Swiss Kinus Hashluchim Draws on Hundreds of Years of Continuity

Chabad shluchim from across Switzerland convened for a Kinus Hashluchim – Hakhel in Zurich, where they discussed their unique work in a country that has had a continuous Jewish life for centuries.

Chabad shluchim from across Switzerland convened for a Kinus Hashluchim – Hakhel, hosted by Head Shliach Rabbi Mendel Rosenfeld, in Zurich.

Switzerland, a relatively small country, is divided into numerous cantons with different languages spoken. Some speak German, others French, and Lugano residents speak Italian. While the Jewish population in Switzerland is not large in numbers, especially compared to neighboring countries such as France, Germany, and Italy, it is significant and vibrant in terms of Jewish life.

It is also the only country in Central Europe that did not experience the horrors of the Holocaust, with Jewish life continuing unabated through WWII. As such, the Jewish community of Switzerland is hundreds of years old, with no breaks in between.

For the Chabad ear, it can be described as follows: When the Alter Rebbe blew the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah during the Russian-French war, there was already a minyan in Switzerland, the same minyan that exists today without interruption. And when the Rebbe Rashab opened Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim on Tes Vav Elul 5657, there were already kosher restaurants in Switzerland, which exist to this day, albeit with different names and locations.

In other parts of the globe, when shluchim arrived they stood out as lone trees in the desert. The shluchim to Switzerland, however, were like an additional tree in a forest. But the Rebbe, who did not give up on even a single Jew, sent Rabbi Mendel and Devorah Rosenfeld to Switzerland in 1982, to ensure that not a single Yid remained without a connection to Yiddishkeit. Since then, under their leadership, shluchim have established a presence in Geneva, Basel, Lucerne, Lugano, and Bern.

Over the decades since, the shluchim have built an empire of Torah and Yiddishkeit, reaching those Yidden that are perhaps easiest to be overlooked as they live on the sidelines of a bustling Jewish community. On Sunday, the shluchim gathered for the Swiss Kinus Hashluchim, marking Shnas Hakhel, 5783.

Head Shliach Rabbi Rosenfeld, opened with dvar malchus, and expressed gratitude to the shluchim who traveled to attend the Kinus. Following him, Geneva Shliach Rabbi Mendel Pewzner, spoke about Hakhel, and encouraged the shluchim to be involved in “plain and simple” mivtzoim. Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Kantor, the shliach to Lugano, delivered a Torah discourse, tying the Kinus Hashluchim to the customary Kinus Torah following Shavuos.

A number of younger shluchim then spoke, presenting a youthful, effective, straightforward approach to their shlichus. These emissaries were Rabbi Motti Gruzman from Basel, Rabbi Getzy Rubashkin and Rabbi Nochum Bernstein from Zurich, and Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Pewzner and Rabbi David Ylan Szmul of Geneva.

The shluchim also joined a gala banquet, presided over as only Rabbi Chaim Drukman from Lucerne knows how. The highlight of the evening was the address of Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky vice-chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch, who spoke from New York. Immediately after his address, he entered the Rebbe’s Ohel to bring “regards” from the shluchim in Switzerland.

Also speaking were Rabbi Elimelech Marilus – shliach to Bern, and Rabbi Zalman Wishedski of Basel. Rabbi Sholom Ber Rosenfeld of Chabad ESRA, Zurich, said lchaim and warmly wished his fellow shluchim brachos in all areas of their lives, and then announced the hachlatos of the Kinus.

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