Northbrook rabbi participates in huge remote gathering, helps set a record in the process
It wasn't just the world's longest-running Zoom meeting. It was more important than that.
Rabbi Meir Moscowitz likened it to the essence of Hanukkah.
In a normal year the International Conference of Lubavitch Chabad Emissaries draws some 6,000 people to New York City from all 50 states and more than 100 often far-flung countries for a week of inspiration, learning and fellowship.
Given that 2020 is not a normal year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conference continued with a global Zoom gathering. It became not just the world's largest rabbinical gathering, but also the longest Zoom transmission.
The apparent prior record holder, at 23 hours, 39 minutes, was set in May by a morning radio team in Auckland, New Zealand.
Moscowitz, senior rabbi at Chabad of Northbrook and regional director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois -- he annually heads a delegation of 74 Illinois Chabad rabbis to the event in New York -- described the International Conference of Lubavitch Chabad Emissaries using the Yiddish word, "farbrengen," or an informal, inspirational gathering.
Starting at the end of the sabbath on Saturday, Nov. 14, in Australia, the conference lasted into Thursday, Nov. 19, in New York: That's 136 hours straight.
"It was like a never-ending farbrengen," said Moscowitz.
He noted that setting a record wasn't a goal, that the conference continued "organically," he said.
"The goal is inspiration leads to action," Moscowitz said.
At some points there were 200 people simultaneously involved, he said; at other times there were 1,000 online.
"The most important thing personally that came of it was the inspiration," Moscowitz said.
"One of the personally meaningful points to me, when dealing with COVID realities, is it's much more one-on-one activities. You don't have big events, it's personal these days. When you hear from rabbis in small communities, they're doing that all the time. That, to me, was inspiring."
The International Conference of Lubavitch Chabad Emissaries was founded in 1983 by the "Rebbe" -- the influential, late Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, who built the network of Lubavitch Chabad institutions.
One of the themes of this conference was the importance and potential of each individual, among the Rebbe's lasting ideals. Other talking points were how rabbis can safely serve communities during pandemic lockdowns, and specifically how under those conditions they could best observe Hanukkah, which begins Dec. 10.
"When you light one candle it shines forth onto others. This Zoom, it lit many candles. Now, figuratively speaking, we come back home, we're able to shine like that Hanukkah candle," Rabbi Moscowitz said.
"One light illuminates a lot of darkness. We all have to be a candle," he said.
"Each individual -- whether a rabbi, a public figure or a private individual -- we all have the same God-given ability to inspire our surroundings."