Food Preperation Final Kinus Preparation Opening Session Flight to Alma…
The Caribbean Regional Kinus, a gathering of dedicated Chabad emissaries serving micro and growing Jewish Communities in the Caribbean region and Mexico, recently occurred in South Florida.
In a first for the Caribbean Kinus, Shluchim and Shluchos of all ages convened for a conference featuring unique tracks geared toward each respectively. The Hakhel-themed gathering showcased the power of unity and the relentless dedication of the shluchim to their mission, and celebrated a quarter of a century of Shlichus in The Caribbean Region.
The past 25 years have seen the Chabad presence in the Caribbean region grow from a single center to over 18. While previously, the islands had limited availability of Jewish resources, the region now boasts thriving Jewish communities replete with Shul services, Mikvaos, Adult Education courses, Hebrew Schools, and access to Kosher Food, making for a beautiful tapestry of Jewish life and living in the tropics.
According to Rabbi Berel Pewzner of the Chabad Cayman Jewish Community, “the very presence of the Chabad Shluchim in the region has helped attract more Jewish residents to the region, especially in the post-pandemic era, now that Jewish life can be maintained in the Caribbean without any compromise in Jewish education and living.”
One of the most remarkable aspects the kinus brought to the fore was the feeling of extended family amongst the Shluchim families.
The generous hosting of Rabbi Pinny and Gity Andrusier and Chabad of Southwest Broward added to the familial atmosphere, making the event feel like a home away from home.
Several Shluchos commented how the gathering had an atmosphere akin to a family bungalow colony. The children, who rarely have the chance to interact with each other in person, reveled in the opportunity to encounter and bond with one another, with MyShliach arranging parallel ‘conventions’ for boys and girls.
Rabbi Mendel Zarchi of Chabad of Puerto Rico, the pioneering shliach in the region, explained the importance of coming together as a community. “In Shnas Hakhel,” he explained, “we aim to relive the spiritual experience of Mount Sinai. We connected, shared strength and inspiration, memories of the glory days, and encouraged each other in our hiskashrus to the Rebbe.”
The shluchim in these locales have unique circumstances and communities. By and large, they each lead their local Jewish community while simultaneously impacting their respective ‘global communities,’ the numerous businesspeople and visiting Jews who enjoy short stints on the islands. As Rabbi Zarchi explains, the locals are strengthened and supported by those who come through, creating an inseparable community, a space where all can benefit.
At this gathering, they had the chance to discuss the challenges and opportunities endemic to the region. A highlight was the roundtable discussion with Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice-Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch and spearheader of Chabad’s presence in the Caribbean, where shluchim shared their insights and discussed strategies to support one another. “Every shliach around the table knows Rabbi Kotlarsky as a listening ear,” said Rabbi Yakov Raskin of Chabad Jamaica. “The care and support he’s provided each of us in the Caribbean was the backdrop for this most productive conversation.”
Rabbi Dov Schochet, Rosh Yeshiva of the CYS College of Jewish Studies, led Halacha sessions during the Kinus, addressing small island communities’ unique challenges. The shluchim also heard from, among others, Rabbi Chaim Drizin LMFT, on managing stress and fostering harmony in their high-pressure—and sometimes lonely—environment.
The Keynote address and memorable Farbrengen were delivered by Rabbi Sholom and Mrs. Chani Lipskar of the Shul of Bal Harbour, who shared their wisdom gleaned from decades on Shlichus and the loving inspiration they received from the Rebbe over the years.
Informative workshops were held by Rabbi Shmuly Rothman of Rothman Coaching and Rabbi Yossi Gordon, CEO of Chabad on Campus International. Naturally, the nights saw inspiring Farbrengens, led by the Dean of LEC Rabbi Benjy Korf, as well as Rabi Chai Amar.
The participants also explored ways to maintain the connection and unity established during the Kinus, with periodic remote meetups scheduled throughout the year. The impact of this gathering will continue to resonate, fostering a stronger and more connected Jewish future for these emerging and fast-growing communities.
One expression of the Shluchims’ unity was a joint commitment to share ‘Lightpoints’ of the Rebbe’s teachings with visitors they encounter. The handouts reverse features all the regional Chabad Centers and the programming one might expect to find in them. The project, as well as this year’s Kinus, were dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Henya Federman OBM, Shlucha to the Virgin Islands.
Rabbi Avromy Super of Chabad of S. Lucia, whose Tweet of the Kinus ‘class photo’ garnered over 60,000 views, expressed his inspiration and joy at seeing the families come together. “This gathering represents the core of the Jewish establishment on the islands,” he said. “These few days will be remembered as a watershed moment in the history of Yiddishkeit in the Caribbean.”