The Modern Orthodox network Ohr Torah Stone gathered rabbis from Poland and Germany this week to address different issues affecting their communities.
"These issues affect our communities and our goal was to analyze the sources together so that we can all find the best solutions for each of our communities independently and collectively,” said Rabbi Oriel Zaretsky, the Ohr Torah Stone graduate who hosted the event and serves as a rabbi in Warsaw and deputy to the chief rabbi of Poland.
The rabbis discussed and studied topics such as intermarriage or conversion of a child to Judaism whose parents do not intend to convert. However, one of the most critical issues addressed was the increasing numbers of non-Jews who come to synagogue and wish to participate in programs and services.
“Given the long history of antisemitism in Germany and Poland, perhaps one of the most interesting trends our emissaries are observing is how many non-Jews regularly wish to attend synagogue services and the challenges and opportunities this can present in a community,” said Ohr Torah Stone president and Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander.
“Why is this happening? Our rabbis, who serve as Jewish ambassadors and halachic emissaries, believe that many of their non-Jewish congregants seek greater meaning in life than they have found elsewhere in this age of technology,” he said.
“Some are the children of Jewish fathers or have recently been informed about Jewish roots by a grandparent in their final days wishing to share information that they hid from their family in the post-Holocaust era. Others are drawn to the Jewish community with a sense of responsibility, not guilt, to repair for the crimes of a previous generation, particularly appealing in countries with dark recent histories due to Communism and the Holocaust.”
The event was held as part of the Ohr Torah Stone’s (OTS) Straus-Amiel Rabbinical Emissary Program, a training program for rabbis aiming to effectively strengthen Jewish identity in over 160 communities.