Rabbi Dr. Sharon Shalom – Ethiopian Rabbi and Scholar

Rabbi Dr. Sharon Shalom

Rabbi Dr. Sharon Shalom immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia on his own at the age of nine. He studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion – a Hesder Yeshiva in Alon Shvut – and has rabbinic ordination. He is also a graduate of “Rabbanut Yisraelit”, under the auspices of the Hartman Institute and Oranim College. Serves as a Captain in the IDF Reserves.

Dr. Shalom has a broad education in theology and philosophy. He is a graduate of “Beit Morasha” – a beit midrash and kollel in Jerusalem – and a graduate of Bar Ilan University’s Institute for Advanced Torah Studies, where he was in the Ph.D. student track. He has an M.A. from Bar Ilan University’s Talmud Department, while his final project dealt with the topic of “Circumcision in the Beta Israel Community”. He has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Bar Ilan University’s Department of Jewish Philosophy, while the topic of his doctoral dissertation was “Judaism of Fate – Theology and Religious Practice in the Beta Israel Community”.

He is a senior lecturer at Ono Academic College, teaches at Bar Ilan University, and serves as the Rabbi of the “Kdoshei Israel” community in Kiryat Gat.

In 2012, Dr. Shalom published his book – From Sinai to Ethiopia: the Halachic World and Ethiopian Jewish Thought, which includes “Shulchan Orot” – the halachic guide for the Beta Israel community. It was also translated into English. In addition, he is involved in writing a curriculum on the topic of Ethiopian Jewry and its culture for Jewish educational institutions in the United States.

David Z. Harris, Multimedia Journalist and Writer

David Harris is editor in chief of Clarion Project. He’s reported from countries around the Middle East and North Africa for some of the world’s leading media outlets. Harris began his journalistic career with the BBC, taking in Reuters, Xinhua, Deutsche Welle and others along the way and has managed teams of journalists around the world in the post 9/11 era with a focus on the MENA region.

He is a sought-after lecturer and makes frequent appearances in the electronic and written media as a guest analyst.

The Concentric Circles of an OTS Amiel BaKehila Community

During his TED talk at the Ohr Torah Stone’s Straus – Amiel Rabbinic conference in Zurich today, OTS Co-Chancellor Rabbi David Stav discussed what he sees as five circles of communities in every community:

  1. The scholars and most observant in the community
  2. Those who observe Torah and mitzvot
  3. The members of the community who don’t observe mitzvot and practice Judaism daily but come twice a year
  4. People who don’t observe commandments are disconnected from the community
  5. People who are not aware or interested that there is a community

Communities (and their leaders) must often choose which circle they focus on in their activities and in their decisions. This will affect community activities, programs and priorities.

OTS Amiel BaKehila is keenly aware of these concentric communities, and the different needs and demands they make on community leaders. To that end, we will strive to create programming that reaches as many different community circles as possible – using the incredible and diversely talented educators, artists and Israelis affecting change in the world today. Each visit of an OTS Amiel BaKehila delegation to a Jewish community will focus on the diverse needs of these different groups, offering each different group a connection to Israel, Jewish life and to the broader community.

A Very Exciting Day – Launching Amiel BaKehilla

In some small way, I feel like the biblical artist Bezalel, charged with building the Mishkan.

After descending from Har Sinai (for the second time, after Yom Kippur), Moshe Rabbeinu called Bezalel into his office and tasked him with building a Mishkan – an intricate, finely constructed building with very exacting detail and what must have been a huge amount of logistical details and hard work.

“Great. I’m the man for the job. When do you need it done?” Bezalel must have asked.

“We need it by the first of Nissan,” Moses told him.

I can only imagine what must have gone through Bezalel’s mind.

Six months? That’s impossible.

We need to design plans, procure materials, raise funds, coordinate volunteers, find talented artisans, assign tasks, in areas and fields as diverse as weaving and spinning to fine metallurgy and carpentry.

I am extremely excited to introduce Amiel BaKehilla, an innovative program which will enhance the connection of Jews around the world to their own community, to their heritage, and to Israel.

We don’t know what Bezalel actually said to Moses. But we do know that he got the job done, and within six months he led an expert team who built a House of God in the desert that brought blessing and the Divine presence to Klal Yisrael in the desert.

Here in Israel, for me these past few weeks have truly been a whirlwind.

We began building Amiel BaKehila with the stated goal of sending out of first teams of Community Educators, Israel-Engagers and Jewish Artists as soon as possible.

Today, less than two weeks after we opened our office, I am extremely excited to introduce Amiel BaKehilla, an innovative program which will enhance the connection of Jews around the world to their own community, to their heritage, and to Israel.

If you know of (or are a member of) a small or mid-sized community who would like to apply to become an Amiel BaKehila community,  contact me to learn more.

I would like to conclude this initial post by invoking the blessing that Moses gives the Jewish people when they constructed the entire Mishkah for the very first time. We read that (Exodus 39:43),

וַיַּ֨רְא משֶׁ֜ה אֶת־כָּל־הַמְּלָאכָ֗ה וְהִנֵּה֙ עָשׂ֣וּ אֹתָ֔הּ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה ה’ כֵּ֣ן עָשׂ֑וּ וַיְבָ֥רֶךְ אֹתָ֖ם משֶֽׁה:

Moses saw the entire work, and lo! they had done it-as the Lord had commanded, so had they done. So Moses blessed them.

What blessing did Moses give the people? What did he say to them? Rashi explains that,

אמר להם יהי רצון שתשרה שכינה במעשה ידיכם, (תהלים צ יז) ויהי נועם ה’ אלהינו עלינו ומעשה ידינו

He said to them, “May it be His will that the Shechinah should rest in the work of your hands. And may the pleasantness of the Lord our God be upon us…” (Ps. 90:17)

There can be no better prayer than this: We pray that God blesses our work and brings the pleasantness of Jewish life and the Jewish people to Jews and the communities in which they live around the world.