Torah MiTzion Spreads 'Torat Eretz Yisrael' Around the World
Many Jewish communities around the world owe their vibrancy to groups of young men who, along with their families, move in and pick up the spiritual leadership of the community. Popularly known as a kollel (plural kollelim), the groups are usually dispatched by a yeshiva to settle in a community and strengthen its commitment to Judaism, teaching community members Torah, educating youth in day schools, and encouraging Jews to keep kosher, observe Shabbat, and participate in community life.
In the United States, as well as Israel, many kollelim are identified with a specifically non-Zionist or neutral-towards-Zionism point of view, and their members – as well as the yeshivot they represent – do not encourage specific identification with the State of Israel. An exception to that stereotype, however, are the kollelim directed by Torah Mitzion, an umbrella group of kollelim with a distinctly Zionist outlook.
Last week, Torah Mitzion, the Zionist Kollel network organization, held its annual convention in Memphis, Tennessee, an event that prompted Israel National News to speak with Rabbi Boaz Genut, the organization's Executive Director, who described Torah Mitzion's work as “an effort to spread the message of the Torah, Jewish values, and Jewish unity worldwide. Our job is to enrich and enhance Jewish communities around the world by promoting the lofty ideals of religious Zionism-- Torat Yisrael, Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, to quote the words of HaRav Avraham Yitschak HaCohen Kook.”
The Torah Mitzion network kollelim worldwide are based on learning in a Beit Medrash (House of Study) as are all kollelim , but what is unique is that their candidates are recruited from the top members of Hesder yeshivot and full-time yeshivot identified with the National Religious movement (such as Mercaz Harav Kook in Jerusalem, the religious Zionist flagship yeshiva). The students also spend a significant amount of time working in the community, teaching classes in local day schools, and giving lectures to community members. The students are also available to provide guidance on an individual basis, and to help out with family and communal issues. Their wive take an active part in dbuilding women's and family programs after pre-
“Torah Mitzion has 21 Torah center projects around the world, 18 of them traditional kollelim,” says Rabbi Genut. The organization has projects on five continents and dozens of cities around the world, including in most of the largest Jewish communities in the United States. “Some of the communities are already what would be termed 'modern Orthodox,' and our kollel members work to strengthen Jewish identity and religious observance there, while in other places, where there is much less Jewish identity, members of the Kollel concentrate on educating community members in basic Jewish knowledge,” Rabbu Genut adds.
While the members of Torah Mitzion's kollelim differ in their attitudes to Israel from other members of kollelim sponsored by other yeshivot, Rabbi Genut says that Torah Mitzion students are able to work with all groups. “We try to stay away from politics, and since we are interested in spreading the same Torah as other groups, whether from Lithuanian-style yeshivot or Chabad, for example, we are able to work together with them on the things that are important.”
For the past ten years, Torah Mitzion has held an annual convention of community kollel members in North America, and this year's event was held in Memphis. “We hold our annual convention in a different community each year, in order to provide inspiration both for kollel members and for the community. It's much preferable to holding it in an isolated hotel or resort; the community is greatly uplifted by the presence of dozens of inspiring figures, who of course teach Torah and interact with the community,” says Rabbi Genut. “It's another aspect of our service to the Jewish community.”