(Courtesy of WZO) More than 150 emissaries of the Education Department of the World Zionist Organization gathered in Newark, New Jersey this week for their annual professional conference. Under the banner of “Morim Shlichim” (Teacher Emissaries), the event brought together the program participants from North America for training, inspiration and planning educational and cultural programming to commemorate Israel’s 75th anniversary in the Diaspora.
“Your role is critical to shaping the Jewish future of the next generations and ensuring that our values and ethics remain strong, even in a world which sometimes tries to forget what they mean to our people and religion,” said Gael Grunewald, vice chairman and head of the Department of Education of the World Zionist Organization. “Along with teaching the next generation of Diaspora Jews about Israel, Israel has much to learn from the Diaspora about how Jews of all different backgrounds and levels of observance can live in harmony and unity.”
The Education Department of the World Zionist Organization was established with the vision to ensure the future and uniqueness of the Jewish people by promoting Jewish, Hebrew and Zionist education and fostering Jewish spiritual and cultural values by instilling Hebrew as the national language.
Over the course of the three-day conference, delegates were presented with a wide variety of sessions aimed at strengthening the bonds between Israel and Diaspora communities based on ideals of Jewish education and pro-Israel activism. Yaakov Hagoel, who serves as the chair of the WZO and also recently served as the acting chair of the Jewish Agency, was in attendance at the conference and spoke of the growing importance of placing shlichim all across the world.
As part of the program, participants chose to take part in a day seminar at Yeshiva University or Jewish Theological Seminary.
There are currently 231 shlichim teachers working on behalf of the WZO, serving in 105 schools in 24 countries and five continents around the globe. According to Grunewald, who also serves as the World Mizrachi representative in the national institutions, the main objectives of the department, which are actualized through the work of the shlichim, is to serve as a practical bridge between Israel and the Diaspora.
“Our goal is to empower Jewish identity through a heightened connection to the State of Israel through ideals like the Hebrew language, Jewish history and particularly Zionist history, which deserves to be as important a subject as it was 100 years ago when it was so fundamental to the creation of our modern state,” he said. “As we approach the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence, our goal is to ensure that achievements of Israel are celebrated equally throughout our Diaspora communities and they truly feel a part of this modern miracle of the Jewish people.”
“For me, the idea of being a shaliach on behalf of Israel extends far beyond the classroom but into the hallways, the streets and when I’m traveling or just meeting others for coffee,” said Yossi Ben Harush, who is teaching at SAR Academy in New York. “The chance to build a bond between myself as an Israeli teacher and my American students based on Hebrew language and our common Jewish history is a deeply emotional experience. When I see one of my students and he says, ‘Shabbat Shalom, thanks for teaching me and most of all for being here,’ I realize that my impact is far greater than anything I could have ever appreciated.”