On a typical Wednesday, Kingston Avenue in the bustling Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y., is a case study in modern Chasidic Jewish life in the United States, with hundreds of bearded men and conservatively-clad women going in and out of shops, heading to synagogue, or making their way to and from work. This week, however, the street became a sea of black fedoras as almost 3,000 rabbis arrived for the 25th annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries.
At the registration tables set up in the Jewish Children’s Museum, a towering modern edifice devoted to educating children of all ages about Jewish holidays and customs through a collection of hands-on exhibits, emissaries from location all around the globe embraced each other after not seeing one another for a year or more. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, attendees placed orders for kosher provisions and Torah books not readily available in Bozeman, Mont., Phnom Penh, Cambodia and other home cities.
This year, the conference also includes some 272 participants who opened new Chabad Houses in the past year.
To feed their guests, conference organizers engaged the work of caterers, who are planning on serving 15,000 plates of food, 3,000 pounds of meat and 2,000 gallons of soup.
Workshops and sessions are taking place in a variety of locations throughout Crown Heights, and tables and benches in the study hall at Lubavitch World Headquarters were filling up early with out-of-towners spending time to learn Torah with their colleagues.
One Canadian emissary was overheard extolling the virtues of the annual gathering.
“For me, this week is the most important in the year,” he said while standing in the registration line. “We all [return home] after five days energized and better able to inspire others.”