Scores of rabbis from across the mid-Atlantic and beyond descended on Pittsburgh last week to address the most challenging topics facing their respective communities, as well as their own families. Known as shluchim, the 75 emissaries of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement tackled contemporary child rearing, innovative strategies in fundraising, increasing exposure of Chabad Houses, the opioid crisis and mental health during the Aug. 13-14 gathering.
Rabbis face a smorgasbord of concerns, explained Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice-chairman of Chabad-Lubavitch International. In addition to Kotlarsky, participants traveled from across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, Massachusetts and Washington D.C., said Rabbi Chezky Rosenfeld of Yeshiva Schools.
For participants, the convocation, which functions similarly but in smaller scale to the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries held in New York, is a chance not only to converse and reconnect, but also to plan “for the coming year,” said Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld, regional director of Chabad of Western Pennsylvania.
“The Rebbe wanted that shluchim get together not only at the main gathering but in smaller groups to express themselves, flesh out ideas and chart out activities for the next period of time,” noted Kotlarsky, who served as keynote speaker during the two-day gathering in the Steel City, referring to the late Lubavitch leader, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.
Unlike the New York meeting, which welcomes crowds of more than 4,000 shluchim from across the globe, regional conventions, such as the one in Pittsburgh, afford attendees greater intimacy.
“Each place makes their own agenda,” said Kotlarsky.
In Pittsburgh, a committee determined this year’s topics, noted Yisroel Rosenfeld.
Part of the challenge in crafting the agenda was capturing the heart of Pittsburgh, explained Chezky Rosenfeld. Consequently, much attention was placed on Yeshiva Schools, the Squirrel Hill-based educational center that was founded in 1943 by Rabbi and Mrs. Sholom Posner. “Our school is known as a crown jewel among Chabad” educational institutions. After being asked to host the gathering, “we jumped on the opportunity,” as it served as a great chance to show off the school.
Although a dinner and farbrengen were held at the Chabad of South Hills, the remaining events, including a roundtable discussion, banquet and group photograph, transpired at Yeshiva Schools and the Lubavitch Center.
While regional fora have existed for roughly 27 years, this year’s was the first time that Pittsburgh ever hosted such an event, said Yisroel Rosenfeld. The majority are held in Philadelphia or in the Baltimore area, as those areas possess greater concentrations of shluchim and require less travelling from participants.
But with so many rabbis traveling to Pittsburgh to focus on issues at hand, “it’s been tremendously inspirational,” he added.
Said Kotlarsky, “We come here to chart the future.” pjc
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.