On the sidelines of the recent Conference of Shluchim, a group of individuals gathered recent to discuss an issue close to their hearts: The ongoing efforts to preserve and share the Rebbe’s recorded legacy.
The invitation-only breakfast organized by JEM was billed as “not a fundraiser, but a cutting-edge briefing on the work to preserve the recordings of the Rebbe, and a showcase of upcoming releases and technologies.” Attended by a group of 65 of JEM’s top 100 supporters – both lay-people who help fund the work, and Shluchim who personally support, or who have introduced their own supporters, to the endeavor – the event was timed to enable Shluchim to attend without missing any Kinus sessions.
A number of specially-produced video presentations were screened at the event. The directors of JEM’s three main divisions gave the group behind-the-scenes updates on The Living Archive preservation project, the My Encounter with the Rebbe oral history project, and the production department – best-known for its flagship project, the Living Torah weekly video magazine.
A short film by Dekel Hamatian, Director of the Living Archive – the effort to preserve the audio, video and photos of the Rebbe’s lifetime, established by a grant from George and Pamela Rohr – brought the group along on a visit to two of the companies currently preserving the priceless videos of the Rebbe. Hamatian reported that the preservation of its video collection, which was dedicated by Benyomin Federman, is several months from completion.
Rabbi Yechiel Cagen, Director of the My Encounter with the Rebbe project, which records the testimony of individuals about their one-on-one interactions with the Rebbe, screened a “video scrapbook” of the project’s whirlwind year of interviews, alongside highlights of recent interviews. He also shared statistics of how many people on the project’s “must interview” list had been interviewed during 2011, and how many had, unfortunately, passed away without recording their testimonies.
The highlight of the presentation was a specially prepared video of not-yet-released clips of the Rebbe counseling people on personal matters such as infertility, Sholom Bayis, children with special needs, and business dilemmas – a series which JEM hopes to be able to release in the near future.
After the presentation, participants inspected a display of archival materials featuring each of the many original video, audio and photographic formats currently being preserved by The Living Archive, alongside a gallery of selected photos from the photo collection.
The annual meeting was inspired by Uri Laber, a member of JEM’s Board and an initiating force in all three areas of its work, based on the recognition that some of the world’s most important business is conducted “on the sidelines of Davos” – the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where “VIPs and Who’s-Who” gather to discuss matters of importance to them. Similarly, many of the Shluchim and supporters who gather for the Kinus have a personal interest in assuring the recordings of the Rebbe and the story of his lifetime are preserved and shared.
The group saluted the organization’s founder, Rabbi Hillel Dovid Krinsky, whose pioneering innovations – the live satellite broadcasts of the Rebbe’s Farbrengens – blazed the path for what JEM is today. JEM’s Director, Rabbi Elkanah Shmotkin, presented five upcoming projects which would harness today’s newest technologies to bring the recordings to new audiences and mediums. The group held a “non-binding vote” on which initiative to undertake first.
Shmotkin explained that while the event was considered ‘exclusive’ to donors, “the numbers don’t need to be huge. Obviously, this work is very costly, and we need to pursue the larger donations. But you don’t need to give tens of thousands to make a difference. The Shliach or member of Anash who gives a small monthly donation or the young entrepreneur who helps with, say, $360 per month, are no less important than the larger donors who are able to give tens of thousands per year.”
“Think about it,” he continued, “when even a small segment of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who enjoy JEM’s materials every week buys a video, donates, or volunteers to help, it adds up to a huge amount.”
“With so many projects ongoing, and the new ones that we’re trying to launch, we need all the support we can get. We hope to host many more people at next year’s breakfast – the doors are open for anyone to take part in this zchus of keeping the Rebbe’s image and voice part of our children’s daily reality.”