NEW YORK (JTA) – Emissaries for the Jewish Agency for Israel will directly serve synagogues in three U.S. cities in order to cultivate Jewish identity and to bolster ties between Israel and the Diaspora.
The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Shlichim initiative is expanding to synagogues in New York City, Greater Washington and San Antonio, Texas, the agency said this week.
Each year, dozens of emissaries travel across North America to Jewish federations, school campuses, Jewish community centers and summer camps. This is the first time that the Jewish Agency has recruited Israelis who identify with a specific stream of Judaism and embedded them into synagogues.
The emissaries engage Jews of all ages and religious backgrounds, and build deep and lasting ties between Israel and the communities they serve, according to the Jewish Agency.
“American Jewish life lives in the synagogue more than anywhere else, and the vast majority of American Jews relate to their Jewish identity in a primarily religious way,” said Anton Goodman, the community emissary, or shaliach, for Greater Washington in a statement.
Goodman said the new model will benefit Israelis and Americans.
“This new model will not only enable American Jews to connect with Israelis who share many of their Jewish values, it will also empower Israelis with a better understanding of American Judaism and inspire them to impact Israeli Jewish life on their return,” he said.
The total delegation will now consist of 240 emissaries, including the 10 additional pre-IDF Young Shlichim, 10 additional campus emissaries, called Jewish Agency Israel Fellows to Hillel, and seven emissaries serving the congregations in New York, San Antonio and Washington.
Barry Spielman, the Jewish Agency’s director of communications for North America, added that the increased use of shlichim is a critical part of the agency’s focus on reconnecting North American Jews to the global Jewish family and to Israel by “bringing Jews to Israel and Israel to Jews.”
“We know that real human-to-human connections work,” Spielman said. “When Jews start to feel a deeper connection to Israel, its people and its land, they begin to also identify more strongly with the Jewish people as a whole.”