NEW YORK – Ever been in a room filled with 5,200 dancing rabbis? No, that’s not
the beginning of a joke. That was the finale of the 30th annual International
Conference of Chabad Rabbis on Sunday night, and the largest gathering of the
hassidic movement’s emissaries in history.
Joe Lieberman, the former US
senator from Connecticut, gave the first keynote address at the dinner,
revealing his deep Chabad roots, respect for the teachings of Rabbi Menachem
Mendel Schneerson, and marvel at the size to which Chabad had grown.
used to say Chabad was sending out more shluchim [“emissaries”] than McDonald’s
was opening up hamburger places,” he joked. “It’s way beyond that
He recounted several stories from his time as senator, when no
matter where he traveled in the world – even as far as Tashkent, Uzbekistan,
where he once had to make an emergency stop – there was always a local Chabad
House that knew how to find him, provide him with a kosher meal and fulfill any
Lieberman also addressed the most prevalent concern of
the evening: the seeming decline of Judaism on the world stage and the role of
Chabad rabbis in counteracting this.
“The recent Pew study showed a
remarkable decline of non-Orthodox Jews,” he said.
“But I’m optimistic
enough to know that the Jewish people are an eternal people. We’re going to
exist forever. The question is which of us will choose to be part of that
continuity. And you shluchim have chosen to do exactly that.
can say, the rebbe’s shluchim of the world united for a cause, and this momentum
will be eternal,” Lieberman said, referencing Karl Marx. Lieberman went on to
praise the intellectual energy and teachings of Schneerson, and talked about how
his blessing “carried me through 24 years [in the Senate].”
Greenberg, Chabad rabbi at Stanford University, gave the other keynote address.
He based his speech on the story of a shepherd in the Song of Songs, and came to
the conclusion that “we can’t write off a [non-observant] Jew,” Greenberg said.
“We just have to reach into their hearts. A large part of the future of our
people rests on the shoulders of the shepherds who are here tonight. We have to
be the shepherds of Israel.”
Chilean businessman and philanthropist
Leonardo Farkas Klein, a major supporter of Chabad in Chile and Miami, was also
The conference, held in a converted warehouse in Crown
Heights, Brooklyn, involved two kitchens churning out more than 5,000 meals,
hundreds of drapes from the walls and ceilings to disguise the concrete, over
100 programmable lights hung from the ceiling, 30 largescreen projector screens,
60 loudspeakers, and over 600 tables with over 5,000 identical place settings.
The evening ended with the annual roll call, welcoming the rabbis who had come
from as far away as Thailand and New Zealand to attend the six-day conference.
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