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Worldwide Events to Mark ‘the New Year of Chassidism’ in This Hakhel Year

Worldwide Events to Mark ‘the New Year of Chassidism’ in This Hakhel Year

Farbrengens and special commemorations throughout the week

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Rabbi Yoel Kahn will again be a featured speaker at the 19 Kislev event that packs the International Convention Center in Jerusalem every year. (File Photo: Meir Alfassi)
Rabbi Yoel Kahn will again be a featured speaker at the 19 Kislev event that packs the International Convention Center in Jerusalem every year. (File Photo: Meir Alfassi)

With less than a week to go before Chanukah, 400 members of the Jewish community in Tbilisi, Georgia, will soon be gathering over some hot drinks and refreshments.

Like Jewish people around the globe, they will observe two days of commemoration and celebration of the 19th and 20th of the Hebrew month of Kislev—corresponding this year to Tuesday, Dec. 1, and Wednesday, Dec. 2—known as “the New Year of Chassidism.”

The 19th of Kislev (Yud Tes Kislev) marks the day in 1798 that a Czarist commission acquitted and freed from imprisonment the first Chabad Rebbe—Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, known as the “Alter Rebbe”—on charges that included subverting the government in St. Petersburg and aiding the Ottoman Empire. It is also the anniversary of passing of his mentor, Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezerich in 1772.

The acquittal is regarded in Chassidic circles as signaling a heavenly decree that the rabbi’s teachings should be publicly disseminated. As a result, the annual daily study cycle of the Tanya—Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s seminal work of Chassidic thought—will begin anew on that day as well.

“This is a celebration that has a uniquely Chabad aspect to it,” says Rabbi Meir Kozlovskly, who has headed Chabad in the former Soviet nation since 2003. “It draws people from across the community—from people who have been attending since our first massive 19 Kislev event five years ago to people who are stepping foot in a Jewish event for the first time.”

The first part of the celebration, which will be housed in a convention center, will feature a Jewish bazaar where people can sip warm drinks and mingle among booths representing the local Chabad day school, kindergarten, camp and other institutions.

Jewish.tv will be streaming a farbrengen on Tuesday night from Chicago with Rabbi Yitzchok Schochet of London.
Jewish.tv will be streaming a farbrengen on Tuesday night from Chicago with Rabbi Yitzchok Schochet of London.

The rabbi expects to see particular interest around a Judaica booth featuring art and religious supplies specially imported from Israel. (Since the country has no Judaica shops, there is a high demand for such items.) Another unique booth will feature Chabad Rabbi Ben Zion Israelashvili, who is also a trained scribe. Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase a letter in a Torah scroll he is currently writing for the community and then actually watch him inscribe their letter.

The second part of the program will feature a festive farbrengen (informal Chassidic gathering).Over laden tables, the crowd will hear from Rabbi Yosef Mirilashvili, a leading rabbi in the Georgian-Jewish community in Israel. Among other topics, his talk will focus on the unique contributions that the Chassidic movement has brought to the Jewish world—a theme that will echo at concurrent celebrations all over.

Although the language will be different, much of the music and sentiments will be similar to those shared in the U.S. Pacific Northwest by Rabbi Nissan Kornfeld, co-director of Chabad Mercer Island in Washington, who will be the guest speaker at the annual 19 Kislev farbrengen in Vancouver, Canada, on Sunday night.

According to Rabbi Schneur Wineberg of Chabad-Lubavitch of British Columbia, the annual celebrations generally draw approximately 100 local residents, who have come to relish the inspiration and learning that’s part and parcel of the day’s observance.

While most communities gather in synagogues or halls for 19 Kislev celebrations, the Jews of Kharkov, Ukraine, have the custom to travel to Haditch, the burial place of the Alter Rebbe, every year on this day. The group is led by Rabbi Levi Raices, rosh yeshivah of the city’s yeshivah high school, which makes the trek along with the wider community.

Chana Weisberg will be a featured speaker at a 19 Kislev event for women in Brooklyn.
Chana Weisberg will be a featured speaker at a 19 Kislev event for women in Brooklyn.

In Brooklyn, N.Y., giant celebrations will be held in a number of neighborhoods, including one in Crown Heights just for women organized by the Lubavitch Women’s Organization. Among those slated to speak for the expected crowd of 500-plus are Nechama Shaki, and noted author and TheJewishWoman.org editor Chana Weisberg. Shaki will share the long-lasting impact that the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—had on her husband, former member of Knesset Avner Shaki (NRP). Weisberg’s talk will focus on the Alter Rebbe’s path to self-discovery.

Just across the Hudson River, students at Yeshivah University are preparing for a sale of Chassidic books that will be followed by a farbrengen with Y.U. mashpia (mentor), Rabbi Moshe Weinberger; and Chabad scholar and teacher Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe.

Three Days of Activity in Jerusalem

Perhaps one of the largest 19 Kislev celebrations in the world will take place in Binyanei Hauma, Jerusalem’s International Convention Center—a three-day affair that has grown to include giant Chassidic book fairs, farbrengens, classes and more. Tens of thousands are expected to participate in a series of events that will feature big-ticket speakers such as Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, Rabbi Shabtai Slavaticki, Dr. Yechiel Harari, Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrachi and others.

Rousing Chassidic melodies will be led by Avraham Fried, Yonatan Razel and Eviatar Banai, and the Malchus Choir.

At the central event, the main speaker will be Rabbi Yoel Kahn, revered expositor of many of the Torah teachings of the Rebbe. Despite his advanced age, Rabbi Kahn continues to maintain a rigorous schedule of teaching both at the central Chabad yeshivah in Brooklyn, N.Y., as well as abroad.

Perhaps one of the largest 19 Kislev celebrations in the world will take place in Binyanei Hauma, Jerusalem’s International Convention Center—a three-day affair that has grown to include giant Chassidic book fairs, farbrengens, classes and more.
Perhaps one of the largest 19 Kislev celebrations in the world will take place in Binyanei Hauma, Jerusalem’s International Convention Center—a three-day affair that has grown to include giant Chassidic book fairs, farbrengens, classes and more.

Through the event marathon, the conference center—the largest in the Middle East—will be a bevy of activities as people shuttle between special events for high-schoolers, men and women; for panel discussions, concerts and even a special session with Chassidic artist Baruch Nahshon of Hebron.

Yet behind all the hustle and bustle, the message will be the same as those for farbrengens all over the world: celebrating the spiritual Torah enlightenment and joyful lifestyle that was ushered in by the introduction of chassidus.

And this year, the message is all the more poignant since it is a Hakhel year, when, in ancient times, Jewish men, women and children would gather in the Temple in Jerusalem to hear the reading of the Torah by the king of Israel once every seven years, following the sabbatical year known as Shemittah.

Even though there is no longer a Temple, the Rebbe encouraged all Jews to join together to increase their Torah observance and study, and to follow G‑d’s commandments—as will certainly be manifested in the 19 Kislev gatherings around the world.

For information about a 19 Kislev gathering near you, find and contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch center here.

To participate in Hakhel events around the world throughout the year, visit our Hakhel page here.

Events will be taking place in many languages around the world. Here an invitation in Georgian.
Events will be taking place in many languages around the world. Here an invitation in Georgian.
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The life, teachings and works of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad.