This year has been challenging for all Jewish groups, including Chabad.
However Chabad officials says that they are not talking during these days about scaling back, merging or "just settling for Zoom Judaism", rather finding creative ways of safely engaging people during these challenging times while still finding opportunities not just to survive, but to grow.
That, they explain, is the theme of this year's conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Shluchim (emissaries), the largest annual Jewish event in America, taking place over the weekend; overcoming challenges.
The past year was hard for Chabad and the people they serve but in that time they've added more than 100 new shluchim families to their ranks and opened scores of new Chabad centers. After having to close their physical doors due to the pandemic, Chabad found creative ways of providing for the unique needs that coronavirus presented by taking Judaism out of synagogues and to the streets and people's homes.
Before Passover, as many were stressing about being isolated and not knowing how to put on a seder, Chabad took the matzah and food prepared for huge public seders and turned them into 250,000 "Seder to Go" kits, at the same time creating all kinds of online how-to resources. On Rosh Hashanah, they took the service out of the synagogue walls by creating thousands of outdoor shofar events on street corners and parks (something they were particularly prepared for, having done this for decades). For Sukkot, as families couldn't gather at synagogue Sukkahs, Chabad built them on pickup trucks and trailers and parked them in family driveways.
Organizers explain that the conference is looking back to a difficult year, but it is also looking forward to the unique potential amid the new realities with lasting growth and impact setting the stage for post-covid era.