OTS-trained rabbis and educators currently serving communities in the Diaspora have temporarily traded in their ‘shlichlut‘ to the world for emergency ‘shlichut’ in Israel, returning home to join their comrades in Gaza.
It is common for graduates of OTS’s Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel emissary programs serving as rabbis and educators in Jewish communities overseas to return to spend their summer holidays back in Israel, reconnecting with their families, their friends, and their homeland. This summer, many returned home to Israel on vacation – only to find themselves in receipt of a “Tzav 8″ emergency call-up notice, in light of Operation Protective Edge. These emissaries have made the natural, albeit unexpected, transition from work serving and leading their people abroad to serving and protecting their people in Israel.
Rabbi Moshe Bloom, a Straus-Amiel emissary one year into his service as a rabbi and rosh kollel in Warsaw, Poland, brought his family back to Israel in July for what was supposed to be a four-week visit. But days after his arrival, he was summoned by the IDF to war, and as a reserve commander, he immediately joined his soldiers and reported to Gaza.
“While I’m disappointed not to be spending my time in Israel as I had planned, I am very happy that I’m here,” says Rabbi Bloom. “If I were in Warsaw, my heart would be torn between continuing to lead my community and returning to lead my soldiers. My trip home for the summer provided the solution to this dilemma. I was supposed to return to Poland a week ago, but with the support and encouragement of the Warsaw community, I have decided to remain in Israel until the completion of Operation Protective Edge.”
Bloom adds that his wife, a graduate of OTS’s Claudia Cohen Women Educators Program, stands at the core of this shlichut. “We have no home here,” he notes. “Chava is going back and forth between our parents’ homes. She is my source of inspiration and strength.”
Beren-Amiel emissary Shimon Weiss, currently teaching in Toronto’s CHAT school, was also enlisted while visiting family in Israel over summer break. “I came to Israel to visit my home and my family, and three days into my trip I was called up,” Weiss reports. “I serve in an elite unit so despite my work overseas, I had asked to be contacted for enlistment if and when necessary,” he says. “When I received the summons, there was no question in my mind. With the complete agreement of my wife, I reported to duty.”
According to Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein, director of the training and placement components of both Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel, “Our emissary programs are based on the firm belief that in order to ensure the future of the Jewish people, both physically and spiritually, we must invest in the development and enrichment of Jewish life on the spiritual, philosophical, emotional, and experiential planes. It moves us and makes us proud to see that our alumni demonstrate true Jewish faith through their actions and carry the burden of the Jewish people and its destiny wherever they may be.”
These young men who have returned to protect their homeland and their people are part of a large network of OTS program participants, staff, and alumni deeply engaged in the defense of the Jewish people in its homeland.
Several OTS program directors and faculty members are serving on the front lines; Yachad Jewish Cultural Facilitators are leading innovative programming which is raising morale, supporting the troops and encouraging national unity. Soldiers from the Hadas – the Claudia Cohen Torah/Army School, recognized for their deep sense of commitment to IDF service, have also reported for emergency duty in the Intelligence Corps and Air Force, as students still in the study portion of the program have been sent by the Ministry of Defense to assist Home Front Command Troops in southern Israel.
Even OTS high school students have given up some of their summer vacation to package parcels for soldiers and embattled residents of the south or entertain children in the bomb shelters.
It is with this unified sense of purpose and commitment to the Jewish people that Ohr Torah Stone enters Tisha B’av, praying for an end to destruction and for security, safety, and unity of the Jewish people in its homeland.