“It was inspiring to see a community with no water or electricity steadfastly seeking to keep Shabbat and Kashrut”
Ohr Torah Stone emissaries who returned from around the world after several years of service discussed the challenges and adjustments at a recent reunion
Srugim News | 27 November, 2019
Ohr Torah Stone held an evening of appreciation this week in Jerusalem to honor the 19 families who recently returned home to Israel after many years of service as emissaries of the Straus-Amiel and Beren-Amiel programs all over the world.
During the evening held at the Malka restaurant, the emissaries spoke of the distinct characteristics that made their shlichut so special, and of the challenges they faced as part of their work in the Diaspora. They discussed the conclusions they reached from their time in Jewish communities and ways of strengthening the connection with Diaspora Jewry.
Rabbi Yehuda Peles, who recently returned after two years as rabbi of the Mizrachi community in Manchester, UK: “It is very important to ensure continuity so that the communities can thrive. The moment we heard that new emissaries had been picked to replace us was very important to us, but also to the entire community who were all very excited by this news. More than anything, this proves the importance of our shlichut and the important role that the emissaries play in the communities.”
Another speaker was Avigail Salas, whose husband Rabbi Elisha served as the OTS Rabbi in Belmonte, Portugal. She spoke about the challenges, along with the deep Jewish spirit she encountered during her time in Central America. “We arrived in Belmonte and found that the community lacks the most basic amenities of water and electricity. Despite this and all the other difficulties they encounter, they did not give up and insisted on observing Shabbat and Kashrut. We were very inspired by these people and their devotion.”
Rabbi Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone thanked the returning shlichim and emphasized that Ohr Torah Stone has made it a priority to help the them readjust to life in Israel. “A big thank you to each of you for all the amazing work you are doing for the Jewish people,” he said. “As a new immigrant myself, I can tell you that all what you learned during your time as emissaries in the Diaspora is very important, and will help you continue serving as an emissary here in Israel.”
Ohr Torah Stone reports that on their return to Israel, many of the returning emissaries continue their work in education and other aspects of serving the public in Israel. Among the positions held by returning emissaries are the director of International Affairs at the Herzog Academic College, student coordinator at the OU Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) in Givat Shmuel, people who work in the therapeutic field as psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists as well as teachers, educators and community rabbis. Some of the returning emissaries have even began working in the various Ohr Torah Stone emissary training and placement programs.
Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, director of Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel, summed up the evening: “We welcome back and salute our emissaries on their return to Israel after having completed a very important service for the Jewish people. We are certain that they will continue to strengthen the Jewish people here in Israel as well.”