Men in black: Thousands of Hasidic Jewish scholars gather for photo in Crown Heights, setting record, leader says

Men in black: Thousands of Hasidic Jewish scholars gather for photo in Crown Heights, setting record, leader says
Rabbi reunion: Some 5,600 ultra-conservative rabbis gathered outside Chabad Lubavitch’s Crown Heights world headquarters on Sunday to take a class picture as part of a several-day religious conference in the borough.
Photo by Mendel Grossbaum

This picture is worth more than a thousand rabbis!

Some 5,600 ultra-Orthodox rabbis belonging to a Brooklyn-based religious organization met in Crown Heights on Nov. 19 to pose for an annual class photo, setting the record for the largest gathering of the conservative Hasidic leaders ever, according to a rep for the faith-based group.

“It was the largest gathering of rabbis — period,” said Rabbi Motti Seligson, a spokesman for Chabad Lubavitch, which extols the values of Hasidim to followers and potential converts.

The picture, which Chabad officials promoted as a “Where’s Waldo of rabbis” in a press release, was taken outside of the organization’s world headquarters on Eastern Parkway between Brooklyn and Kingston avenues.

Only a few of the thousands of spiritual leaders, all of whom are men, are looking at the camera in the panoramic shot — many are gazing into their smart phones, some are talking amongst themselves, and others are distractedly glancing elsewhere.

But most of the rabbis wore an identical uniform of black suit and hat, and nearly all sported impressive, flowing beards.

The photo session was part of an annual days-long conference that concluded on Nov. 20, during which the conservative scholars attended dozens of workshops across the borough where they discussed issues both sacred and secular before returning to their homes to share the lessons they learned in Brooklyn, Seligson said.

Some rabbis who reside in parts of the United States and other countries recently hit by natural disasters — including hurricane-ravaged locales such as St. Martin, Puerto Rico, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands — used the Kings County coming together as an opportunity to collect much-needed items for people back home, the spokesman said.

“A lot of them stocked up on supplies and sent things back home to help their communities recover,” Seligson said.

And the well-attended conference may sound like a tremendous boon for the borough’s hospitality industry, but local hoteliers didn’t benefit much from the event, according to the rabbi, who said most visiting attendees prefer to crash with friends, family, or members of the neighborhood’s greater
Chabad community.

“Every year the local community in Crown Heights swings their arms wide open, and welcomes thousands of guests and graciously puts them up and takes care of all their hospitality needs,” Seligson said.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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