How do I describe a 100,000 sq. ft. room full of Rabbis? They came from every corner of the world—Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Guatemala, Laos, Slovakia, Tunisia and of course 47 states across the U.S.
They were sitting together at the culmination of 4 days of lectures, workshops, break–out discussions and intense discussions, planning the agenda for the coming year. It was the annual Banquet at Conference of Chabad Rabbis in Brooklyn.
It was awesome.
Let me describe to you the build up until that banquet which capped off the weekend.
Every year rabbis from the Chabad movement get together for an annual convention. Most of us serve in small remote communitites and it serves as an opportunity to connect on so many levels. Proffesionally, emotionally and of course spiritually.
Of my class in Rabbinical School there are rabbis in Rochester, NY, Oak Park, MI, Windsor Heights, IA, West Palm Beach, FL, Naples, FL, Sunrise, FL, Pleasanton, CA, Victoria, BC Canada, Houston, TX, Tel Aviv, Israel, Table View, Cape South Africa, Luzern, Switzerland, Malmö, Sweden, Mogilev, Belarus, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, and Pudong, China, so this weekend is a nice time to come all together and renew our friendships.
Thursday morning started with sessions ranging anywhere from Website Administration, Turn Your Classes into Dynamic Presentations, Challenges and Issues that Face Today’s Teenagers, Spicing Up Your Hebrew School and of course the well-attended A New Age In Fundraising. People shared their experiences, trials and tribulations and passed the lessons on to their friend. Then came lunch, afternoon prayers, a break and then back at it again. Evening prayers, dinner, a run to my in-laws to say hello to my wife and good night to my kids and then what we call a Farbrengen.
A Farbrengen is when a group of friends sit together and eat a bit, drink a bit, and then share their innermost thoughts. You talk about the things that you can't really discuss at 11 a.m. in front of a Powerpoint presentation. Sometimes you need an extra little LChaim (Toast) to get your heart moving. Sometimes it takes a real inspiring song to keep your mind up to pace.
So here I was sitting at a small table, with friends from China, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Tel Aviv, Switzerland, England and New Jersey (the drink of choice was Grey Goose). The discussion covered many topics. It started with some inspiring stories from the Lubavitcher Rebbe about his love and care for every person. We all took lessons that we can learn for our own community. As the evening got longer and the conversations got more personal, a friend mentioned how he is the only traditional Jew for hundreds (yes, hundreds) of miles and it is difficult not to get lonely. Another mentioned his financial troubles and yet another poured out his heart that his work is so intense that it leaves little time for himself and his family.
Of course I am not moving to the first man’s neighborhood, nor do I have extra money for the second and I too find myself torn back to the office at the weirdest times of the day/night.
But friends have that ability to give strength to each other. We proudly reminded ourselves why we have devoted our lives to do what we are doing; To help touch another person in a positive way and give them an opportunity to experience the deep beauties that are in life. We sang some more songs and gained insight from the life of the Rebbe and how he constantly drove us to reach yet another person.
The next two days were equally as intense. More lectures, more power points and even more Lichaims.
Then came the finale on Sunday night. A room full of community leaders, Chief Rabbis, Ambassadors to the UN, business elite, lay leaders and friends. All in a room together, to rededicate themselves to the cause of making this world a better place.
Towards the end of the banquet, they do a roll call of all the cities with a Chabad representative and as they announced your country, you stood up. After 10 minutes the whole room was standing and broke out into an intense dance.
The passion! The emotion! The commitment in that room was so powerful. It was every segment of the Jewish world saying in unison that we will make the world a better place. With the inspiration of the Rebbe under our wings and the strength of our friends broadening our shoulders, we danced and sang the night away thanking G-d for giving us this great opportunity.
What a reunion!