For the first time in its 37-year history, the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries (Kinus Hashluchim) will be held online this year due to concerns arising from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Since its launching in 1983 by the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—the conference has brought together Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries for a weekend of inspiration, learning and fellowship. From an inaugural meeting of 65 emissaries, it has ballooned to one that annually sees nearly 6,000 emissaries and lay leaders from all 50 states and more than 100 countries gather in New York City. The annual event is both the largest rabbinical gathering in the world and the biggest sit-down dinner in the New York area.

The conference annually provides emissaries with workshops running the gamut of their concerns, provides a much-needed time to recharge and connect with other Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, and enables them to share knowledge of how to better serve Jewish communities back at home. This gives the participants, especially those going back to far and isolated outposts, the sense that they are not alone.

Each year, some aren’t able to make it to the conference, whether because of distance, financial or personal reasons. For those unable to make the trip, the organizers, headed by Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch—the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement—has for the past number of years enabled an online broadcast on, which opened the convention to hundreds of thousands who watch at home as well as those emissaries who can’t make it to the convention, so that the inimitable sense of Jewish unity can be experienced regardless of physical location.

This year, no one will be able to make the trip. With a recent uptick in coronavirus cases making clear that any large gathering could be hazardous, the organizers, in consultation with medical professionals, made the decision that for the first time in its 37-year history, the Kinus will be an entirely virtual event—one that will be different in form, but identical in function.

A suite of workshops, addresses, vignettes and highlights from previous Kinus gatherings will take place virtually, culminating in a “Grand Event” that will stand in for the annual Grand Banquet.

The global melava malka will begin as Shabbat ends in Australia and New Zealand, and as time goes by, emissaries will join from Asia, Europe, Africa, and finally, the Americas.

The annual conference for men in November is one of two—the other, for Chabad-Lubavitch women emissaries is held in February, timed to coincide with the yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing) of the Rebbe’s wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of righteous memory (on 22 Shevat), whose concern for and interest in all shluchim was legendary. The most recent women’s convention was held in mid-February, a month before the coronavirus was detected in New York.

And when the world finally emerges from the pandemic, when gathering in person is once again safe, the organizers will plan a weekend when the shluchim will gather in New York, visit the resting place of the Rebbe and farbreng with their fellow emissaries and lay leaders.

Until then, they’ll do what they’ve been doing. They’ll draw upon extraordinary strength to guide their communities through these difficult times. They’ll care for every Jew with true Ahavat Yisrael. And they’ll encourage each other—virtually—to continue in their mission.