(PHOTOS IN EXTENDED ARTICLE)
About sixty members of the Zevulun Conference participated in the annual conference that took place this year in Baku, capital city to the country of Azerbaijan, which is situated between Russia and Iran. The conference was attended by the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berl Lazar, as well as many friends and supporters of Rabbis and Shluchim throughout Russia. The Guest of Honor was Chassidic philanthropist and President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the FSU, Reb Levi Leviev.
The four days of the conference were spiritually uplifting for the businessmen who are usually busy with their work and business. Here they were able to fully focus on the Torah and Chassidus classes, davening with minyanim, farbrengens and a symposium with Rabbi Lazar, while free from their day-to-day worries. There were also workshops on business topics led by professionals who were flown in from abroad.
While the organizers took care of the five-star hospitality, the participants were able to fully relax and enjoy the true taste of Torah and Chassidus that were offered by the many Rabbis and Shluchim present.
One of the highlights of the event was a visit to the huge Ohr Avner Educational Campus in the center of Baku, home to hundreds of students in the preschools, elementary and high schools. It is under the leadership of the Head Shliach to Azerbaijan, Rabbi Shneur Segal, together with Shluchim Rabbi Matisyahu Lewis and Rabbi Aryeh Lipsker.
At the welcome reception which was held in the main hall of the school, participants heard the story of one of the local families who, thanks to the education their children have received at Ohr Avner, the entire family has become observant. Their Muslim father takes care to help his children celebrate their bar mitzvahs and keep Shabbos according to halacha. The businessmen could see how the investments of Reb Levi Leviev have born fruit, as he is a living example of one who truly knows what is worth investing in.
The aliyos and other mitzvos at the Torah reading on Shabbos were sold by Rabbi Lazar to sponsors for their pledges to regularly put on Tefilin, participate in Torah classes and the like. The larger the pledge, the greater the honor.
The conference ended in the historical city of Kuba, about two hours away from Baku. There the District Governor, along with the local shliach Rabbi Yonah Yaakobi met the participants with great excitement and escorted them to the Jewish neighborhood of Krasnaya Sloboda along the banks of the Gudiel-Chai river.
Photos by JDN