Reaching Out to All of Am Yisrael: The Mizrachi Way

BY RABBI HART LEVINE

For Religious Zionists and HaMizrachi magazine, this has been a year of celebration marking 120 years since the founding of Mizrachi in 1902. But the story of Mizrachi really begins with the first Zionist Congress in 1897, when Theodor Herzl and others gathered in Basel to start the modern Zionist project. Secular in nature, modern Zionism was a far cry from the biblical Zionism that had sustained our people through centuries of exile, and so most religious leaders steered clear of Herzl in those early years – until 1902, when Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Reines and others changed the dynamic. Rabbi Reines argued that despite our disagreements, religious Jews must join and influence the direction of the movement. Religious Jews would be “Mizrachi”, the merkaz ruchani, the spiritual center of the movement. Bringing a spiritual, religious, and G-dly perspective to modern Zionism and, ultimately, the State of Israel.

To this day, the Mizrachi ethos has remained consistent. Mizrachi communities and Mizrachi shlichim do not simply say Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut or march in the Israeli Day Parade. A Mizrachi Jew believes that we are a part of something far greater than ourselves. Wherever in the world we may live, Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, Medinat Yisrael and Torat Yisrael are at the forefront of our consciousness.

Years ago, when I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, I founded an organization called Heart to Heart, with a simple mission: to include uninvolved students in Jewish life by enabling involved Jewish students to share meaningful Jewish experiences and relationships with their peers. During a recent trip to Israel, it struck me how much this mission also lies at the very heart of Mizrachi.

Just last month I had the joy and honor of speaking to hundreds of students in Mizrachi leadership programs and Mizrachi-affiliated gap year yeshivot and midrashot. We spoke about what it means to be an ambassador for Mizrachi when they go back to campuses and communities in the Diaspora, about being involved with and influencing their Jewish community, and taking responsibility for the broader Jewish population on their campus. In a session with Mizrachi semicha students, we worked together to define the unique genre of “Mizrachi outreach”, distinct from Charedi or Chabad outreach, that is rooted in Ahavat Yisrael and a love of the State of Israel. 

From its founding until today, Mizrachi has consistently looked outwards, concerned for the welfare of all Jews – whether we agree ideologically or not. Each of us has a responsibility to be a merkaz ruchani, a centering spiritual force, for all of Am Yisrael. I left Israel with a renewed passion for this work, and with the excitement and energy of 200 young Jews ready to bring this vision back to America.

As we celebrate the season of our redemption, we must remember Mizrachi’s commitment to actively work to advance the process of redemption. We must not remain on the sidelines of history, content to spend our days in our own narrow silos with people just like us, but rather reach out to our fellow Jews and welcome them into our homes and communities. May we find the strength to reach out with love to all of Am Yisrael, and bring the final redemption!

 

Rabbi Hart Levine is RZA-Mizrachi’s Senior Educator for Leadership and Learning helping connect the next generation to the ideals of Mizrachi.

© 2022 World Mizrachi

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