NEW YORK – Thousands of Chabad emissaries from around the world began arriving in New York on Thursday for the annual meeting of the hassidic movement’s global outreach program.

Some 4,000 people are expected to take part in the four-day conference, which this year overlaps with another big Jewish event, the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans.

The conference’s main event will be held on Sunday evening at a warehouse located on Pier 12 in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood. The 60,000-square-foot space, which is usually used to service cruise ships, will be temporarily converted into a lavish banquet hall seating over 4,000 people at 350 tables. Food will be prepared under close rabbinical inspection at a kosher kitchen nearby and brought in on refrigerated trucks to the venue, where 350 waiters will dish it out to guests.

Chabad leader Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson initiated the outreach program during the first half of the 20th century with the aim of providing Jewish services to communities and travelers. Over the years the network has vastly expanded and is currently located in 73 countries around the world, from China to Chile, South Africa to Finland, and every US state except Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Its dedicated corps of husband- and-wife teams, who usually have large families in tow, is the key to the network’s operations.

The Greenbergs are the poster image of a family of Chabad devotees. Almost all of Moshe and Devorah Greenberg’s 17 children are involved in outreach work.

“I have brothers in Alaska, Israel, Colorado, Michigan and two in China, and sisters in Austin, Texas; Germany, Ukraine and France,“ Rabbi Yisroel Greenberg, who heads the Chabad house in El Paso, Texas, said over the phone on Tuesday.

“In our family, we are driven by the concept of dedication to Judaism, which we inherited from my father and his grandparents,” he continued. “My father was in prison for seven years for trying to get out of Russia. He never worked on Shabbos and never ate nonkosher.

When he came out and married my mother in 1964, it was a miracle. Every child was a victory against Stalin.”

The Chabad house in the Texan city includes a synagogue, a mikve and a preschool.

Just opposite El Paso, on the Mexican side of the border, lies Ciudad Juarez, which in recent years has been torn apart by bloody gang wars over control of the drug trade and human trafficking.

“We’re next to Ciudad Juarez, but life in El Paso goes on largely unaffected,” Greenberg said. “We have a small Jewish community, about 1,200 Jews, mostly elderly people. Our center was the first Orthodox shul in 100 years.”

Greenberg said the annual conference in Brooklyn gave his far-flung family a rare opportunity to reunite. He said one of his daughters and her husband had become the latest members of his large family to join the outreach program after they agreed to run the Chabad house at Drexel University in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, in light of recent attempts to harm Jewish communities in the US, organizers of the gathering are paying special attention to security this year. The New York Police Department is working in tandem with the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, which owns the warehouse, to safeguard the event. All attending guests will be required to carry photo ID cards to access the facility, and the NYPD will be supplying both air support and water patrols above and alongside the exposed waterfront.

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