Not Just Another Zoom Conference: Why I Enjoyed the Kinus Hashluchos

“Gone was the sea of sheitels, in their place were little squares displaying a shlucha sitting on her sofa, a shlucha in her newly-built Chabad House, a shlucha putting her baby to sleep as she listens. Shluchos with the background of their mission” writes Mrs. Mushky Feldman on why she enjoyed this year’s Kinus.

By Mushky Feldman as told to Mussi Sharfstein

When we first heard that the annual International Kinus Hashluchos had to be virtual this year, my husband and I felt skeptical. Almost nothing can compare to the weekend in Crown Heights with thousands of Shluchos attending workshops, networking, and seeing friends and family. It’s a highlight of our family’s year and it gives us the energy to return to our work as Shluchim to Reykjavik, Iceland with renewed vigor.

Since I was a young girl growing up in Sweden, the Kinus and its parallel children’s program has always been something I looked forward to. For weeks, I counted down the days to our flight. I would write letters (yes, real handwritten letters mailed in a mailbox) to friends I had made in previous years saying, “I can’t wait to see you!” And when we finally got to New York, jet-lagged and exhausted, I couldn’t get enough of it.

And now, this incredible Kinus would be on a screen. Really?! How can that spirit and camaraderie be captured on Zoom?

So I didn’t hold my breath when the Kinus came around. We set up a computer in our home office and I sat down with enough snacks to last a couple of hours of speeches and presentations—which I thought would probably be nice and informative, but missing that in-person fire.

But boy was I wrong.

If you would have peeked into our home over the weekend, you would have seen me alternatively laughing, singing, sharing, and shedding tears, enjoying every minute. It wasn’t just a chat. It was a powerful unity of thousands of the Rebbe’s Shluchim from around the world, out in the furthest corners, lighting the flame of others. It was a time for us to be inspired, to receive more so that we can continue giving to our communities.

While my husband and I each love the New York gatherings, it sometimes feels like it’s cut short. We’re busy. There are errands to do, places to be and flights to catch. Last year, I couldn’t make it at all. (Iceland completed writing its first Sefer Torah that day!) And while my friends sent occasional selfies and summaries of workshops they enjoyed, I missed out on much of it.

On Zoom, I was able to log on whenever I wanted and farbreng, listen, share, and be inspired. And because COVID restrictions forced many of the Shluchos to pause much of their regular programming, they had the freedom to sit and really soak it all in, unrushed

And then there were the living rooms.

Yes, the living rooms. Each woman joining the farbrengen came with her living room in the background. Or car. Or classroom. Or kids. Or shuls. They each logged on with context. They gave us a glimpse into their lives as shluchos, as rebbetzins, mothers, wives, teachers, and community leaders. Gone was the sea of sheitels. In their place were little squares displaying a shlucha sitting on her sofa, a shlucha in her newly-built Chabad House, a shlucha putting her baby to sleep as she listens. Shluchos with the background of their mission. It humanized and crystallized the reality of their work.

And instead of being far away from our daily, mundane routines and responsibilities, the Kinus experience was infused into our daily lives. Into our families. Into our communities. The Kinus happened alongside errands, parenting, dinner, and bedtime. We logged on to farbreng between teaching, counseling, fundraising, and delivering food packages.

Zoom is different and we do miss the usual experience. But there’s a special value in convening in this unusual format. Somehow, the sisterly connection between the shluchos was deeper than any other year. I felt a renewed energy and inspiration—especially valuable during this challenging time.

So I really enjoyed the women’s Kinus this week. I enjoyed the workshops, the speeches, the inspiring words, and informative presentations.

And I loved really being part of the event and taking advantage of the undiluted programming, without worrying about where I have to be next, because I can take the Farbrengen with me. I loved being able to log on when it was convenient for me, even if it was during a midnight baby feeding, knowing thousands of my sister Shluchos and dear friends would be there too.

But most of all, I enjoyed the uniqueness of this year’s Kinus, seeing the lives my fellow Shluchos live. The living rooms, the babies, the family dinners, and the classrooms that just held a Torah class. I enjoyed seeing each and every Shlucha and what she represents.

Hoping to see you all at next year’s Kinus Hashluchos in the Beis Hamikdash!

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