At the 2006 International Convention of 2,300 Chabad Shluchos (women emissaries), Mrs. Henya Federman delivered the “Young Shlucha Address.” Following are excerpts from her presentation:

One year ago tonight, my husband and I merited to be appointed as the Rebbe’s Shluchim to the Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Virgin Islands, 1,000 miles off the coast of Florida, are home to approximately 1,400 year-round Jews. But, there are also many snow birds who own winter homes and time-shares. And tourists. Lots and lots of tourists.

Time on the Virgin Islands is measured differently. Cab drivers don’t think twice about backing up traffic for blocks, while they stop to chat with a friend for five, or even ten minutes on a two-lane road. An appointment is considered to be on-time as long as the person shows up within two hours of the time discussed; and cleaning people, who arrive within a couple of days of when you booked them, can’t understand why there should be any problem. Perhaps this is why it’s sometimes called “America’s Paradise.”

But, it is exactly this laid-back atmosphere, coupled with the breathtaking views of G‑d’s world as seen from this three-mile-wide island, that attracts millions of vacationers each year.

This past Chanukah, one of the busiest times on the island—and our first!—we were lucky to have a group of dedicated yeshivah students join us to reach out to the many Jewish visitors.

And, boy, was it an experience!

About six ships a day, each unloading about three thousand passengers, amounts to a daily surge of 1,800 people to the island, increasing the island’s population by 31%.

We prepared thousands of menorahs, candles, and brochures. We also arranged with the tourist attraction on the peak of the highest mountain to put up a huge menorah, which could be seen from some distance off of the coast, so people were reminded about Chanukah even before stepping ashore.

Before long, shouts of “Happy Chanukah” were ringing out, up and down Main Street. Menorahs were being passed from person to person. People with huge smiles called out, “Happy Chanukah, Chabad,” or “Hey, you Lubavitchers are everywhere. Lemme have a menorah!”

Before long, shouts of “Happy Chanukah” were ringing out

Quickly it became the norm. A yeshivah student shouts out “Happy Chanukah!” to a safari bus full of tourists, and the whole bus shouts back, “Happy Chanukah!” with tremendous energy and enthusiasm. Even while the buses picked up speed, people were still reaching for the menorahs being tossed to them.

One man emailed us later through that upon returning to his cruise ship, his group was inspired to hold a Chanukah party on their ship. Five-hundred-and-sixty people showed up—and almost 250 of them brought their tin menorahs, which they received from us, and lit them at the party! Some of the others relit the menorahs in a second shift.

Before Chanukah, we called the daily newspaper about the upcoming Chanukah activities. Somehow, they didn’t find it interesting. Two days into Chanukah, my husband gets a call from a reporter telling him that he hears “there are menorahs flying around Main Street; there's a truck cruising around with a menorah mounted on top; the island is rocking!”

Needless to say, the next day there was a beautiful article, thank G‑d.

And suddenly, lots of locals came out of the woodwork. The Commissioner of Commerce sent an aide down to get a menorah. We didn’t even know the commissioner was Jewish. Owners of stores came running to us or sent their secretaries. Employees stopped by on their lunch breaks. The excitement was palpable.

We had our disappointments.

On the second night of Chanukah, we held a Chanukah party and we were not happy with the meager attendance, so we decided to hold a menorah lighting in the lobby of the Wyndham Hotel two nights later. Thank G‑d, more than 200 people showed up. We watched people walk into the lobby and gasp, “Is that a dreidel? Wait, LATKES!? In S. Thomas?! Hey, Chabad is here too?!”

The highlight came when the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, walked in unexpectedly. Of course he happily lit the menorah, while telling everyone that he had just done this two nights earlier with Rabbi Shemtov in front of the White House.

Perhaps a non-Jew we met summed it up best.

The yeshiva students stopped this one fellow and asked if he was Jewish. His answer? “No, I’m not; but boy, were the Jews on my ship excited when they saw you guys here!”

I realize that, thank G‑d, we are truly very blessed.

I was asked to deliver greetings, so, my greetings tonight are not simply to tell you about the revolution on the Virgin Islands. But I bring you greetings tonight from yourselves, each and every one of you in this room.

