Chabad emissaries in the town of Lubavitch
Chabad emissaries in the town of LubavitchSpokesperson

Every time this year, in the days leading up to Shabbat Mevarchin Kislev [the Shabbat before the beginning of the month of Kislev] and for a few days following, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries from around the world customarily gather for the Kinus Hashluchim – the International Conference of Shluchim – in Crown Heights, New York.

Many will be familiar with the impressive photo that is always taken of all the shluchim standing outside 770, Lubavitch Headquarters, with emissaries from literally all over the world pictured for the occasion. This year, however, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the event will be held entirely virtually, over Zoom, with small gatherings in towns and cities joining together in an effort to capture something of the festivity, celebrate the achievements of the past year, and make plans for the future.

Last Shabbat, a group of emissaries from various towns in Russia traveled to the town of Lubavitch in Russia, the original home of the Chassidut for 102 years, from 1815 until 1917. Several of the emissaries came with their sons, the shluchim of the future, and a special program was prepared for them.

The rabbis arrived on Friday morning and settled into the guest rooms that have recently been established there for the use of Jewish tourists visiting historical sites in Russia and Eastern Europe. Rabbi Gabriel Gordon has been appointed by Chabad-Lubavitch to oversee the site and is also responsible for the preservation of the holy places and renovation of Jewish buildings in the region.

For this occasion, Rabbi Gordon was assisted by Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Mondshein, the rabbi of the Smolensk region in which Lubavitch is situated.

“It was obvious that if we weren’t going to be able to gather together like every other year at the Rebbe’s headquarters, and pray at his gravesite, a group of us would gather together here, in Lubavitch, the place from where our Rebbes led the Chassidut for 102 years,” Gordon said. “This special Shabbat became one long farbrengen [Chassidic spiritual gathering], with all the participants making resolutions for strengthening our fellow Jews, as is our obligation until the Messiah comes.”

Chabad-Lubavitch currently has 5,300 emissaries all over the world, in 105 different countries, with the latest addition in the United Arab Emirates. In Israel alone, there are 991 emissaries in 450 locations.