I'm in New York this week, where I'm spending the weekend meeting people from 107 countries and from each of the 50 states. No, I'm not at the UN, and the people I'm meeting are not diplomats. They are Chabad Rabbis serving Jewish comminutes in all those places and more. In fact, the conference this weekend will bring together approximately 4000 of the 6000+ Chabad Rabbis from all over the world.
On Sunday morning we will take the"class photo" where the NY Fire Department will be on hand to provide cranes to take a single photo with a wide enough lens to capture so many people.
When I recently looked at pictures of the history of the conference, I was amazed how the first year there were all but 65 participants, the next year maybe 80, by 1992 about 500, and over the past decades we have reached more than 6000.
What amazes the world is not just the staggering growth of Chabad, but that it is happening at a time when most religious organizations, including many Jewish ones, seem to be on the decline and struggling to keep their doors open, yet Chabad keeps expanding.
Thisphenomena is something that Pew has done research on, coming with results that show Chabad to be the largest Jewish educational organization in the world, and the fastest growing Jewish religious movement, with the majority of American Jews who engage with Judaism participating with Chabad. A recent article described the phenomenal growth Chabad experienced this year, with a new Chabad opening on average every 3 days!
So what is the secret?
Contrary to what some may think, we are not marketing experts, we are not fundraising experts, we are not public speaking or media experts. We have Yeshiva education and look like we came out of fiddler on the roof!
But the Rebbe knew that Jewish people want Judaism, and when you offer Judaism, Jews feel more Jewish and more in touch with themselves.
As the Rebbe said when he participated in the earlier conferences, that our mandate is to reach out to every Jew with love, to strengthen Judaism, and help mend the world with ethics and morality for all people, to prepare the word for an era of peace and harmony for all humanity with the coming of Moshiach.
That is how we measure our success. Not by how many members we have; every Jews is a member. Not by how much money we raise; every penny counts. Not by who comes; everyone is always welcome. But by how many mitzvahs and Jewish actionswe can achieve each year.
Every observance of shabbat is a success, every mezuzah, tefillin, shabbat candle, is a success, every child who learns the Alef Bet is a success. Every invigorated community is a success, every ripple effect of Chabad’s presence in a city, is a success.
We try to stay focused on what our mission is, and try to do that as best as we can.
Never in history, has there been such a movement, and my family and I are proud and honored to be playing our role for the Jewish community in South Dakota.
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.