Chabad's isolated emissaries

Chabad emissaries from countries with tiny Jewish communities meet in Girona, Spain, to discuss common challenges.

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Chabad House in Bangkok
Chabad House in Bangkok
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About 45 Chabad emissaries from 23 countries with small and isolated Jewish communities will meet today in the city of Girona, Spain.

These rabbis, who serve small communities in Europe and Africa, may be the only rabbis in their cities or even their entire countries.

During the three day conference the rabbis will discuss the unique challenges they face, including creating sustainable Jewish education in places with minimal infrastructure, responding to the needs of Jewish tourists arriving only during seasons, and dealing with local economic crises and anti-Semitism.

According to the Chabad website, the rabbis are also expected to meet Carles Puigdemont, president of Catalonia's autonomous region and former mayor of Girona.

The conference will also highlight the rapid pace at which the Chabad network has grown in the world, with about three-quarters of the 45 participating rabbis coming from a variety of locations, from Greece to Angola, some having opened their Chabad House in 2000 or later.

In 2016, new Chabad centers were opened in the Greek islands of Crete and Rhodes, in Ayia Napa in Cyprus and in Girona itself - a city with about 100,000 inhabitants and an ancient Jewish Quarter.

One of the participants, Rabbi Mendel Beitz, will set up a Chabad House this summer on the Spanish island of Ibiza.

"This is a unique gathering," said New York-born Rabbi Eli Rosenfeld, who, together with his wife, Reizel, has been managing the Chabad House in Portugal since 2010. "This is not what you would call a typical regional convention. There are people here who flew 8 or 9 hours to get here. But we are each in our own locations - and although we do not feel lonely, but we are alone - and we are facing similar challenges."

Aside from the hosts, Rabbi Avraham and Chana Rosenberg of Girona, the closest emissary to Girona is Rabbi David Liberson, who traveled some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Barcelona to participate. Rabbi Laima Barber traveled the farthest to participate, traveling some 8,800 km (5,470 miles) from his home on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.