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Ohr Torah Stone Convenes Polish & German Rabbis

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LR: Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis (Warsaw); Rabbi Oriel Zaretsky (Warsaw); Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein, director of Training and Placement at the OTS Straus-Amiel institute; Rabbi Avigdor Bergauz (Munich); Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, director of OTS Straus-Amiel institute; Rabbi Yehuda Pushkin (Stuttgart); and Rabbi David Shochovski (Lodz)

Edited by: TJVNews.com

Ohr Torah Stone’s (OTS) Straus-Amiel Rabbinical Emissary Program convened pulpit rabbis from Poland and Germany here this week to address critical issues affecting their communities, one of which is the growing numbers of non-Jews who come to synagogue and wish to participate in programs and services.

The rabbis lead Jewish communities in Warsaw, Lodz, Wroclaw, Krakow, Munich, Stuttgart, and Dortmund.

Together, the rabbis studied traditional and modern Jewish sources to see how scholars over the millennia have addressed similar concerns. The topics included the permissibility of counting children as part of a prayer quorum; converting a child to Judaism when one parent is not interested in conversion themselves but consents and supports the child’s conversion; intermarriage; how to address congregants who, whether by desire, practice or capability, choose to perform only parts of given religious customs or obligations; and engagement with non-Jewish congregants.

“Given the long history of anti-Semitism 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 HaYeshiva Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, who is also the son and son in law of Holocaust survivors.

“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 conference was curated by the Straus-Amiel leadership, which continues to support and guide its emissaries through regional conferences all over the world.

Topics were chosen based on requests from the invited rabbis.

“Our hope is that this conference strengthens our connection as rabbis and as communities, and that we can continue to work together for solutions which bind us to each other and to our shared traditions and values,” 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. “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.”

The OTS Straus-Amiel rabbinical emissary training program is committed to the spiritual continuity of the Jewish people everywhere, training rabbis to effectively strengthen Jewish identity and existence in more than 160 communities across the Diaspora.

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