Despite Covid-19: Emissaries Continue their Missions to Jewish Communities throughout the World
The new emissaries will soon depart for many countries to promote Jewish values and help Jewish communities throughout the world weather this crisis.
by Orly Harrari | July 15, 2020
Yesterday, a graduation ceremony was held for twenty-eight new emissaries from Ohr Torah Stone’s Beren-Amiel, Straus-Amiel and Claudia Cohen Women Educator Institutes for the training of emissaries for the diaspora. Graduates have been assigned to various countries throughout Europe, Africa, and North and South America, where they will soon take up positions in Athens, Barcelona, Rosario, Washington, Bogota, Nairobi and other cities. Their role is to integrate into the communities and become pivotal in connecting Diaspora Jewry with Jewish values, halacha, Torah, and the Jewish people.
Covid-19’s spread throughout the world has made these missions more complex, testing the emissaries’ spirit. Some of them will arrive in countries in complete lockdown where the virus is uncontrolled, making it harder to meet with the community. Nevertheless, veteran Straus-Amiel emissaries – most of whom have remained in the countries they were assigned to despite the pandemic – emphasize that the challenging situation has increased the importance of their role of helping Diaspora communities cope with the many tasks and difficulties they face. These include the many halachic challenges this pandemic has raised.
“It is especially during this period of Covid-19 that we want to be with Diaspora Jewry, so that we can get through these times together. I’m privileged to have the opportunity to fulfill my duty to my brothers and sisters in the Diaspora,” said Avital Kasovich, who represented the female graduates of the Claudia Cohen Women Educator Institute and is slated to begin working in Kenya and Nigeria. Eliran Shebo, who represented male graduates of the Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel training programs and will be posted to Greece, said, “We learned from the Institute’s staff and from the emissaries already in the field that the task we are facing is not an easy one. We will most likely encounter unexpected events and face challenges we have never confronted. However, the comprehensive training we received along with the close support of the Straus-Amiel Institute rabbis will help us overcome these challenges.”
In light of the virus’ spread in Israel and in line with Ministry of Health regulations, most graduates participated in the ceremony through Zoom. Jewish Agency Chairman, Isaac Hertzog, congratulated the graduates, saying: “You are embarking on a new path, crossing the sea and creating a reality far from your home and roots. Your decision to give your time, efforts, ideas, and skills to the Jewish people is inspiring. Yours is a great privilege and I have no doubt that the tools you acquired at the Straus-Amiel Institute will enable to you make the most of your talents.”
Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum, director of the Straus-Amiel emissary training program, congratulated the graduates who will be joining Ohr Torah Stone’s 300-odd emissaries who are currently serving throughout the world. “We have journeyed all through the school year, virtually visiting Jewish communities, studying halachic issues, and weighing dilemmas, but the real journey is only just beginning. The journey is the mission to the Jewish people in the field. The journey is about going forward, leaving our comfort zones and moving ever closer to the Jewish nation and its communities,” he said.
Rabbi Kenneth Brander, president and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, also congratulated the graduates before they embark on their challenging missions abroad. “The Mas’ei weekly Torah portion describes the People of Israel’s journeys in the desert. There are 42 journeys towards the Land of Israel and 6 journeys in which they turned back. It is those journeys in which they turned back, the mistakes, which helped them to grow and succeed later on. Being an emissary means embarking on a long journey, with many highs and lows. I am certain that if necessary, you will know how to turn back, make corrections, grow from them, and improve as the journey continues.”