For the first time in Israel: Training for the parents of shlichim as well
After 20 years of training shlichim to serve in Jewish communities in the Diaspora, Ohr Torah’s Straus-Amiel institute decided that the time has come for the parents of emissaries to get involved too
Arutz 7 | 3 February 2019
(Translated from Hebrew)
Many parents of children who have decided to embark upon shlichut feel anxious and concerned. The duration of the shlichut, be it one year or four, isn’t necessarily the main factor affecting the pressure and anxiety that come with separation. In order to give an outlet to these concerns and give guidance both to the parents as well as to the future shlichim as how to deal with their new reality, Ohr Torah Stone’s Straus-Amiel program decided to expand the training program for shlichim in the Diaspora to include the emissaries’ parents as well.
Last night 50 emissaries-to-be, all of whom are students in Ohr Torah Stone’s various emissary-training programs, convened with their parents for a special seminar. This is the first time since the inception of the emissary program twenty years ago that parents of students are invited to get to know the world of Diaspora Jewry and get insight into the need for educator and rabbi emissaries abroad and the sacred mission their children and grandchildren will soon embark upon for the benefit of the Jewish People.
Dr. Dov Maimon, a senior fellow at the JPPI, spoke with the emissaries in training and their parents and gave a survey of the current challenges of the Jewish world, and briefly presented the worrying figures concerning assimilation – all of which reinforce the need for a strong Jewish identity in Jewish communities around the world. Later on in the day Dr Shlomo Yishai gave a presentation on interpersonal relationships: “A Rabbi or Rabbanit as well as educators have immeasurable influence when they have the capacity to understand and accept all the people with whom they engage.”
The highlight of the day was a Q+A panel moderated by Rabbanit Renana Birnbaum, director of the Claudia Cohen Women Educators Institute, joined by members of the Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel institutes’ staff: Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, Rabbi Yehoshua Greenstein, Rabbi Dani Appel and Rabbi Benji Meyers. The parents were given the opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions about he learning program, for example: how does one keep in touch with shlichim and assist them before their departure, during their shlichut and upon their return; how does the family cope with different challenges that present themselves and how does the local environment affect the upbringing of the children (their grandchildren).
“Shlichut is not just an individual experience,” Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, director of the Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel institutes told the parents after a joint discussion. “Shlichut is a family experience, not only of the family on shlichut, but also of the family left behind in Israel. In fact, we are all one united family, where all members provide mutual support and all those involved, directly or indirectly, are on a mission for the Jewish People. This is the reason we are convening here today – to consolidate the private as well as the collective family system.”
Eliran Shabo, a student in Straus-Amiel program as well as OTS’s Torat Yosef kollel for training diaspora rabbis summed up the joint meeting with his parents: “My mother had a myriad of questions, but she came out with an altogether different feeling. This is how she put it – ‘I don’t want you to go, but the truth of the matter is that it’s important and it will build your character.'”
Moshe and Yaffa Alsheikh, parents of Noam and Hadas Alsheikh, said at the closing of the event: “The encounter prepared the shlichim-to-be and their parents in that it gave a true and sincere description of the reality that awaits the emissaries. With the help of the Almighty we will continue to bring Jews closer to Torah and Judaism.”
Dorit, the mother of one of the students, added: “I was very impressed to learn about the variety of areas of study you touch upon and the scope of the materials you teach. And it was calming to hear about the guidance you provide to the emissaries before and during the shlichut.”
Rabbanit Renana Birnbaum summed up the day as follows: “The parents a sense of belonging rather than being mere onlookers. They now feel motivated to support and assist their children.”