The event is the 27th annual International Conference of Chabad Lubavitch Emissaries, in which Lubavitcher rabbis stationed around the globe convene each fall in New York to kibitz, share stories and attend workshops and seminars. (The conference was carried live via a Chabad webcast).
The event is now in its 27th year, and attendance grows each time. In fact, this terminal is the only place Mr. Scharf could imagine staging it. Well, there was the Javits Convention Center, but it was booked, and was a bit pricier, he said. And, this location is close to the Lubavitcher community and headquarters in Crown Heights.
There will be literally tons of food. Mr. Scharf has hired 90 chefs and 340 waiters. He has rented vast quantities of equipment, including 15,000 glasses and 30,000 pieces of cutlery. There is a bank of Kosher ovens wrapped in plastic and certified by a rabbi. A team of rabbis will be on hand to supervise the meals. The tractor-trailers will arrive on Sunday afternoon with some 5,000 — staffers have to eat, too — oven-ready meals of chicken and steak. The event is too huge to suffer picky eaters.
“Everyone gets their meat cooked medium — no choice,” said Mr. Scharf, of Cedarhurst, N.Y., who specializes in mega-events held by ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York City. They can be tricky functions to pull off. Think of the details, for example: finding a check-in system for 4,500 black coats to be shed at the door. (The black hats are worn inside.) So many pickles will be served that a staff member was already slicing them on Thursday, taking them from big buckets.
The banquet is intended to reinvigorate the rabbis before they return to their missions around the world. There will be speeches and dancing, and the roll call of the various countries in which the rabbis work. Behind the dais, workers had hung a very large portrait of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994 and is known simply as “The Rebbe” to his followers. Mr. Scharf met the Rebbe several times and still has the dollar bills that the Rebbe, who would hand them out to people seeking his blessing, handed him.
Chabad leader Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson initiated the outreach program during the first half of the 20th century with the aim of providing Jewish services to communities and travelers. Over the years the network has vastly expanded and is currently located in 73 countries around the world, from China to Chile, South Africa to Finland, and every US state except Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Its dedicated corps of husband- and-wife teams, who usually have large families in tow, is the key to the network’s operations.
a five-day smorgasbord of workshops, inspirational gatherings, field trips, and one-on-one counseling sessions designed to strengthen those who strengthen Jewish communities around the globe.
According to Rabbi Mendel Kotlarsky, a conference coordinator, a total of 97 workshops delivered by 300 presenters and moderators will address a variety of topics, including utilizing technology to further Jewish knowledge, running campus activities, and administrating a day school.
New to this year’s conference is a special mobile site that allows for emissaries to peruse the program guide from their Android, iPhone and other smartphones, create their own schedules and receive updates and alerts before panels they wish to attend.
But wait! There's more!
In addition to all of the good that they've been doing for Jewish life all around the world, Chabad is know for its dancing rabbis, who have become a regular feature on the annual telethons. But if you've seen a few dancing rabbis on TV, you haven't seen anything until you see 4,500 dancing rabbis -- and here they are!