoming the Messiah."
According to the organizers, the Rebbe viewed the annual conference as "a family gathering" and used a series of phrases to express the special emotional connection he felt with his "soldiers".
The conference's highlight is the banquet – a gala evening saluting the emissaries, which will be held Sunday in a huge auditorium in Brooklyn. During the event, funds will be raised to continue the emissaries' activity and expand the enterprise.
Another highlight was recorded with the traditional group photo of thousands of emissaries at the front of the building on 770 Eastern Parkway – Chabad's central headquarters.
The emissaries' conference has also recorded a number of spiritual heights, like the visit to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's grave on Friday and the Shabbat spent together in Crown Heights.
In between, the emissaries took part in lessons, Hasidic conventions, lectures, workshops and social and family meetings.