You see, when we were out there distributing menorahs, we were dumbstruck by the magnitude, by the sheer size and scope of the Rebbe’s empire.

I wish you could have been there. Yes, we all know Lubavitch is everywhere, and it’s big, and touches millions of people, but to actually see it in front of your own eyes….

We met people who knew the Abergels in Singapore, the Wilhelms from Norway, Shluchim from Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, Texas, Alabama, you name it!

You should have seen the pride and joy on people’s faces when handed a menorah on Main Street of S. Thomas, hundreds or thousands of miles away from their hometown and their “own” Shluchim who they so adore.

“I’m going to tell my rabbi what happened here!” or “I’m going to tell Mrs. So-and-So Shluchah how I observed Chanukah after all.”

The love for the Shluchim, the recognition that each Shliach and Shluchah cares deeply for “my” own observance of Torah and Mitzvot – this energy and living organism could have been created only by the example and teachings of our beloved Rebbe.

Once we were stuck in stop-and-go traffic and my husband and I heard a scream, “Oh my, Chabad is here!”

We turned to see a woman running to our car. She literally leaned into our car and started talking as quickly as she possibly could to make sure we wouldn't drive away. “I'm from Toronto, I know Chabad in Flamingo. Maybe you can help me, I need a menorah. I forgot mine and they don't have any on our cruise!”

Of course, we reached into our box and handed a menorah to another grateful Jew. But boy did we shock her, when we asked her to send regards to Rabbi and Mrs. Kaplan. “You know them?!”

“Are you Chabad?” “I love Chabad!”

“Are you Chabad?” “I love Chabad!” “I love Lubavitch!” was repeated hundreds, if not thousands of times, during the week.

I am certain that many of the people who said these wonderful things to us don’t get a chance to express this love back at home while they’re busy with regular life. Some of these people may even demonstrate resentment to you at times for intruding on their lives. But, the greeting I bring you, dear sisters, is: They love every one of you, and they recognize that you care deeply for their spiritual and material wellbeing. They know that you are trying to help them find their path to Hashem (G‑d) and His Torah and mitzvot, and they appreciate it.

You represent to them the very deepest and finest of Torah and Chassidus (Chassidism). You serve as a signpost; you act as beacons of light for them. Some are comforted and motivated simply by the knowledge that you exist.

Living on an island that is nine miles by three miles can get to you. We islanders call it “rock fever.” It might be hard for someone living on the mainland to understand, but when you live on an island, the sight of a departing plane, even though it may be full of total strangers, can make you choke up. A cruise ship slowly drifting away can leave you with a heaviness inside. I guess because we’re, well, on an island.

So when a ship comes in and you meet a Jew bringing regards from a fellow Shliach, it is a piece of home.

“You were at the Simmonds’ Shabbos table in Winnipeg?”

“The Kugels’ preschool in Manhattan?”

Each contact is a piece of home, a breath of fresh air, a connection to the world that is ours. When I meet someone on the street who knows Shluchim, wherever from, I want to hug them; I feel like I know them, they’re in some way a part of us. The regards from a fellow Shliach, from a Lubavitch outpost across the world, is a connection to everything that is familiar, that is ours.

Ladies, fellow Shluchos, dear sisters: On this Chof Beis Shevat (the 22nd of the Hebrew month Shevat) let us bear in mind:

It wasn’t that long ago that the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin began weaving this amazing tapestry from their small apartment in Berlin and Paris. And it wasn’t all that many years ago that the Rebbe stood on top of a box in the middle of Paris and waved a kerchief to talk to Jews about Yiddishkeit. People around him were shocked.

And look at where the world is today. They’re only shocked if we’re not there!

If you’re ever feeling alone or wondering what you’ve achieved, just remember that you are part of both a huge army and a close-knit mishpacha (family). Your role is unique and plays an integral part in bringing each Jew closer to Hashem.

Let’s not rest on our laurels. The Rebbe’s words of Ve’atem teluktu l’echad eched beit Yisrael, “And you shall be collected one by one, the house of Israel,” ring clear in our minds and hearts. Together, let’s ensure that every single Jew from every far-flung corner of the globe finds his or her own connection to G‑d. By joining forces and recognizing the complementing role we each play for each other, we can help complete the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin’s dearest wish, to see the world perfected, with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.