Monday, August 15th | 18 Av 5782

June 8, 2022 10:45 am

The DNA of a Rabbinical Emissary

avatar by Nir and Andy Koren


A general view shows the plaza of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, amid the coronavirus pandemic, May 6, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

Nations, just like individuals, possess a certain genetic makeup that defines their behavior, growth, and progress. For the nation of Israel (i.e., the Jewish people), and for the state of Israel, that genetic progress has developed over the past 74 years on two separate, yet often co-existent tracks.

On one track are those Jews who live within the borders of the state. The second, Diasporatic track, is composed of the millions of Jews who live spread out over the four corners of the earth.

As we approach 75 years of an independent Jewish state, we know that both tracks remain critical for our national existence. Yet  we also must acknowledge the growing concern that Jews in the Diaspora are feeling left behind.

The Diaspora community, as proud, diverse, and vibrant as it is, has been forced to contend with a desire to maintain Jewish pride and communal infrastructures, while at the same time facing external challenges. These might be more innocent challenges, like the attractions of local culture or friends and acquaintances of other faiths, or more physical threats, like antisemitic violence and hate.

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The biggest threat we face, however, is the decrease in our proud Jewish identities and communal strength, which over time would detach us from our generational and ancient roots.

Responding to these challenges requires creative thinking and a willingness for local leaders to adopt new approaches based on principles of Jewish ethics and tradition.

It is specifically here that the role of the rabbinic emissary becomes all that much more important.

In some ways, we see in ourselves the same DNA as our Jewish patriarch and matriarch, Abraham and Sarah. Like Abraham, we open the “four corners” of our metaphorical tents to welcome all who seek us out. And like Sarah, we run towards that tent to provide food and sustenance (both physical and spiritual). We fight like a lioness to protect our own young by giving them safety, a good education, and exposure to the richness of our traditions.

Being emissaries requires a distinct humility; as much as we want to build communities and change the world, we need to remember our place and our role. We need to remember that the real and lasting change that we have been dispatched to carry out requires that we first take small steps. Just like the Jewish nation, we came from the most humble of origins, and we must practice that humility with every project we embark on.

Our fellow emissaries are spread out around the world, and the needs and challenges in each community are great. Yet, the common bond and inspiration that motivates us each and every day — the DNA that runs through every shaliach — is that every Jew deserves our investment of time and effort, because wherever we are, however we look, and indeed however we practice our Judaism, we are the Jewish people.

We are willing to reach one person at a time — whatever it takes. And we urge you to do the same.

Rabbi Nir and Andy Koren, the rabbinical couple of the Jewish community of Quito, Ecuador, are graduates of Ohr Torah Stone’s Straus-Amiel Emissary Training Program.

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