Thousands of rabbis from around the world descended on Crown Heights on Sunday for an annual conference of Orthodox Jewish Hasidic leaders — and a “class picture” of nearly 5,000 rabbis, who gathered in Brooklyn around their shared faith.
“It’s important for me to meet my friends, to strengthen my work, and do what God wants us to do,” said Rabbi Shalom Ber Sudak of London, England. “We want to encourage people to be close to the Yiddishchite, to be happy with what we are supposed to do.”
The rabbis flew in from across the globe for the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries — a yearly event designed to strengthen Jewish awareness and practice around the world, said one religious leader.
“I was invited, and have been coming for 50 years,” added Rabbi Joseph Hardman of Israel. “I represent 6,000 [disciples] that I’m here for. I’m very veshtatum — meaning I’m very satisfied here because they always make us feel welcome.”
Prior to the photo, the rabbis — who came from as far as India, Belgium, and Ukraine — prayed in tight quarters inside the Lubavitch synagogue.
One rabbi said he felt honored to attend the event with so many other religious leaders.
“We need to take a full review of what we do,” said Rabbi Mordachai Chencon of Brussels, Belgium. “We do this to hold together – and together we are strong, that is very important.”
Across from the gathering, a number of Orthodox Jewish men protested by hoisting large yellow banners proclaiming the death of the grand rebbe — the spiritual leader in the Hasidic movement — leading to a pitched shoving match.
“They have a right to protest, it’s a free country,” said Rabbi Chaim Chanukah of Pasadena, California. “This is a week of achievement, five to six days of brotherhood and community. Nobody arguing, just different languages.”