Last minute preparations are proceeding at full pace at Lubavitch World Headquarters in New York as the clock ticks down until the annual International Conference of Shluchim. The conference, known among the Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries who attend simply as the kinus – an abbreviated form of its name in Hebrew – begins Nov. 7. For five days, almost 3,000 shluchim from all over the world will attend sessions and share strategies about how best to reach Jews in every corner of the globe.

Having the feel of a family reunion, the attendees will also catch up with friends and colleagues they haven't seen since last year's gathering.

Among the topics to be dealt with are how best to integrate the use of financial planning software into Chabad House office operations and innovations in programming to reach the high school-aged set.

Also on the docket are in-depth learning sessions delving into the Talmud and Chasidic texts.

New to the program is the opportunity for newer emissaries to benefit from more experienced mentors.

According to Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, and the conference's chairman, this year's kinus will focus on the verse from Isaiah promising that "you will be gathered one by one."

The prophecy has particular meaning for Chabad emissaries, he said, "whose mission is not fulfilled so long as even one individual in his community remains unaccounted for in his Jewish needs. It is a reminder that while we have done so much there is yet so much to be done."

"The kinus is a time to learn new ideas and about new programs," said Rabbi Nechemia Vogel, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Rochester, N.Y., a veteran of Jewish outreach.

Over the years, Vogel has taken home many new ideas from each successive conference; this year, he's giving the keynote speech at the conference's concluding banquet, where lay leaders will also be in attendance.

"It is a time when emissaries gather together to share the questions and challenges that were bothering them over the past year and where they can receive their answers," said Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, an organizer of the conference. "It is a time when the Chabad family comes together and assists each other."

"It is a very inspiring uplifting event," continued Vogel. "You get a sense of where Chabad's reach has come. Through every individual shaliach's participation, the event becomes more meaningful."

The Banquet

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky leads the traditional roll call of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky leads the traditional roll call of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries.
On Nov. 11, 1,200 Chabad supporters from such places as S. Fe, N.M., Gauteng, South Africa and East Hampton, N.Y., will join the conference to participate in a lay leadership session. That evening, they'll join the emissaries for the gala banquet.

Lorne Rozovsky, an author of more than 17 books on medicine and law, said that in the Jewish world, organizations tend to paint a depressing picture of Judaism's decline. The grand banquet, which he attended last year in New Jersey, directly challenged that view, he said.

"This feeling of success and enthusiasm seen at the dinner has not been matched by any Jewish organization," said Rozovsky. It was a "most incredible and even revolutionary event."

Real estate and diamond magnate Lev Leviev will deliver the guest speaker address on behalf of the lay leaders at the Sunday evening banquet.

The banquet, which highlights Chabad's activities in the more than 70 countries it serves, will this year take place at Pier 94 in Manhattan. While the change in venue was due to the increased turnout expected, the new location has a special significance as close to where the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, arrived in 1940 to move Chabad's operations from Russia to the United States.

"It is so appropriate that the event is taking place in this location," said Vogel. "Since then, we have really been spreading Judaism. This is the location where it all began."