Feb 4, 2024 12:00 PM
This weekend, as women from Chabad Houses across the world gather in Crown Heights for the Kinus Hashluchos, the convention of Chabad women emissaries, the neighborhood will be bustling with special opportunities to learn, network, set up a shidduch or two, and, of course, shopping.
Many are familiar with the iconic photos of hundreds of men in black hats and long beards posing in front of Chabad headquarters, taken each year at the Kinus Hashluchim, the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries. But the men don’t do their work alone: the shluchos, or emissary wives, are an integral part of running the thousands of Chabad Houses worldwide. And since 1991, the women have had their own annual convention.
A broad array of programming has already kicked off last Thursday for this year’s gathering and will be ongoing throughout the weekend. Many of the programs are lectures, including “Torah and Technology - A Chassidic Perspective” and “Femininity in Chassidus.” But the weekend offers a lot more than just study.
On Sunday, there’s “Meet the Shadchanim at the Kinus,” hosted by Chabad Match, which will provide shluchos an opportunity to meet with Chabad matchmakers.
It helps to get listed first on the Chabad Match website, which describes itself as “the database of Chabad singles worldwide,” but there’s a thorough application process. Women are asked if they intend to cover their hair (sheitel, tichel, hat, or sheitel + hat), their level of modesty (careful, average, or light) and what kind of mobile phone they use (smartphone filtered or unfiltered, or non-smartphone.)
Men get a grilling too, of course; they are asked to describe their beard (full, trimmed, shaved, or picked), yarmulke (black, yechi, leather, knitted, colored), and “feelings about being a public meshichist.”
The weekend also offers special shopping opportunities — perhaps as a reprieve from the many educational programs. The Razag ballroom, ordinarily a wedding venue, is offering a six-day “Shopaganza,” a special pop-up with designer-brand clothing at marked down prices. Also in on the action is Zlata Wigs, which is having a wig sale for the entire duration of the conference. Married Chabad women generally cover their hair after marriage with a wig or a scarf.
For those extending their stay beyond the official duration of the conference, which ends on Sunday, there is even more on offer.
A “Wellness Summit” will be held on Monday by the Wellness Institute, which was established in 2019 to provide mental health resources to the Jewish community, and has seen demand for its services explode following the Covid-19 pandemic.
With mental health issues becoming more prevalent in society overall, with an alarming increase in suicides reported across the U.S., Chabad houses are looking to boost their abilities to help those who need emotional and psychological support, as well as assistance with substance abuse and addiction.
“The Shluchos are often the first line of support in their communities,” Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Executive Director of Merkos 302, told Crownheights.info. “This summit hopes to provide them with the necessary tools to guide and help those facing mental health challenges, which is especially critical today.”
Since the conference is for women, the summit will offer an extra focus on women’s mental health issues. According to Crownheights.info, “A key session, ‘Navigating Maternal Mental Health,’ will be facilitated by Dvora Entin, LCSW, PMH-C, a renowned perinatal and reproductive mental health specialist.”
Postpartum depression is another issue for which shluchos are often called upon within their communities. A study conducted by the Journal of Depression and Anxiety, “The Lived Experience of Postpartum Depression in Orthodox Jewish Women,” found that many Orthodox women “reported feeling a stigma attached to postpartum depression and insufficient awareness in Orthodox Jewish communities.”
The shluchos convention is held annually to coincide with the anniversary of the death of the late Lubavitcher rebbe’s wife, Chaya Mushka Schneerson, on the 7th day of Shevat. As the Chabad community continues to grow, so does the shluchos gathering, with last year’s week-long event drawing a record 4,000 participants — only about a thousand less than its male counterpart. Last year’s focus was on the war in Ukraine, featuring talks led by Chabad emissaries from the war-torn region. This year’s theme, in the wake of Oct. 7 and the war in Israel, is “increasing light to illuminate the darkness.”
The weekend culminates with a large-scale, grand banquet on Sunday evening at the New Jersey Conference and Expo Center, in Edison, N.J. And, of course, it wouldn’t be an international Chabad conference without a photo of all the women emissaries in front of 770.