Ninety-two emissaries, educators, and community and campus rabbis from all over the United Kingdom convened in late July for the Annual Chabad Lubavitch UK Kinus. Spread over two days, the conference provided an opportunity for Chabad’s numerous shluchim, or emissaries, from across the region to meet for discussions and workshops on various aspects related to their work.

From a single house to a household name, Lubavitch UK has grown over the past six decades to a network of 115 shluchim who span the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

Rabbi Bentzi Sudak, of Chabad Lubavitch UK Headquarters in London, noted that “every year the conference grows in participants, and in the atmosphere and quality of the program. Personally, the highlight is the increasingly strong sense of comradery and passion, with new faces joining the family of UK shluchim every year.”

RELATED

The first evening featured the gala dinner, presided over by master of ceremonies Rabbi Yitzchok Sufrin, of Chabad Lubavitch UK Headquarters in London, who kept the evening flowing with his inimitable sense of humor.

Sudak served as one of the speakers, stressing the importance of building on the solid foundations laid by his father—Rabbi Nachman Sudak, OBE, head shaliach to the UK, who passed away in June—during his decades of leadership in expanding the work of Chabad-Lubavitch to an even greater audience. He asked all present to work with him on continuing the success of the past few years.

Rabbi Bentzi Sudak, of Chabad Lubavitch UK Headquarters in London, stressed the importance of building on the foundations laid by his father—Rabbi Nachman Sudak, OBE, who passed away in June—during his decades of leadership.
Rabbi Bentzi Sudak, of Chabad Lubavitch UK Headquarters in London, stressed the importance of building on the foundations laid by his father—Rabbi Nachman Sudak, OBE, who passed away in June—during his decades of leadership.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, served as the guest speaker. He spoke about the importance the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—attached to regional gatherings, and how after each one, he would be asked what practical resolutions had been made.

He also emphasized the degree to which Rabbi Nachman Sudak was devoted to the Rebbe’s mission, and that those gathered should take inspiration from such dedication. And he talked of the power that the Rebbe gave to each shaliach to continue his work, and how many of the delegates present had the privilege of receiving the Rebbe’s direct advice about various facets of their work.

Finding a Positive Message

Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson of Chabad of Belgravia in London delivered the keynote address. In it, he discussed how people perceive the world, and segued to the Rebbe’s positivity, especially seen from his use of language.

“The Rebbe would refrain from saying the Yiddish word for bad and would instead say ‘the opposite of good’ or ‘the opposite of righteous,’ related Kalmenson. “Instead of saying yetser hara [the evil inclination], the Rebbe would sometimes say, ‘the yetser that is heipech the yetser tov’ [the inclination that is opposite the good inclination].

“The Rebbe wasn’t happy with the term ‘undertake’ or ‘deadline,’ and didn’t want hospitals called batei cholim [houses of the sick], but batei refuah [houses of healing]. The Rebbe suggested that wounded Israeli soldiers be referred to not as nechei tzahal [disabled forces], but as metzuyanie tzahal [special forces or excellent forces].”

Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson, a Chabad emissary in London, delivered the keynote address.
Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson, a Chabad emissary in London, delivered the keynote address.

Kalmenson continued by saying, “I heard the following from Rabbi Kotlarsky, whom we are honored to have with us here tonight, and who—like a parent that travels around the world to visit their children—is constantly traveling from one city, state and country to the next to encourage and assist shluchim around the world: Rabbi Kotlarsky once mentioned that the Rebbe took issue with the isolating term ‘the Far East.’ ”

And then, moving to reflections for the upcoming holiday of Tisha B’Av, which begins this year on the evening of Monday, Aug. 4, Kalmenson said: “The saddest day on the Jewish calendar is no doubt the ninth of Av, which was … a day of collective mourning and national calamity. Not so in the Rebbe’s history book: In a letter of the Rebbe to his mother dated ‘9 Av,’ the Rebbe refers to ‘9 Av’ [Tisha B’Av] as the day on which Moshiach was born, choosing to define the day not by its actual and repetitive tendency towards catastrophe, but by it’s redemptive and healing potential.

“And this seems to be the way the Rebbe chose to view all of Jewish history in its entirety.”

The keynote speaker also made a reference to the ongoing situation in Israel. He said that people flock to Chabad centers not just because of the inclusive, nonjudgmental and warm environment that Chabad has become known for, but because “they see in us a reflection and a ray of the Rebbe’s positivity, and his penchant for optimism and positivity.”

Rabbi Avremi Kievman, of Chabad-Lubavitch Liverpool, led a workshop at the two-day conference.
Rabbi Avremi Kievman, of Chabad-Lubavitch Liverpool, led a workshop at the two-day conference.

Take, for example, a recent Shabbat, he said. “Shul was full, in part due to the situation in Eretz Yisroel. After davening, (services) I went over to someone I am close to, but who rarely attends shul on Shabbat, and I asked him: “David, what brought you to shul today?” Expecting him to say something about the crisis in Israel, and the concern and fear for our soldiers going through difficult times, I was surprised at his answer.

“ ‘Rabbi, I didn’t come here to express my anxiety and solidarity for our soldiers in Israel; I didn’t have to come here for that. I came here looking for a bit of hope in these difficult times. I came here for a dose of positivity and optimism to balance out the negativity and cynicism that surrounds me.’ ”

The evening was interspersed with cantorial renditions by Rabbi Naphtali Tiefenbrun of Chabad Lubavitch UK Headquarters in London. After the meal and presentations, the Chabad emissaries sat down for an uplifting farbrengen that saw many of them singing, dancing and talking until the early hours of the morning.

A ‘Farbrengen’ and a Bike Tour

Presenters at the conference touched on many topics, including financial planning; working with young professionals; and how to maximize the potential of the “ShabbatUK” project, which focuses on harnessing the goodness and uniqueness of a traditional, authentic Shabbat experience, and inviting Jews around the country to celebrate it in a way they never have before.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, center, with, from left, Rabbi Yehuda Pink, Rabbi Levi Wineberg, Rabbi Yitzchok Sufrin (back to camera) and Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin, MBE.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, center, with, from left, Rabbi Yehuda Pink, Rabbi Levi Wineberg, Rabbi Yitzchok Sufrin (back to camera) and Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin, MBE.

Sudak credited the hard work of the conference committee under the leadership of Chabad emissary Rabbi Yehuda Pink in Solihull.

For his part, Pink thanked his colleagues for dedicating an enormous amount of time and energy to ensure that the program would be a success. Noting that the feedback has been extremely positive, he also commented on the importance of the conference as a platform for learning and growth.

The conference was held at the stately Bosworth Hall Hotel in the picturesque village of Market Bosworth in Leicestershire, England.

And just to make sure that it wasn’t all work and no play, Rabbi Mendy Korer, of Chabad-Lubavitch of Islington in London, led a group of participants on a bike tour, making the most of the bucolic setting.

Enjoying a meal and some down time are, from left, Rabbi Mendy Lent, Rabbi Shneur Cohen, Rabbi Eli Pink and Rabbi Odom Brandman.
Enjoying a meal and some down time are, from left, Rabbi Mendy Lent, Rabbi Shneur Cohen, Rabbi Eli Pink and Rabbi Odom Brandman.