In a milestone for Ohr Torah Stone (OTS), the 500th couple graduated from its emissary training program to serve as abroad in a ceremony in Jerusalem on Tuesday.The couple, Rabbi Netanel and Rabbanit Sarah Ansani, moved to Israel separately as young adults and served as lone soldiers in the IDF, where they met. They subsequently married and enrolled at the Straus-Amiel and Claudia Cohen Institute emissary training programs, part of the OTS’s network of 27 modern Orthodox educational institutions across Israel.
As part of the ceremony, 62 degrees were also bestowed upon graduates of OTS’s rabbinical and emissary programs.
In a statement, the network said, “This year’s graduates of the rabbinical and emissary programs will serve communities around the world, including New Jersey; Nebraska; Washington, DC; Mexico; Argentina; Uruguay; Brazil; Peru; the United Kingdom; Germany; Italy; Ukraine; Portugal; Australia; Singapore; Ethiopia; South Africa; and Israel.”
Addressing the Ansanis, as well as their fellow graduates, OTS founder Rabbi Shlomo Riskin said that in today’s day and age, “There are many Jews throughout Israel and the Diaspora who have lost touch with their heritage, traditions and the Torah,” adding that it “belongs to us all.
“One of the most important challenges you will find in your new roles of spiritual and educational leadership is restoring these lost items to them,” he stressed.
Chief Rabbi David Lau told the graduates, “You have a responsibility to relate to each and every member of your new communities, while also continuing to nourish their own spiritual needs. There are two ways to irrigate a garden, to connect a hose to a faucet and spray water, or to put a bucket under the faucet and allow the bucket to overflow. The difference is that in the second method, the bucket remains full even when you turn off the faucet,” Lau continued.
“As rabbis and emissaries, your bucket must always be filled with water, and you must make sure that the water reaches every corner of the garden, that there will be no one in the community who does not know you or whom you do not know.”
Lau further told the graduates it’s their “responsibility as spiritual and educational leaders to be a parent to each and every member of the community, even the children. We must pay attention to see if their clothing is different, or if their face is suddenly different. Keeping our eyes open is our obligation.”
OTS president Rabbi Kenneth Brander said, “Each of the individuals and couples we celebrated today embody intellectual and emotional growth as well as new leadership skills they’ve developed throughout their years learning at Ohr Torah Stone. They serve as an inspiration to all their teachers and most of them will very soon serve as religious guides to our brothers and sisters in Israel and throughout the international Jewish world. Our emissaries are serving critical roles throughout the world today, positively influencing the lives of Jews with a variety of backgrounds who are searching to connect to their faith and tradition.”
Brander added that emissaries give “Diaspora communities so much, simultaneously growing and learning from their experiences. When they return to Israel after several years abroad, they bring that experience back and use their new skills and knowledge to enrich communities they engage with in Israel.”