The Four Emissaries
By Orly Harrari
Arutz 7 – 29/3/2018
As part of a new initiative, four diaspora communities who view themselves as Jewish will have a Passover Seder with Israelis. “They want to be part of Judaism”
Around the world there are many communities which view themselves as Jewish, even if they are not halakhically [according to Jewish law] defined as such.
Towards the holiday of Pesach, emissaries from the Ohr Torah Stone network are going to four of these communities, as part of a new initiative called “Ohr Torah Nidchei Yisrael.”
Many of the communities which will host this initiative this Pesach for the first time are located in remote places which are not often visited, making the trip all the more challenging for the shlichim.
Among the communities are: the Jayapura community in Indonesia, Bnei Efraim in Andhra Pradesh, India; Bnei Anusim in Italy and the Avyuda community in Putti, Uganda. The shlichim have already set out to these communities over the past few weeks in order to prepare for the holiday and kasher as necessary. They also baked matzah with the community members and studied with them about the holiday, in order to be ready for Seder night.
Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, director of OTS’s Straus-Amiel Practical Rabbinics Program has earned the nickname “Rav Olami” – “the Worldwide Rabbi” – because of his many journeys to Jewish communities across the world. At the beginning of this week he travelled to the Lamba tribe in Zimbabwe, bearing matzah and wine from Israel, to prepare with them for Pesach. “Most of the communities have a clear historic tie to the Jewish people, but they are not halakhically Jewish,” Birnbaum explains. “The members of the community wish to be connected to Judaism. Uganda, Indonesia, India and Zimbabwe are the first, and our emissaries are the first-responders – even if it is a short shlichut.
“We hope that for the coming holidays we’ll be able to send shlichim to additional communities; people who will teach and help the community prepare for the holidays, providing each community with what they need.”
The Bnei Efraim community in India see themselves as the descendants of the tribe of Efraim. Members of the community are spread out among small villages, but will gather together for a communal Seder led by Noam Frimer of Jerusalem, one of the shlichim from “Ohr Torah Nidchei Yisrael,” who landed in India last night.
“The idea that they have a Jewish tradition is amazing and moving,” Frimer explains. “Their names testify to the fact that historically, hundreds of years ago, they were Jews somehow. It is my role to come and give them whatever I can of Judaism. Tomorrow we will meet the people, we’ll kasher the kitchen and we’ll start getting ready to host a Seder for a hundred people for the first time.”
Rabbi Birnbaum concludes, “We have the zechut – the privilege – to help communities throughout the world who have been cut off from the Jewish people and are interested in coming back, and we have the ability to give them the feeling that Am Yisrael is with them, to guide and assist them.”