More than 5,000 Chabad emissaries convene in Crown Heights for night of dancing

30th annual International Conference of Chabad Rabbis culminates Sunday with largest gathering of hassidic movement’s emissaries in history.

Chabad Rabbis conference, dancing rabbis 370 (photo credit: Maya Shwayder)
Chabad Rabbis conference, dancing rabbis 370
(photo credit: Maya Shwayder)
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.
“I 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 now.”
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 spiritual needs.
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.
“Tonight, I 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].”
Dov 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 in attendance.
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.