Annually, a Baltimore Delegation Attends the World’s Largest Rabbinic Gathering in New York That’s Aimed at Reviving Jewish Awareness and Practice in Baltimore and Around the World

This Year, Due to the Pandemic Baltimore Rabbis Did Not Travel to New York, But Joined a Global Zoom Gathering, Now the Longest Ever, Just Culminated this Weekend

Baltimore, MD — Nov, 24, 2020 - Each year, Rabbi Shmuel Gurary, of the Chabad Israeli Center in Pikesville, joins a delegation of local Jewish leaders to the world’s largest rabbinical conference—the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries. This year, with the conference being conducted entirely virtually, Rabbi Gurary has joined a virtual Zoom conference, which has since become the world-record longest Zoom meeting, as it has lasted well over 130 hours.

The virtual conference is uniting thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis from all 50 U.S. states and more than 100 countries, from as far away as Laos and Angola, Ghana and Uzbekistan and as close by as Sykesville, Maryland.

Among the themes discussed in the 130-plus-hour call were the importance and immense potential of each individual, which is a key teaching of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—and one with special relevance as in-person gathering has been curtailed during the pandemic; how best to safely serve communities during the ongoing lockdowns; as well as an exchange of ideas on how to celebrate Hanukkah—which begins Dec. 10—amidst the darkness brought on by the coronavirus.

“It’s a great feeling of camaraderie and inspiration” said Gurary. “It is rejuvenating and helped me refocus on our mission of helping our local community members affected by the pandemic.”

The call was originally envisioned as a rolling virtual farbrengen—chassidic gathering—that would begin on Saturday night in Australia and make its way around the world as the Sabbath concluded in each time zone, serving as a virtual melaveh malkah a post-Shabbat meal symbolically "Accompanying Shabbat," The Zoom call has since spontaneously continued, with up to 1,000 rabbis from around the world on at any given time.

The International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries was founded in 1983 by the Rebbe. The Rebbe, who is considered the most influential rabbi in modern history orchestrated a Jewish revival after the Holocaust and built the network of Chabad-Lubavitch institutions that serves millions around the world today. Over 5,000 Chabad-Lubavitch emissary families continue to realize the Rebbe’s vision of making Judaism accessible to all. The conference brings added significance as this year marks 70 years since the Rebbe became the "Rebbe," assuming spiritual leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

The challenge this year to the rabbis is that the energy needed to be shared from a distance but—as the ongoing Zoom conference demonstrates—it has been no less powerful.

“There was a lot of networking and ideas exchanged on how to serve our communities during these unprecedented times,” Gurary said. “It is a challenge but with G-d help and together we will overcome.”