While most Diaspora communities look to Israel to celebrate the holiday of Tu BiShvat and the coming Spring season, one program in Israel is looking to the Diaspora. With fruit baskets sent to the homes of the participants, the virtual program for the educators at an Israeli high school gives an opportunity to explore the beauty of the land of Israel through the eyes of those in the Diaspora.
“One of the main goals of the religious Zionist movement is to continue to develop and build the relationship between Jewish communities around the world, meeting them ‘where they are’ in true partnership and understanding,” said the coordinator of the program Rivky Yisraeli of Ohr Torah Stone’s Neveh Channah school.
“For years, the Jewish Diaspora communities have supported us in Israel; financially, politically, and morally. Today, more than ever, we have to show our support for them. Smaller communities are crumbling and suffering during this pandemic and we have to strengthen them, keep connected, support them. And to do that, we must understand them,” Yisraeli says.
This is not out of the blue. A group of teachers and students have been participating in a 10-part course about the Jewish diaspora taught by the Straus-Amiel Emissary program of Ohr Torah Stone. The program sends Modern Orthodox, Religious Zionist rabbis, and educators to serve in communal and educational leadership positions in Jewish communities around the world.
Among the topics introduced in the course were the challenges of the post-modern Jewish communities, the right of return, what types of communities are there and what religious streams, anti-Semitism, and religious challenges that the community has to deal with and Israel’s lost tribes.
“This type of program brings attention to our global Jewish family,” said Matan Milner, part of the emissary program on shlichut in Manchester, England with his wife Nini and family. “The feeling we often have is that the Jewish diaspora is thirsty for water, the water of Torah and of the Land of Israel and for a mutual connection with Israeli Jewry and values. Together with that, it’s important for the Israeli community to realize how much we can learn from our brothers and sisters around the world; about preserving Jewish character, and the thought and resources used to keep them strong. This program and the investment in learning about the Jewish communities around the world is important because we are family.”
“As educators, we have a responsibility to open up our students to the reality of just how large and diverse the Jewish world is,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone. “While Israel is the center of our spiritual and national existence, we need to deeply appreciate the place that Diaspora Jewry has in our peoplehood’s identity. This program is achieving that by directly sharing with our teachers and students the challenges and reality faced by Jews in other parts of the world and showing that wherever we are on the globe we remain one people.”