OTS Amiel BaKehila’s Conference on the Jewish Diaspora

An important opportunity to learn, connect and celebrate the New Year

Late last month, just before Rosh Hashanah, over fifty delegation members from across Israel gathered at the Yehuda Hotel in Jerusalem for an afternoon conference focused on Jewish communities in the Diaspora, their different needs and challenges, and some of the ways that Amiel BaKehila has been making a difference in our partner communities.

Before the official program, we convened a special panel for Community Educators led by Rabbi Benjy Myers of the Strauss-Amiel institute. Rabbi Myers encouraged the participants to share some of the challenges inherent in maintaining a connection with a community over a number of short visits, as well as some of the successes that different educators shared with their peers.

Rabbi Benjy Myers leading a discussion with Communal Educators

The formal program began with introductions from Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh Hayeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone and Rabbi Elaihu Birnbaum, Director of the Amiel Institute. They were followed by a lecture from Professor Sergio Della Pergola, a recognized expert in the area of Jewish demographics. Professor Della Pergola shared a number of important statistics about the changing nature of Jewish demographics over the past few decades, giving us much food for thought as we work with smaller communities around the world.

Professor Della Pergola sharing statistics about the Jewish world

Following a short break, we enjoyed a short musical presentation by Ianir Kilinsky and Reuven Bransburg, two talented musicians who have traveled around the world on a number of different delegations. Then we were joined by Mr. Dvir Kahane, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, who gave a short talk about the Ministry’s work and then engaged in a discussion with delegation participants.

Rav Eliahu Birnbaum and Dvir Kahane
Reuven Bransburg and Ianir Kilinsky

The final major address was from Mr. Avraham Infeld, the President Emeritus of Hillel – the Foundation for Jewish Campus life and a life-long activist for Jewish communal engagement around the world. His excitement for Jews and promoting Judaism infected the crowd, as he delivered a passionate address outlining his “five-legged table” formula to engage Jews wherever they may be.

We concluded the program with a traditional “haramah kosit” – as we drank a “le’chayim” to celebrate the incredible success of the past year, and pray for continued growth and success over the coming year. We look forward to 5780 as we bring passionate speakers, advocates, educators and artists from Israel to small Jewish communities around the world.

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