In advance of the annual Torah reading of Parshat Lech Lecha (the Torah portion of Lech Lecha) this week, which describes Abraham's inaugural journey and arrival in the ancient Land of Israel, World Mizrachi has announced the expansion of their ongoing initiative to help encourage French aliyah (immigration to Israel), as well as disseminate Torat Eretz Yisrael (the Torah of Israel).
Coinciding with Israel’s official Aliyah Week honoring immigrants' return to Israel, the program will see the dispatch of Israeli-French rabbis to French Jewish communities multiple times over the course of the year, to encourage closer bonds between the two communities.
The vast majority of French Jewry today is of Sephardic origin and the majority of scholars in residence are of similar backgrounds, to ensure the greatest impact.
The send-off event held at World Mizrachi’s offices in Jerusalem ahead of the departure of the first group included a blessing by Tzfat's Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who said, “Every Jew who chooses to come home to Israel represents a world of potential so it's an real zechut, privilege, to be doing what you are doing.”
Recognizing the importance of these missions, Mizrachi representative in the national institutions Roi Abecassis announced an expansion of the initiative: “With the support of our partners in this mission, we will be able to send nine additional delegations to France in the year ahead.”
Rabbi Doron Perez, Executive Chairman of World Mizrachi, said that the fact that Hashem’s (G-d's) first conversation with the first Jew was about sending him to Eretz Yisrael highlights the central role that Israel plays in Jewish destiny.
“By continuing to reach out to Diaspora communities with outstanding rabbinic emissaries, we can significantly deepen the connection between Israel and communities the world over,” he said.
The program is being coordinated in partnership with the French aliya integration organization Qualita, Shadarim Organization, and Keren Kayement LeYisrael (KKL).
The French initiative is one part of a global network of emissaries that Mizrachi has placed in Jewish communities all across the world. Rabbi Yechiel Wasserman, Co-President of World Mizrachi, explained, “These types of missions serve to strengthen the work of our emissaries on the ground and, while encouraging aliyah, they also support the existing needs of the local communities wherever they might be found.”
Rabbi Yonatan Seror, rabbi of a large French-speaking community in Tel Aviv, said that the goal of the visits is to introduce French communities to rabbis already living in Israel who share their views, culture, and interests, and to show them that moving to Israel is something worth considering.
“The idea behind these missions is to create a system where we are working with local communities on the ground in France and creating an ongoing interchange that can then translate into people actualizing aliyah if they so choose,” Rabbi Seror explained.
The program this year will see 12 rabbis traveling over ten days to cities across France and Switzerland, with six leaving this week.