Roi Abecassis
Roi Abecassis צילום: ערוץ 7

Five years ago, in my then position as Secretary General of World Bnei Akiva, I participated in a reunion of Olim from Bnei Akiva Argentina. About four hundred people gathered to Jerusalem - all of them Bnei Akiva alumni who, thanks to the activities of Bnei Akiva made Aliya.

It was an amazing event. The excitement of reconnecting with friends from the movement filled us all with pride of being associated to such a special movement.

But at the same time my heart ached. I knew that for over the past ten years, our branch in Argentina was slowly evaporating.

The strong religious Zionist families made Aliya to Israel, while the Jewish families that remained became more and more affiliated with the ultra-orthodox movement and hence distanced themselves from the State of Israel. Our branch was shrinking and now on a regular Shabbat barely twenty educators showed up to branch.

I could have found satisfactions and a sense of success in the fact that thousands have made Aliya over the years, but at the same time I was troubled by the probing questions: "did Argentinian Jewry really move to Israel?" Unfortunately, the answer is no. There are still close to two hundred thousand Jews who are currently living there. Best case scenario, a minority will become ultra-orthodox, but the more likely outcome is that most of them will disappear under the wave of assimilation that is flooding the Jewish world.

A few months later I met Alex and Damian and a few of their friends. These young gentlemen were a group of young and energetic Argentinian Jews who decided that the vision of - "Am Yisrael, Torat Yisrael, and Eretz Yisrael" should be shared with tens of thousands of members of the Jewish community in Argentina who have not yet heard of religious Zionism.

They acted immediately. They decided to move all religious Zionism activities from the traditional neighborhood in which the Jews have lived for decades, to another neighborhood where Jewish Zionism activity was nearly non-existent, and to Jews who were very far from Judaism.

In a joint venture a new community was established. The community was named: "La Casa" - the house. Many religious Zionist organizations took part in this move, that was led by World Mizrachi: World Bnei Akiva, Torah Mitzion, Bat Ami, the Amiel Institute, and the World Organization of Orthodox Communities and Synagogues.

Within five years, together with the help of a delegation of religious Zionist Shlichim, a new, vibrant community flourished. Hundreds of new community members began attending activities of the La Casa community, especially young men and women in their twenties and early thirties. These you adults discovered a new identity that incorporated being Orthodox together with love and longing for the State of. A new Bnei Akiva branch was established, in which today more than eighty educators attend each Shabbat. Today, the Israeli National holidays are proudly celebrated with the participation of hundreds of the new community members.

In the coming week, the Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora, in cooperation with all religious Zionism shlichut organizations, will lead the first-of-its-kind conference, that will bring together Rabbis, community leaders and shlichim from all over Latin America. Amongst the countries participating you will find: Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile.

During the conference we seek to voice the message of the renewal of religious Zionism in these countries. We will declare that we won't give up on any Jew. We must shift the spotlight on to those who have distanced themselves over the years, and offer them a warm and loving embrace, bringing them back to the core of the Jewish people, to re-ignite their connection, and rekindle the Jewish spark in their soul.

The prophet Yeshayahu says: "And the ransomed of Hashem shall return and come with singing unto Zion."

The urgent and immediate task is first and foremost to to return - to bring back the distant. Once they return, we will offer them to make Aliya to Eretz Yisrael. And this Aliya will be accompanied with song and joy.

Roi Abecassis, Head of the Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora, Mizrachi's representative in the National Institutions, former Secretary General of World Bnei Akiva.