Ohr Torah Stone Holds European Emissaries Conference in Barcelona, Days After Spanish Recognition of Palestinian State

Conference discussing pressing issues facing European Jewry takes place at location of 1492 Jewish expulsion 

June 4th, 2024

WhatsApp Image 2024 06 04 at 12.25.43 e1717676406754Just days after the news that Spain is recognizing a Palestinian state, Ohr Torah Stone, a Modern Orthodox network of 32 educational and social institutions and programs, held a previously scheduled conference in Barcelona from 2-4 June to discuss pressing issues affecting European Jewry. Over 100 Rabbinical emissaries from countries around Europe and representatives from World Mizrachi and WZO among many different organizations took part.

The conference hosted by Ohr Torah Stone’s Straus-Amiel and Beren-Amiel Emissary Training Institutes which trains rabbis and educators to effectively strengthen Jewish identity and existence in communities across the Diaspora, comes as Jews are being persecuted in Europe and around the world while Israel is at war against Hamas. Just last week, The Deputy Prime Minister of Spain, Yolanda Diaz, said in a video “Palestine will be freed from the river to the sea“, a slogan which calls for the expulsion and destruction of the Jewish state. 

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Rabbi Brander at the Barcelona conference

“At a vulnerable moment for Jews in Europe, It’s more important than ever that we as the Jewish nation look beyond the borders of Israel and support Jews in the diaspora,” said Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone. “I am extremely proud that over 100 rabbinical and educational emissaries have gathered here in Barcelona, the site of Jewish expulsion in 1492, to deliver the message that Jews are not going anywhere, and we are proud to be Jewish and promote our tradition.  Just one week after Spain officially recognized the state of Palestine, the task of our highly talented emissaries who were trained in Israel to spread Jewish knowledge and pride in Jewish communities has never been more timely and relevant. Furthermore, we need to ensure the safety of all Jews around the world and their ability to practice their Judaism in public.”

The conference, attended by OTS emissaries serving in Germany, Poland, Scotland, Kenya, Italy, England, Sweden, France, Greece, Peru, Denmark, Spain, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Belgium, and Austria, addressed many topics with a focus on European Jewry post-October 7th. Sessions include “The State of European Communities During War and Peace,” “Interfaith Dialogue with The Muslim and Christian World in the Shadow of War,” and “Thoughts on the Current Challenges Facing the Rabbinate and Education in European Jewish Communities “. The last day of the conference consisted of sessions on Challenges in Jewish Law, The Digital Jewish World (AI), and various religious topics. 

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Rabbanit Dorit Kohn, fourth from left: “Much needed strength and best-practices”

“This past year has been an extremely challenging year to be a Jew in Europe,” said Dorit Kohn, a Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel emissary serving in Oslo. “Having this invaluable opportunity to meet our peers and share our attempts in increasing Jewish pride while being on the front-lines of fighting antisemitism on behalf of our communities, as well as hearing from leading educators and rabbis has provided us with much needed strength and best-practices to go back to our communities with renewed energy.”

“The conferences we hold every year create a sense of family among the emissaries,” said Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, founding director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel Emissary Training Programs. “Everyone comes together to learn, listen, and think about the future of the communities in Europe and then return to their communities with high spirits and new ideas.”

The World Organization of Synagogues, the Matanel Foundation, the Jewish National Fund, the Safra Foundation, the Conference of European Rabbis, and the Yael Foundation all had representatives at the conference. “I am delighted to speak at and be a participant at Ohr Torah Stone’s conference in Barcelona,” said Rabbi Danny Mirvis, Acting CEO of World Mizrachi. “Since October 7, there has been a reawakening of Jewish identity, with the scourges of anti-zionism and antisemitism leaving many Jews desperately looking for sources of reassurance and inspiration. The work of Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel is crucial in ensuring the continuity of a Judaism which is warm, welcoming and profoundly relevant to daily life.”

“We’re not going anywhere” – Rabbinical emissaries sing “Acheinu” and “Am Yisrael Chai” at an ancient, historic Jewish home next to the Rashba Synagogue in Barcelona

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