Krakow Summit Addresses Life In Remote Communities

A two-day summit for shluchim serving in remote Jewish communities in 40 countries throughout Europe and Middle East and North Africa took place in Krakow, Poland. The kinus concluded with a visit to Auschwitz.

For Chabad Rabbis, traveling on a 10-hour flight to join fellow community leaders isn’t easy but a worthwhile investment. This year, Chabad Rabbis and Rebbetzins serving relatively smaller Jewish communities including many Muslim-majority countries gathered in historic Krakow, Poland, from as far as Iceland and Oman, for three days of inspiration and collaboration.

The regional Kinus in Krakow, hosted by Rabbi Eliezer Gurary, brought together Shluchim from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. These leaders play pivotal roles in their countries’ Jewish infrastructure. The gathering addressed pressing issues, focusing on responding to rising antisemitism in the region.

“This group of leaders cope with all manner of challenges, from navigating sensitivities in Middle Eastern countries to reviving Jewish life in far-flung European countries,” said Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302. “A conference like this allows everyone to learn from each other and discuss the various quandaries and solutions that characterize their shared mission.”

The summit began with a critical session on Kosher food-related challenges in these countries led by Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, Shliach to Istanbul and Chairman of Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States. The evening saw the delegation explore Krakow’s rich Jewish history, once home to a bustling community of over 60,000 people before the Holocaust.

Tuesday’s sessions addressed the continuing effects of October 7th on the Jewish community. TED-style talks covered topics from absorbing the influx of spiritual awakenings amongst Jewish people across the globe, to navigating tourism, and the appropriate response to rising antisemitism online and in person. Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland Andrzej Szejna visited the conference sharing with the attendees regarding the critical importance of religious freedom and standing up to antisemitism. 

Rabbi Eli Rosenfeld, Shliach in Lisbon, Portugal, reflected, “It’s always special to spend time with fellow Shluchim who are geographically far apart. It may take multiple flights to reach Poland, but every year we come together and find we’re facing the same challenges. It reinforces that we’re one family, sharing the same mission.”

The iconic “Tshuva Brov Yo’etz” think tank session allowed Shluchim to share challenges and brainstorm solutions. Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky led this session via Zoom from New York, representing his father, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky OBM, Chairman of the International Shluchim Conference and entrusted by the Rebbe in facilitating these regional summits.

The gathering took a somber turn when news came of Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky’s passing. Many Shluchim shared personal anecdotes of Rabbi Kotlarsky’s pivotal assistance in establishing their communities during an emotional late-night farbrengen. 

The conference concluded the next morning with a powerful visit to Auschwitz. A proud representation of Chabad Rabbis and Rebbetzins marched along the train tracks away from the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign. A poignant demonstration of their mission, charged by the Rebbe to seek out every Jew with love, born from the embers of the Holocaust’s destruction. A moving reminder of their continued mission, the community leaders returned to their outpost with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism in their collective and individual missions.

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