One sunny day in June 2013 I was invited for a coffee in one of the many coffee establishments on Brent Street. There were three of us there including one representative from the World Zionist Organisation. The aim was to work out how to create a list of Mizrachi events in the UK for the, then, upcoming World Zionist Organisation, to allow Mizrachi to have some representatives from the UK.
Three and a half years on and it is almost impossible to believe that the Mizrachi I describe now is the same organisation. In three years we have grown from a volunteer run organisation to a team of 7 people including a family of Shlichim. We have gone from running a small Yom Yerushalayim event for 50 people to running a large scale community celebration for over 800 people. We have gone from talking to people who we knew were coming to the UK from Israel and placing them in communities as speakers, to bringing over at least 10 top guest speakers a year, specifically for Mizrachi. As well as running educational programmes in schools, learning programmes in communities, high quality educational publications, rabbinic training and much more. It is extremely humbling looking back at the past three years and seeing what has been achieved by so few.
Many people over the past three years have asked me what the aim of Mizrachi is. For me it is simple. To create a vibrant, exciting community within the religious Zionist framework focussed on providing a Torah lifestyle in a modern world with an integral emphasis on the importance of Israel and Aliyah to a Jewish life. Looking at the work that Mizrachi are currently doing and the plans for the work in the years to come, there is no question that we have created an organisation that has passion and belief and the drive to achieve our goal. From its inception in 1902, Mizrachi has always been focussed on connecting Jews to the land of Israel and continuing to build it as the Jewish homeland. As I write this I am preparing, with my wife and daughter, to fulfil a central pillar of our ideology and move to Israel in order to build our life there. Whilst I am deeply pleased and extremely excited to be achieving a lifelong dream and taking my part in the Jewish story in the land of Israel, it comes with a tinge of sadness.
A lot of time and effort has gone in to building Mizrachi over the past three and a half years and the organisation is reaching such an exciting time with all the small buds beginning to flower. On the one hand I have no doubts in my mind whatsoever; there is no other place for me to raise my family, live my life and grow as Jew except in Israel. On the other hand, leaving Mizrachi at such a crucial time in its development is difficult. Three and half years ago the challenge ahead of us was immense, almost too much to imagine.
However, as Rabbi Tarfon (Pirkei Avot 2:21) explains ‘V’Lo Ata Ben Chorin L’Hivatel Mimena’ no matter how big the challenge ahead you are not free to avoid trying to achieve it. However, it is the beginning of that teaching that, at this point in my life, is having a big impact on me ‘Lo Aleicha Hamlacha Ligmor’ ‘It is not up to you to complete the task’. Although there is much more to be done, I know that my dream of raising my family in Israel, and fulfilling the ultimate goal of a religious Zionist cannot be put on hold any longer and the strong team, both professional and lay, as well as the foundations that have been laid are strong enough to continue the important work that has started and take the organisation onward in to the future.
Over the past few years, each time I travelled to Israel I have made sure to leave a 50 Shekel note in my wallet. For those of you who don’t have an old 50 Shekel note lying around, on the back there is an excerpt from a poem by the Israeli poet S.Y. Agnon saying ‘Due to the historic catastrophe of when Titus destroyed Jerusalem and exiled the Jewish people from their land, I was born in one of the cities of the exile. However, the whole time I see myself as if I was born in Jerusalem.’
This week my family and I will be fulfilling a lifelong dream of our own, but we will also be fulfilling a 2000-year-old dream of the Jewish people and adding our mark to the ongoing story of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and bringing ever closer the final redemption and the coming of Mashiach. As the Gemera in Messechet in Sandhedrin (98a) says and Rashi explains, ‘Ein Lecha kez Mi Gola Mi Ze’ there is no greater sign of the coming of Mashiach, that the Land of Israel being a fertile land and giving of its fruit.
Executive Director of Mizrachi UK
2013 – 2016