How many emissaries are there, and who is the youngest of all?
All the statistics about the emissaries exposed: how old is the youngest, and how many languages to they speak? All of the surprising details.
Guy Ezra, Srugim News – 28 September, 2018 (Translated from Hebrew)
The new OTS emissaries, graduates of Straus-Amiel, Beren-Amiel, and the Claudia Cohen women educator institute, have already marked Rosh Hashana with their adoptive communities throughout the Diaspora and, as the Tishrei holidays draw to a close, the emissaries’ initiation stage is also coming to a conclusion. The new emissaries have joined a wider circle of emissaries already in the field, which continues to grow. For the first time – in honor of Straus-Amiel’s 20th year this year – the program is taking a look at its emissary work by the numbers.
45 families went out this year, which included 21 couples and 29 children – the youngest of which being just one month old as he joined his parents and four siblings on shlichut to Bala Cynwyd, PA. These families went out to 23 communities, joining 162 families already serving as OTS emissaries.
Each year, approximately 30 additional couples go out as new emissaries. Over the years, 473 families (and many other singles) have undergone one of the OTS emissary training programs and, in total, have contributed a total of 3,357 years of emissary work in 140 Jewish communities which are scattered throughout 32 countries in six of the world’s continents.
Average duration of the emissaries’ tours are 4-5 years, after which the families return to Israel, with the overwhelming majority continuing to work in fields of rabbinical and educational leadership. About 22% of the emissaries return to the Diaspora for another stint of shlichut.
The emissaries must speak the local language and therefore, all together, are fluent in 24 languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Russian, Polish, Italian, Turkish, Yiddish, Arabic, Romanian, Dutch, Amharic, Chinese, Greek, Ukranian, Persian, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Flemish, Finnish, English and Hebrew.
98% of the emissaries are placed in mixed communities of religious, secular and traditional Jews, presenting a difficult challenge of building and strengthening the community, and requires intense preparation. Before going out into the field, OTS emissaries undergo training of more than 400 hours. When they arrive at their destinations, they fill tens of different positions within their communities, in accordance with the communities’ needs, including community rabbis, teachers, principals, Bnei Akiva shlichim, campus leaders, youth coordinators, administrative directors, informal educators, youth rabbis, kindergarten teachers and more.
Evyatar and Rachel Hacohen, who went out as emissaries to Palo Alto, CA a few months ago with their son and daughter: “The emissary training program provided us with broad, in-depth and precise understanding of the Jewish world, and exposed us to the potential challenges that we may encounter during the course of our shlichut. In addition, the staff supported, accompanied and continues to accompany us from the time of finding the right position and until we return to Israel. They succeeded in forming a tight-knit family unit of dedicated emissaries who support one another and we hope to continue witnessing this throughout our years abroad.”
Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, founding director of OTS’s Straus-Amiel and Beren-Amiel training programs, says: “The emissaries work all over the Jewish world out of a sense of devotion based on the principle that we have a responsibility to the Jewish people. It doesn’t matter if the community is large or small, if it’s in central New York or in the forests of Indonesia, each Jewish community receives our attention; that is our mission. I wish for all of us a happy New Year and hope that we will be able to continue this important activity on behalf of all of klal Yisrael, in Israel and throughout the Diaspora.”