OTS Shlichim: Global Bonds Strengthened by Shared Commitment Amidst Crisis

Seventeen OTS emissary families navigate emergency IDF reserve service, inspiring unbreakable ties with their communities worldwide

“On October 7, we started hearing about what was happening in Israel,” relates Rabbi Omer Cohen who, along with his wife Renana and their three children is a Beren-Amiel Educational Emissary Institute shaliach at Brooklyn’s Barkai Yeshiva. “That night I was already on the first flight leaving JFK, and the very next day I was already on my base with my unit.”

In total, 17 emissaries from OTS’s Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel Rabbinical Emissary Institute were called back for emergency IDF reserves, leaving behind not only their new communities, but their families as well.

The emissary spouses faced the dual challenge of caring for children alone while also maintaining regular programming. But they were embraced by their communities with warmth and caring.

“Throughout the entire period I was away, my wife Tal continued to teach at the school and keep the students updated about the war and about Israel,” says Rabbi Daniel Levian, Beren-Amiel emissary to Hebrew Academy of Miami, FL. “Many students helped out by babysitting our children, bringing the family food, helping with cleaning and maintenance of the house, and trying to facilitate and provide support at school.” 

Strong bonds, mutual respect and love

When Levian returned to Miami on Chanukah, he was overwhelmed by the community’s warm response. “I came to surprise the students, and they were so excited,” he shares.

“Many of them had corresponded with me during the two months I was gone, asking questions and offering support, and our connection grew very close.  Then the video of my return to the school was distributed throughout the community, so there were people turning to me on the street just to say ‘thank you.'” 

Cohen describes his equally emotional homecoming to Brooklyn, where he was greeted with a heartwarming surprise orchestrated by the community.

 “I felt like the President,” he recalls, describing the scene outside the school where everyone had gathered with confetti, flags, and signs to cheer him on before breaking into circles of song and dance.

mishlachat from Barkai visiting Oren Cohen in the army 3
The Barkai community mission to Israel visited their shaliach, Rabbi Omer Cohen, on his IDF base, donated crucial military equipment and provided the troops with tremendous moral support, singing and dancing with the soldiers.

Similar celebrations unfolded worldwide as most of the 17 shlichim returned to their respective homes across North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia – underscoring the strong bonds, mutual respect and love between the emissaries and their students, congregants and communities.

“The connection is even deeper”

“When I first arrived in Israel and mobilized to the IDF, I sent videos to the high school students about what I was doing,” says Levian. “But when we entered Gaza I had to be without a phone, so I could only send messages on our few short exits.”

Cohen also exchanged regular videos and updates with community members from the reserves. When his community formed a mission to Israel, it was a given that they would visit him on base, where they donated crucial military equipment and provided the troops with tremendous moral support, singing and dancing with the soldiers.

“As emissaries, our usual role involves coordinating social activities and strengthening the community-Israel connection,” Cohen notes. “Now the connection is even deeper, showcasing the resilience and solidarity of Am Yisrael, and a stronger commitment to Eretz Yisrael.”

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