By Chaya Mushkah Slonim
Have you heard about the conference for girls, ages 8 to 14, who hail from six different continents and converge in New York for a few jam-packed days of learning and socializing in the midst of wintertime?
They’re all set to come this week to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., with their mothers, aunts, cousins and grandmothers, who will be attending the International Conference of Chabad Women Emissaries (Kinus Hashluchos) from Jan. 28th to Jan. 31st.
Less widely known is the parallel convention for younger set, where the budding young emissaries enjoy their own full schedule of activities, excursions, learning sessions, workshops and, perhaps most importantly, social time with friends, old and new.
The Kinus (Hebrew for “conference”) for Young Shluchos began in 1995 with 30 children in attendance. Each year, it has grown substantially; this year, nearly 800 girls and 200 staff members are expected to participate, with girls coming from as far as Cambodia, Thailand and Australia. The children anticipate this event for months in advance; for some, it represents an annual opportunity to share experiences with others whose lives mirror their own.
This year’s theme is to increase ahavat Yisrael and achdut Yisrael – a focus on love of the Jewish people, and on being kind and looking out for one another. As a continuation of the theme, each girl will pick a “buddy” this weekend to keep in touch with throughout the year.
And in the spirit of the Hakhel year, a highlight of the conference will be a children’s rally on Friday at the Ohel – the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory – in Queens, N.Y. It will be broadcasted live, uniting people from all over the world. Schools worldwide will join the webcast, as well as mothers and daughters who were unable make it to New York for this year’s convention.
Two New Initiatives in the Works
In addition to programs for the younger girls in Crown Heights, this year a special “Pioneer Program” for seventh- and eighth-graders was introduced, to be hosted by Chabad of Great Neck on Long Island, N.Y. It will feature special workshops and farbrengens geared to the preteens, many of whom have participated in the conference for as many as six years already.
Like Chava Freundlich from Beijing, China. “I am so excited for this weekend; I know it’s going to be so much fun! I feel special to be among the first to have this opportunity, and I can’t wait to spend Shabbat together with all of my friends,” she says.
Another new initiative this year is an exclusive program for Hebrew-speakers. While girls from Israel have been participating in the conference from the very beginning, this new development will allow them to converse in their mother tongue. According to organizers, it has already attracted more girls from across oceans to join the conference this year.