The resilience of Jewish life amid the devastation wrought by the global coronavirus pandemic will be the major theme of this year’s Grand Event, the virtual stand-in for the Gala Banquet that annually caps the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries.

The event, which will stream live at Chabad.org/Kinus at 1 p.m. on Nov. 15, will highlight the work done by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to meet the novel challenges brought about by the global emergency and to continue their mission to serve every Jew, a mission charged to them by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whose vision and leadership continues to guide the emissaries, or shluchim, 26 years after the Rebbe’s passing.

Highlights will include an address by attorney Nathan Lewin, whose decades-long effort to defend the right to place the menorah in the public sphere is perhaps more relevant now than ever amid rising anti-Semitism and the reality that for many, this Chanukah, the only way to safely celebrate in the company of others will be outdoors. Amid the darkness and depression brought on by winter in a year defined by the coronavirus, the more than 15,000 public menorahs Chabad will place around the world—as part of the Chanukah campaign launched by the Rebbe in 1973—will bring a glimmer of light into a dark time, realizing the Talmudic charge of publicizing the miracle of Chanukah far and wide.

Their prominence and ubiquity are owed in great part to Lewin, who in 1989 argued successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court for the allowing of the placement of a menorah on public land in Pittsburgh.

Nathan Lewin

The keynote address will be delivered by Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson, who directs Chabad of Belgravia, a street over from Buckingham Palace. Kalmenson has authored a number of works exploring the Rebbe’s approach, including Seeds of Wisdom I and II, A Time to Heal, and most recently, Positivity Bias, which elucidates the Rebbe’s optimistic worldview and explains that positive living is a matter of choice, not circumstance.

Kalmenson’s message of finding the positive in every situation resonates during this time of upheaval. “The Rebbe’s mindset was not the product of living through times of privilege and plenty,” he told Chabad.org. “The seeds of the Rebbe’s vision of positively transforming every corner of the globe were planted in the soil of challenge and upheaval, as the Rebbe experienced life during the Communist uprising and both world wars, writing a seminal work, Reshimot, while on the run from the Nazis in France.”

“The Rebbe’s ability to find the opportunity within every situation laid the groundwork that empowers his emissaries to do the same,” he said.

A poignant and painful note will be struck during the event as well. Annually, time is taken during the convention’s banquet to remember those emissaries who have passed on during the previous year. Victims of the coronavirus will also be remembered. They are memorialized in Chabad.org’s project titled Each Person, A World, which makes up the most comprehensive memorial to Jewish victims of COVID-19. Also during the Grand Event, the more than 1,200 Jewish victims of the pandemic will be remembered with prayerful wishes that the world should know no more pain.

A highlight of the banquet is the Roll Call, led by Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, director of the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries and vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. It depicts the expansion of the network of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries around the world and celebrates the opening of centers in new countries and territories. It will be especially poignant this year with the addition of more than 100 new rabbinic couples in scores of new Chabad centers worldwide.

Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org/News.

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