"My rabbi is magic," exclaimed Wirley Weiler at the lay leadership portion of the International Conference for Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries on Sunday.

The annual convention, which ran from Nov. 8 to Nov. 12, drew thousands of emissaries from across the globe to Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. Before the event's grand banquet, supporters of the emissaries gathered at a Manhattan hotel for a day of workshops, lectures and engaging conversations.

According to the lay leaders themselves, not only were they treated to a delicious luncheon at the Marriot Marquis, but they feasted on a buffet of inspiration.

"I know something about leadership," stated outgoing Israeli naval commander David Ben Ba'ashat, one of the attendees, "and I would recommend [my fellow leaders in the Israeli Defense Force] to come here and see what leadership is. On behalf of [the IDF] we salute you."

As the crowd broke into a thunderous standing ovation, the sense of unity in purpose and Jewish pride was palpable.

"We work together," explained Robert Rosenblum, a supporter of Rabbi Avrohom and Maryashi Sternberg, co-directors of the New London-based Chabad-Lubavitch of Eastern Connecticut. "I'm in the money business and [Rabbi Sternberg] is in the rabbi business. It is my pleasure to feed Chabad's work with as much as I can."

All the visiting community members have found various ways of supporting their Chabad Houses back home, but one common denominator among them was their affection for the shluchim, or Chabad emissaries. "He is like a son to me," added Rosenblum of Sternberg.

Weiler, whose description of the S. Paulo, Brazil-based Rabbi Yosef Motl Malowany may have appeared as rooted in hyperbole, explained that he was serious in calling him "magic." Malowany, he said, gives the rich and the less fortunate equal treatment, displaying a love of every Jew that is rare in today's world.

A Spiritual Lift

The lay leadership portion of the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries included sessions with noted lecturers and theologians.
The lay leadership portion of the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries included sessions with noted lecturers and theologians.
In a speech to fellow lay leaders, Bozeman, Mont., resident Quincy Daniel OrHai said that his friendship with Rabbi Chaim Bruk, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Montana, has led him in new directions in Jewish observance.

"Twenty years ago, I prayed for direction," recounted OrHai. "Jews everywhere are praying for direction, and shluchim are the answers to our prayers."

According to many, their attendance at the conference gave them a new appreciation for the global reach of Lubavitch and the vision of its leader, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory.

"I am getting a deeper understanding of the Rebbe's world and the job of an [emissary]," said Sam Shwartzman of West Hills, Calif. He supports Rabbi Avi and Dena Rabin, co-directors of Chabad-Lubavitch in his city.

Adan Shochet of Brussels agreed: "I got a feeling for what Chabad is about [in Brussels], but now I get to see the real thing."

For his part, Eli Arnaldes of Tarzana, Calif., said that the conference gave his life a little boost.

It "gives a spiritual strength to continue doing the hard work," he said.