Conference Highlights Rapid Expansion of Chabad in the UK

The UK’s annual Kinus, which had been on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reconvened this year at a hotel in Warwickshire, marking the first gathering in four years. The conference celebrated the twenty-one new centers opened in the past few years.

Photos: Rabbi Y Golomb

The UK’s annual Kinus gathering, paused due to COVID-19, returned this year with a notable celebration of new centers, workshops on crucial issues, and an emphasis on the 24 new shluchim families. Despite the pandemics’ tragic interruption, the drive to expand Judaism’s impact in the UK has led to a diverse array of new leaders and centers. 

The UK’s annual Kinus, which had been on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reconvened for this year’s summit at a hotel in Warwickshire, marking the first gathering in four years. The conference celebrated the twenty-one new centers opened in the past few years, alongside lectures on child safeguarding, mental health, and rabbinics, as well as a complete track for educators.

This year’s convention, according to Rabbi Hershi Vogel of Chabad of West London, truly hit the mark. “The months invested by Rabbi and Mrs. Yehuda Pink in this indelible kinus paid off,” shared Vogel. “The workshops and sessions left me deeply touched and deep in thought; seeing all my fellow shluchim gave me vital motivation going forward.”

Unprecedented Growth 

The Kinus put focus on the new class of 24 shluchim families, who joined the existing community of shluchim on the British Isles. To that effect, this year’s group photo inverted the norm of seasoned shluchim taking the limelight, showcasing the recent additions up-front. 

Five years ago, the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch UK set up a sub-committee with the specific remit to ensure that Chabad, already a powerful force for Judaism in the UK, would continue to increase its impact. To achieve this goal, the task force collaborated with regional offices to identify areas with potential for growth. 

Despite the interruption caused by the pandemic, 21 new Chabad centers have been established since the initiative took shape.

“This diverse group of leaders,” shared Rabbi Yehuda Pink, chair of the aforementioned taskforce, “come from a variety of backgrounds. Moreover, while some of them have strong roots in the organization as second- and third-generation UK shluchim, others embraced the challenge of an unfamiliar culture.”

Most experienced of the new arrivals is Rabbi Osher Krichevsky, whose previous calling of fourteen years, reviving Judaism in Omsk, Siberia, was halted abruptly by the Russian government. After finding themselves suddenly banished from the country, he and his family took residence in London’s Hammersmith district, organically building a community where none had previously existed.

The newly appointed shluchim are servicing a variety of communities throughout the country. Their locations vary from London’s bustling Camden Market to the provincial town of Milton Keynes, From Worthing’s first Rabbinically led synagogue to the eighth Chabad center in Greater Manchester.

A focal point of the task force was to directly meet the needs of émigré communities. To that end, alongside London’s Chabad Israeli Center, they opened the first center for French natives. Rabbi Yosef Naparstek, who founded Chabad Francophone of Maida Vale just four years ago, is fast building a community of the large group of families who’ve ferried across the Channel to make the Central London locale their home; at the conference, he was able to announce their lease on a building large enough to host the ever-expanding activities.

Plans For the Future 

The 100 strong Rabbis gathered include those with a focus on distinct demographics, leading to various sub-conventions throughout the event. Rabbi Zalmy Loewenthal of CKids International at Merkos 302 led a conversation strategizing and promoting the youth movement’s future in the UK. He also introduced Rabbi Sholom Kalmenson, who will move to Leeds as the first dedicated CKids Shliach.

Meanwhile, teen-focused shluchim had a separate session, and the corps of hospital and prison chaplains exchanged ideas for best practices. Chabad’s campus network, with eleven full-time campus shluchim and another four shluchim families who, alongside their traditional Chabad house, also serve their local campus, stands as the largest in the country; they convened for a roundtable right on time to plan the upcoming academic year.

At the Kinus, there were also moments of focus and inspiration. Rabbi Zalman Vishedsky of Basil, Switzerland, came to lead a farbrengen, which lasted until the early morning sunrise. Meanwhile, Rabbi Mordy Dinerman of the Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) presented practical insights from the Rebbe on teaching Torah, earning rave reviews.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Chairman of the International Conference of Shluchim, and who the Rebbe entrusted with facilitating regional Kinusim around the world, joined the conference via live stream. He shared words of encouragement with the Shluchim, commending them for their efforts in gathering together, especially in the septennial year of Hakhel.

Representing the recently appointed shluchim, Rabbi Dovie Shochat of Hill East, London and Rabbi Shaya Gourarie of Worthing, England, each shared words of inspiration at the general sessions. 

Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, representing Chabad Headquarters, traveled from New York to join the Kinus. “As a visitor,” said Rabbi Kotlarsky to the crowd, “I am in awe seeing such vibrancy and growth. A true example of what the Rebbe taught us, that we will only reach our greatest potential when we operate jointly, as a united front for good.” 

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