A green cherry picker raises a worker high into the air to adjust a giant speaker. Below him, the massive space that once was the drill hall of the Troop C Cavalry Unit hums with activity, workers rushing to and fro preparing for the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries (Kinus Hashluchim), which runs from Nov. 4 to Nov. 9.
While the gathering’s Sunday-night gala banquet long ago outgrew New York’s many hotel spaces—the banquet holds the distinction of hosting the city’s largest sit-down dinner, causing organizers to create a posh social hall each year now out of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal—the rest of the Kinus programming has also burgeoned dramatically as well.
In the past, these sessions have taken place in various settings in Brooklyn, most recently at the Marriot Hotel. This year, organizers decided to take over the Bedford-Union Armory in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. While the armory is certainly spacious (the 138,000-square-foot building sits on 2.8 acres), it has few of the conveniences and amenities of a full-service hotel.
The end result is that Kinus organizers are building their very own temporary conference hall, literally from scratch.
The 108-year-old Art Nouveau building’s hangar-like central space is still surrounded by rows of bleacher seats, used years ago by spectators during training exercises and formal presentations. Four white tents have been erected in the corners of the main hall—each one to be used as a conference room and set up with lighting, a stage, and, of course, wiring for microphones and other electronics.
Add to that tables, chairs, carpeting, Internet, even a kitchen.
Yes, a huge kosher kitchen.
The concrete floor, drab interior grays and steel beams have seamlessly melted away as the venue is converted into an elegant spaced where workshops, classes, lectures, meals, learning and more will take place for some 5,200 Chabademissaries and guests from around the world.
By Friday night, the room will be transformed into an enormous dining room forShabbat with tables dressed in linens and dishes. Challah, gefilte fish and all kinds of festive foods will be set down in front of expectant diners, who will fill the room with joyful l’chaims and exuberant song. Once Shabbat is over, another round of sessions, videos, presentations and speeches will begin in full force on Saturday night.
It’s a dizzying amount of work—mind-boggling, really—an effort almost a year in the planning. And when it all begins in a matter of hours now, it will somehow seem effortless.