Life over Zoom and beyond - Chabad-Lubavitch, creative as ever

After annual Kinus was held online this year, Arutz Sheva speaks with Rabbi Motti Seligson, media director of Chabad.

Yoni Kempinski ,

Rabbi Motti Seligson
Rabbi Motti Seligson
Arutz Sheva

There haven’t been five thousand Jews gathered together in one place for a very long time, and when it came to planning this year’s International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Shluchim, the annual gathering of what now number almost 5,000 Lubavitch emissaries from all over the world, it was obvious that it would be totally different this time around.

Just like so much else during the “coronavirus era,” this year’s “Kinus” is being held via Zoom, with communities and Chabad Houses from all parts of the globe participating virtually, including dozens of emissaries who traveled to the little Russian town of Lubavitch to mark the occasion.

Arutz Sheva spoke with Rabbi Motti Seligson, director of media for Chabad, to find out how the Lubavitch movement, historically famous for finding creative ways of dealing with modern life, is coping in today’s reality.

“We start from the point that the Rebbe repeatedly stressed – that all technology, just like everything else that G-d created, is here to serve a higher purpose,” he says. “This year, we’ve been facing unprecedented challenges, and it’s our duty to use the tools we have available to meet those challenges – but not just to meet them,” he adds. “We have to actually uplift the situation and use it to increase Godliness, to inspire people to enrich their lives with spiritual content.”

Chabad, of course, has been using technologies like Zoom for a long time already, to enable emissaries in far-flung locations to maintain their connection to Jewish population centers, and to educate their children in places where no Jewish schools exist. But Rabbi Seligson points out that using technology in the Chabad world goes back to long before Zoom and even before the internet was dreamed of. “As far back as the 1940s we were broadcasting Torah classes over the radio,” he relates. “It’s all part of using the tools that we have available for a higher purpose, to uplift the world and make it a better place.”

What happens, however, when the novelty of life over Zoom fades, and we start to really miss the personal connection?

“It’s very true that we’re seeing a lot of ‘Zoom fatigue,’” Rabbi Seligson agrees. “With so many of the things we took for granted suddenly gone, we find ourselves trying to really figure out what’s at the core of things – what we’re trying to achieve here in this world. Many emissaries have been thinking up creative ways to maintain the personal connection in safe ways. For instance, one place organized drive-by Shabbat greetings for just before Shabbat, so people got a chance to see each other after months of isolation.

“We saw some incredible examples of adapting to the new reality around Pesach time,” he adds. “Chabad Houses round the world are used to organizing huge Seder meals for hundreds or even thousands of people. This year, that was all a distant memory – but what about all those people who never made their own Seder before and suddenly had no place to go?

“The answer we came up with was to prepare special ‘Seder kits’ including matzah, wine, and sometimes even an entire meal, to deliver to families and individuals all over the world. A quarter of a million Seder kits were handed out this year,” he relates.

“And when it came to Rosh Hashanah, we already knew what to do, because the Rebbe launched his shofar campaign decades ago, taking the shofar out of the synagogues and onto the streets.”

That’s what’s special about Chabad-Lubavitch, forward-thinking, proactive, reaching out and drawing in. And we’re all just waiting for the day when we can go back to doing that in-person again, fellow Jews together, revitalizing, uplifting, celebrating.



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