The Chabad World Summit was held in New York this week with the participation of more than 3000 women from all over the world.
The women operate Chabad houses along with their families in over a hundred different countries including South Korea, Taiwan, Nigeria, Barbados, Malta. Many of them are relatives who, due to the geographical distance of their missions, see each other only during the conference.
Despite the freezing weather in New York, the women came to attend the conference, which is unique in the haredi world for the focus it puts on women's participation and leadership in Chabad activity around the world.
Every year, the conference is held close to the anniversary of the passing of Rebbitzin Chaya-Mushka Schneerson, the late wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and celebrates the activism of Jewish women.
This year special attention was paid to the Chabad emissaries who work in eastern Asia due to the Coronavirus outbreak which began in China in December, 2019. Images of Chabad volunteers wearing protective masks while distributing food to those in need, preparing Shabbat meals, or giving tefillin to Jews caught in quarantined zones have become commonplace.
Dini Freidlich, a Chabad emissary in Beijing, China, was a featured speaker at the conference. She told the attendees about the efforts her mission had undertaken to cope with the crisis.
The conference management sat for a long period of time with all relevant security and health agencies to ensure the regular holding of the conference without any danger that attendees could be exposed to the Coronavirus.
The organizer of the conference, Rabbi Moshe Kotlersky, said that many missionaries have reported a significant surge in female inquiries to Chabad houses recently. According to them, the reason many of the applicants give is the "desire to know the origins of Judaism as a tool for realizing and empowering women." Many workshops were set up at the conference to deal with this issue.
There is also an Israeli angle at the conference: Apart from special seats exclusively dealing with Israeli travelers around the world, a delegation of hundreds of Chabad volunteers operating throughout Israel participated in the conference.
"Chabad houses are the most popular Jewish addresses in the world, so they naturally appeal to the female half of the population as well. The mission that operates Chabad houses is in effect the Rebbe's vision, to connect the female angle to the Jewish angle," said Rabbi Yosef Aharonov, chairman of the Chabad mission in Israel.