Photo Credit: courtesy, Chabad.or
Thousands of yeshiva students at "farbrengen" in Jerusalem's International Convention Center (Binyanei Ha'Uma).

In hundreds of towns and cities throughout Israel Monday night, Chabad communities gathered to celebrate the Yud-Tes Kislev, the 19th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev.

It’s known as the Chassidic New Year, and is celebrated with great joy among Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidim and many others as well.

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The date marks the day in 1798 that a Czarist commission acquitted and freed from imprisonment the first Chabad Rebbe – Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, known as the “Alter Rebbe” – on charges of subverting the government and aiding the Ottoman Empire. The date also marks the anniversary of the passing of the Alter Rebbe’s mentor, Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezerich, in 1772.

This year is also the Hakhel year, when in ancient times, Jewish men, women and children would gather in the Temple in Jerusalem to hear the reading of the Torah by the king of Israel once every seven years, following the year of Shemittah, the sabbatical year.

Israeli Jews gathered to sing, dance, join in a festive meal, speak words of Torah and Chassidic learning; “farbreng” – a Yiddish word meaning to gather and celebrate – in every community where Chabad exists.

In the northern Negev city of Arad, Mayor Nissan Ben Hamo was the honored guest at that community’s Yud Tes Kislev farbrengen, where Jews from every walk of life were seen. The mayor took the opportunity to add in his remarks a reminder to participants to attend the next day’s rally against the government plan to locate a phosphate mine near Arad, which the city’s residents vehemently oppose. Celebrants applauded the mayor’s passion for helping his city, and his clear appreciation for their heritage.

In Jerusalem, Yud Tes Kislev has become a three-day affair at the International Convention Center with a giant Chassidic book fair, farbrengens, classes and other activities. The main event will feature an address by Rabbi Yoel Kahn, revered expositor of many of the Torah teachings of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. There will also be a special session with Hebron-based Chassidic artist Baruch Nachson, whose renowned paintings are seen in collections and galleries worldwide.

Thousands of yeshiva students gathered Monday night to “farbreng” at the Center, where Chassidic vocalist Avraham Fried led the crowd in singing traditional “nigunim,” Chassidic melodies dating back decades and centuries. Another farbrengen with Fried, likely to be even larger, is scheduled for Tuesday night as the celebration continue. Tickets were sold out long ago and even scalpers do not exist for this one.

The Jews of Kharkov, Ukraine have the custom to travel to Haditch, the grave site of the Alter Rebbe, every year on this day. The group this year is being led by Rabbi Levi Raices, head of the city’s yeshiva high school, which makes the trip along with the wider community.

In Brooklyn, NY celebrations are being held in numerous neighborhoods, including one in the central Chabad neighborhood of Crown Heights, exclusively for women. At Yeshiva University in Manhattan, students are selling Chassidic books in advance of a farbrengen to be led by YU mentor Rabbi Moshe Weinberger and Chabad scholar and teacher Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.