A spiritual first response squad
Ohr Torah Stone bids bon voyage to 45 new emissaries at Knesset Ceremony.
Netanel Liker was supposed to go out to shlichut (work as an emissary) with his family in a few weeks, but was seriously injured in an accident while responding to a security incident as a member of the Kiryat Arba rapid response team.
Recently, in the presence of Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan (Jewish Home) and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder and Chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone, a ceremony was held at the Knesset bidding bon voyage to the organization’s 45 outgoing emissaries, graduates of its Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel programs training rabbis and educators to serve as emissaries to Diaspora communities.
The “Birkat Haderech” bon voyage ceremony was held at Israel’s Knesset bidding a safe and fruitful journey to the organization’s 45 outgoing emissaries, graduates of the Ohr Torah Stone network’s Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel programs training rabbis and educators to serve as emissaries in Diaspora communities.
The graduates, including 21 couples, are joining hundreds of Ohr Torah Stone emissary families already impacting on pulpits, campuses, schools and individuals in six of the world’s seven continents.
The ceremony focused on three pillars of the State of Israel: security, education and Diaspora affairs. Participating in the ceremony were Rabbi Ben Dahan, Rabbi Riskin, Diaspora Affairs Ministry Director General Dvir Kahana, World Zionist Organization Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora Head Yehiel Wasserman, Ohr Torah Stone Director General Yinon Ahiman, Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel programs director Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, indefatigable staff, and excited families.
Netanel Liker’s presence was sorely missed: A member of the Kiryat Arba rapid response team who was seriously injured in an accident on his way to responding to a security incident, Netanel was scheduled to travel with his wife Tohar and their two children to Canada, where they were set to serve as emissaries. Liker’s father accepted his graduation certificate on his behalf and also brought a letter written by himself and his wife, Liker’s mother, which was read aloud for the outgoing emissaries:
“We would have been happy to be at this ceremony with our son, Netanel Liker, also present and standing here alongside his wife. But as you know, God had other plans. And yet, we wanted to share a few words with you, our dear families embarking upon shlichut. Our son Netanel joined the Kiryat Arba rapid response team. The rapid response team consists of people who are available 24/7, who are always willing to sacrifice of their time and their selves; people who give up their peace and quiet for the sake of others. In other words, a rapid response team is a group of people who care. Who care so much that they cannot stand by in times of trouble.
“There is another type of response team: a spiritual response team. In this squad are are people who are willing to deal with new challenges that people who feel the pain and sorrow of Am Yisrael which sometimes does not understand its own plight; people who give up having Pesach Seder with their parents in Israel, who sacrifice being near grandparents who can watch over and spoil their children. People who remove their children from their world and go to distant and sometimes remote places, with a new language, a new culture and new friends. And each and every one of you volunteered to serve on this response squad.”
The Likers added, “Your decision to respond to the call of our people in the Diaspora is a fateful choice in life. We salute you and stand here proudly knowing that you have decided to join this squad. We pray that you, beloved children, merit to sanctify the name of God everywhere you go and with each and every person with whom you come into contact. May you go out in peace and may you return in peace, and may the pleasantness of God be upon you always.”
Speaking at the event, Ben Dahan said, “Today’s emissaries are sacrificing their lives, together with their families, in order to tend to the Jewish people in every corner of the world.”
Education and Diaspora Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) sent a letter of congratulations to the shlichim in which he wrote: “Over the past 20 years, the influence on the individuals and families of the emissaries from Ohr Torah Stone’s Straus-Amiel institute is visible in the field. The way to the hearts of these Jews is through a powerful education, an education provided by rabbis and educators who lead their communities and bring them closer, who emphasize all the beautiful aspects of our heritage and the State of Israel. We are overjoyed that you have been privileged to serve in these important roles of leadership and responsibility, and we are fortunate that Israel has merited to have representatives such as yourselves.”
“After 2,000 years of persecution and killing, we have been privileged to be the generation of rebirth and witness the first flowerings of our redemption. Not to believe that, one would have to be blind because in each step we take we see miracles,” Rabbi Riskin said. “If, when I was young, America was the state of promise for the future, today I believe it is the State of Israel. The importance of emissaries is a matter of pikuach nefesh (saving lives), so when you speak and teach, pass on this message to the Jews of the Diaspora. This is the true Torah; a Torah of content, of ideals and vision and a proof of the presence of God throughout history and especially in our generation. Only emissaries like you will be able to do it. “
Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Straus-Amiel and Beren-Amiel emissary training programs, said: “The approach that there is supposedly nothing more we can do for the Jewish people weakens the entire nation. We are going to communities far away geographically and spiritually from Jewish identity, out of a belief that we can bring each Jew closer. We do not go out alone; we go out on shlichut as emissaries of the State of Israel and the leaders of Am Yisrael (the nation of Israel – ed.), out of a sense of responsibility to build and strengthen Jewish existence in each and every location.”
Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein, Director of Training and Placement for Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel, said, “Zionism means taking responsibility for the Jewish people, whether they be in Israel or any other place in the world, to ensure that their Jewish identity remains steadfast and eventually becomes stronger. We are pleased that this message is recognized by the Knesset as they host our graduation ceremony and we send out well-trained, dedicated husband-wife teams to serve the Jewish people across the globe and fulfill the prophesy, ‘From Zion Torah shall be spread, and the word of God from Jerusalem.'”
Kahana concluded, “There is a thirst, a desire and a need awakened by the right educator, when he or she finds the way to reach people and connect them, with tremendous energy, to the inner circle of Jewish communities around the world. You are the commanders in the field, who meet the audience, the people. If we do not inspire the people who already possess a world of content, understanding and significant connection to the Land of Israel, then we will have no way of reaching those with less affiliation. You are embarking on a difficult task and taking tremendous sacrifice on your shoulders, and I wish you the strength to remain for many meaningful years in this centrally important task facing our generation.”