The "Torah M'Tzion" (lit. Torah from Zion – ed.) program to send Israeli families to spread Torah, Jewish values, and Zionism to the Diaspora marked twenty years on Sunday, while holding a goodbye ceremony bidding farewell to its new selection of emissaries for the upcoming year.
"This is the religious Zionist revolution," the movement's CEO, Ze'ev Schwartz, stated to Arutz Sheva at the ceremony. "Thank G-d, from nothing, we now have Zionists spreading Torah to communities around the world – in Australia, in Europe, South America, the United States, and other countries, in many languages and many places."
"There is not only Torah study, there are mitzvot (good deeds/positive commandments – ed.) here too, and there is an emphasis on community, and connecting everything from the same root connection to Israel – the Torah of Israel, the Land of Israel, and the people of Israel." he continued.
"Over the years we kept in touch with people from those communities, some who immigrated to Israel and serve in the army, as well as some families who moved and now have settled in Efrat, Neve Daniel or Ra'anana, and all thanks to the revolution of Torah M'Tzion."
Miriam Shfirovitz, from Maale Gilboa, is leaving with her family to Memphis, Tennessee this year as part of the program.
"We are full of excitement and of course there are also some concerns, but excited about the opportunity and hope to do the best we can," she said. "It involves very intensive preparation, we did not think it would be so busy, there are a lot of technical preparations – we are learning about the place where we are going to come to understand our role, and the upcoming challenges … a time-intensive and meaningful preparation period."
When questioned about her worries about success, she noted that the prime concern was her children – especially around the holiday season.
She added, surprisingly, that Memphis is not too different from the rural feel of Maale Gilboa – at least relatively speaking.
"In Memphis, there are private homes and a lot of grass, and in a way that lessens the culture shock," she said. "Everyone on the kibbutz is very supportive, and maybe even a little jealous. It's more complicated in our family because there are some concerns and some regrets, but overall even I was surprised at how positive everyone is."
Miriam's children were not so happy, however, lamenting to Arutz Sheva that they are not keen on leaving so soon and lamenting leaving their friends behind.
Moshe, another emissary to Memphis, outlined the goals.
"There is a community in store for us, and we're waiting to fly in and meet them," he said. "The end goal is to create connections between Jews in Israel and Jews there, to maintain a strong relationship with the Diaspora, to teach Torah and Torah study – this is why we are going."
Emanuel Elstein recently returned from a mission for the organization and described what he saw there.
"This is an amazing experience of giving, the experience of reaching Jews we do not see here in Israel, and teaching them Torah," Elstein said. "It could be a guy in high school who studies with a study partner, or helping teach your landlord's son."
When Schwartz talks about his emissaries, he has a twinkle in his eye.
"We choose the best," he says, "and we keep in touch with groups abroad through WhatsApp, and visit them. They are doing holy work and the year passes very quickly."
"It's most important to understand that once you leave to do this, the rest of your life will never be the same."