More than 100 Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis gathered in Atlanta, Ga., earlier this month to inspire each other, discuss plans for the future and return to their communities – stretching from Texas to Puerto Rico – reenergized towards the task of reaching out to every single Jew.

The last time the Southeastern Regional Chabad-Lubavitch Conference of Shluchim, or emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, was held in Atlanta was 16 years ago. Since then, the very concept of gathering together Lubavitch rabbis according to the region they serve – set into motion by a directive from the Rebbe in the late 1980s – has gained traction to the point where 10 such conventions have taken place this summer alone.

According to Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, Chabad-Lubavitch's educational arm, regional conventions indeed have evolved over the years. Their growth has paralleled the International Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries Conferences; starting out in the early 1980s as a relatively small affair, that convention has exploded in attendance, with more than 2,500 men turning out to Lubavitch World Headquarters every fall for the occasion, and an equal number of women during their conference in the winter.

"The regional conventions were small in the beginning," Kotlarsky reported in Atlanta. "But here [in Atlana], for example, there are more than 100 emissaries. Lubavitch, with the Rebbe's direction, has grown tremendously over the past 20 years."

It's such growth that necessitates a regional gathering of Lubavitch leaders. Such one and two-day conventions allow targeted discussions of local issues.

"It's a time where we can discuss local issues that pertain to us," said Rabbi Hershey Minkowitz, co-director of Chabad of Alpharetta. "The sessions are geared specifically for our local communities and their needs."

So in Georgia, the rabbis discussed such topics as promoting greater kosher observance in small Jewish communities (including how to spur grocery stores into stocking more kosher products) and how to solve the logistical problems inherent in a growing synagogue.

And, just days later, Chabad emissaries in Germany spoke about how to tailor programming to appeal to students, how to operate a program centered on marking Jewish birthdays and unveiled a new German language Web site,, that will allow Chabad centers in the country to integrate and brand their own individual sites on the Internet.

Rabbi Yossi Lew, assistant rabbi of Chabad's Congregation Beth Tefillah in Atlanta, agreed.

"There was a unique mix at the conference," he said. "There were older emissaries and younger ones, representing a unique blend of ideas. We all learned from each other's insight and successes."

More to be Done

But as much as it is a chance to plot strategy and network, each convention can also generate an opportunity for rabbis and local lay leaders to enjoy an inspiring dinner together.

In Alpharetta, the grand dinner was undoubtedly the highlight of the convention. Emissaries from Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and Texas joined 500 local lay leaders and Jewish community officials for the event.

In his speech at the reception, Kotlarsky pointed to the growth of Chabad in Georgia alone, tripling in the past 10 years under the leadership of Rabbi Yossi New, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Georgia, as an example of how Jews throughout the world are craving a deeper connection with their Jewish heritage. That implied, however, that there was plenty more work to be done.

Marty Kogan, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, seconded that assessment in his remarks.

"Chabad has prospered in Atlanta," he said. "And as the community grows, we will soon need 10 additional Chabad Houses in the area. Atlanta is fertile ground for Chabad activities."

The number of Chabad Houses in Georgia has more than tripled since the Rebbe's passing in 1994, said Kotlarsky. "However, it is our duty to say that Chabad-Lubavitch of Georgia needs to serve every single Jew in the state, no matter where they are geographically or spiritually.

"There are tens of thousands of Jews in Georgia," he continued in his speech. "We need one rabbi for every 1,000 Jews, or at least for every 2,000 Jews. By the next conference of rabbis in Atlanta, there should, and G‑d willing will, be at least 50 Chabad Houses in Georgia."