What is the goal of the Oro Shel Adam Garin Torani? Do woman play a role in the Garin? In a non-social Covid-19 environment is community building relevant? These and many other questions answered by Rav Shalom Miller in the following interview.
We’ve seen OSA do many different things in its 9 years of existence doing Aliyah out-reach, what’s the current focus?
Yes, its been quite a ride with many twists and turns along the way. Since Oro Shel Adan was formed we have always valued the central role of community. A healthy and stable group of people sharing their lives together as Jews is essential for every person. Social scientist Dr. Shay Ben Yosef says, without community a person feels lonely and isolated. When a person feels lonely and isolated that leads to sadness and depression. Depression leads to illness and can lead to death. One of the unfortunate results of the pandemic has been that community life has really struggled these past two years. The level of isolation, whether because of “bidud“/quarantine or because of lock-downs and inactivity, has increased drastically. This has had a major negative effect on community life and we have all suffered as a result.
As we look to the future after Covid-19, we need to ask ourselves. How do we rebuild? The answer is, community! A vibrant community is the basis for many wonderful things that can develop at later stages after a real-life (not virtual) community is formed.
For this reason I have invested lots of time into community building in the short short term.
Tell us about your background in community building?
The word community was often used in the Miller family and my parents put great efforts into community building where ever they went.
I grew up in two very different Jewish communities in the Philadelphia (USA) area. I was born into an egalitarian, Conservative Chabura community that my parents helped form. I have many wonderful memories of the warm community feeling and deep friendships that were created among the members in “Minyan Mesorti” in Mount Airy/Germantown. There was a sense of belonging to something very special. Those childhood memories will stay with me for as long as I live.
In 1994, at the age of 14, my parents decided that it was time to move to an Orthodox community and we landed in Lower Merion, PA. While the world of Orthodoxy was very new and somewhat uncomfortable for us, we were moved by Rabbi Abraham Levene’s warm embrace. By the mid 90s, thanks to Rabbi and Rebbetzin Chani Levene’s tireless work of multiple decades to build the community, LMS (Lower Merion Synagogue) had become a dynamic and prospering Shul, open and accepting to all.
These experiences – watching community leaders and builders – as a child had a lasting effect on my life. My wife and I seek to find and build community where ever we go. The setting and circumstances in Israel are a bit different, but the natural need for community is the same.
Why is creating a Garin Torani so central to building a community?
Communities consist of many different types of people with different interests and values. This variety is a natural part of a healthy and accepting community. Communities are meant to consist of unique and different types of people. On the other hand, there has to be the glue which bonds people together. That glue is our Torah. Torah and Torah observance have always been at the core of Jewish communities for millennium. Torah learning and Torah values anchor a community in a path of chessed (kindness), refinement, morality, religious observance and unity. Having a group of community members coming together for Torah study at least once a week if not more is essential in order to build a Jewish community. Jewish communities that are not established and grounded in Torah values and Torah learning can be swept away by “foreign negative influences.” The moment Torah leaves the center, weakening and assimilation become major threats.
Are there other aspects to your garin besides Torah learning and shul participation? What about woman in the garin? Do they have a role?
Just so that people gain an understanding, our garin is not a kollel and our community is not Charedi. In other words, there is much more to community life than Torah, Tfilla and chessed. I have great respect for Charedi communities but its not who we are. Oro Shel Adam is a Zionist organization fully supportive of Medinat Yisrael and Tzaha”l. Last Yom Haatzmaut, we went on a wonderful community hike in Mevasseret Zion, just outside of Yerushalayim. Sharing and experiencing our glorious land as a community is central to what we stand for. In March, Oro Shel Adam will be hosting a series on mental health in the Jewish community. We have organized 3 youth marathons in Adam in order to promote health and wellness among our youngsters. There are just a few example of the activity that Kehilat Oro Shel Adam has been involved with outside of the Shul domain.
Woman have played a central role in Oro Shel Adam since it was founded in 2013. Many times, woman have a stronger community orientation than men do. Our ladies are active in both general community planning and programing for the Anglo woman of Adam. As we look ahead, I expect that the woman in our Garin Torani will play a central role in the development of our community.
For more information about the Oro Shel Adam Garin Torani contact Rav Shalom Miller directly at email@example.com