Rabbinical Emissary Program to Diaspora Celebrates 20 Years of Work
The program, an initiative of the Ohr Torah Stone network of institutions, began in 1999 with the goal of providing Jewish communities in the Diaspora with rabbis and teachers to bolster Jewish life.
By Jeremy Sharon | May 15, 2019
Some 90 Jewish communities across six continents will participate in the celebration of the 20th anniversary of an emissary program for rabbis and educators this Shabbat, which has sent hundreds of graduates from Israel around the world to strengthen Jewish communities.
The program, an initiative of the Ohr Torah Stone network of institutions, was established in 1999 under the leadership of Ohr Torah Stone founder and then-chancellor Rabbi Shlomo Riskin with the goal of providing Jewish communities in the Diaspora with rabbis and teachers to bolster Jewish life wherever such people were needed.The project has seen more than 1,000 emissaries serve in communal positions in the Diaspora, while there are currently 180 couples serving in different positions around the world including the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
“Ohr Torah Stone’s Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel programs were created 20 years ago to serve as a bridge between Israel and the Diaspora communities, and this Shabbat we celebrate the integral role that these programs have played in bringing the Israel-Diaspora relationship closer on a grassroots level,” said president and rosh yeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander.
“We’re very proud of our emissaries and the critical role they have played in building and helping to sustain communities in the Diaspora,” he continued, noting that 90% of these emissaries continue to serve in positions of Jewish communal service in Israel upon their return.
Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum, the director of the Straus Amiel Institute for training rabbis and educators, said that the emissaries typically go to nominally Orthodox communities which are not particularly observant.
He said that the emissaries play a critical role in “reaching out to every single Jew” in the most far flung places around the world “physically and spiritually,” and ensure that “we don’t give up on even one Jew.”
The 20th anniversary celebrations this Shabbat will take place in more than 90 communities, approximately half of which are in Israel and half in the Diaspora.
Many former emissaries will take part in the event, delivering lectures and lessons with an emphasis on the theme of Israel-Diaspora relations, while communal Shabbat meals will also be a part of the proceedings.
“Jews in Israel don’t always understand the situation of Jews in Diaspora, so we want to focus on what these challenges are and we deal with them,” said Birnbaum.