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In Conversation With Our Director of Rabbinic Engagement

Rabbi Ephraim Epstein recently joined Operation Home Again (OHA). As the Director of Rabbinic Engagement, he is tasked with the critical role of engaging with community Rabbis throughout North America who are interested in learning more about the process of community Aliyah.

Yonatan Chaim Sayag, OHA Newsletter Coordinator, interviews Rabbi Epstein about his background and “what’s around the corner.” We invite you to listen in on our conversation.

YCS: Thank you for your time. Before we discuss your role with Operation Home Again, can you share with us a little about your background?

R. Epstein: I learned at Shaarei Torah in Monsey under Rabbi Berel Wein shlit’a and then in Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim in Yerushalayim. Afterwards, I spearheaded and helped run what was then the startup Center Program at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach, now one of the premier Outreach Programs of our day.

YCS: Today, you are living in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. How did you land back in America?

R. Epstein: After 9 years in Israel, my wife and I decided to move to Cherry Hill, New Jersey to serve as the Rav and Rebbitzen of Congregation Sons of Israel Cherry Hill. After twenty-one years, I advanced to a new position as Scholar in Residence at the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey. I am also a trained and practicing Marriage and Family Therapist, as well as a Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Counselor.

YCS: Recently you started working with Operation Home Again. How did that develop?

R. Epstein: Rav Yehudah Halevy’s famous statement best introduces my answer: Libi Bamizrach. Although my wife and I moved to the United States to strengthen Torah learning and observance in our Mother Tongue in a familiar surrounding, our love and connection to Israel has not only never waned, but has grown stronger over time. BE”H we look forward to returning there one day soon. When I learned of OHA, I was inspired to contact Rabbi Apisdorf and learn how I could be a part of such an important effort that speaks to my heart.

YCS: What is the potential you see within Operation Home Again?

R. Epstein: I see it as the next great step in our National return to our Homeland. Nefesh B'Nefesh has been an incredible and innovative resource for Olim, streamlining the Aliyah process and making Aliyah more approachable and user-friendly.

However, the all- too-real feeling of being lost and isolated that a person or family experiences when landing in a new place with a foreign culture, even though it is HOME, presents a multitude of challenges. These challenges can be greatly mitigated when people come together in groups and function like an extended family.

OHA exists to encourage and assist with Communal Aliyah. Helping people navigate their way forward together offers irreplaceable support that makes THE difference in feeling at HOME and sets them up for long-term success.

YCS: What is your specific role within OHA?

R. Epstein: Having been appointed as the Director of Rabbinic Engagement is an enormous privilege. In this role, I will begin to work with my colleagues to engage with rabbinic and lay leaders throughout North America. We will identify those who are interested to learn more and assist them with critical expertise in planning and executing a multitude of details that this journey of a lifetime entails.

YCS: How are you connecting with Rabbinic and lay leaders?

R. Epstein: We are planning meetings (Zoom and in-person) for like- minded leaders to convene and learn about how OHA has provided resources and guidance for other communities, as well as what we will offer specifically for them. Each community has its own set of needs and considerations. As we work with each community, helping them lay the tracks for their journey, we rely on our expanding team of professionals to provide support in key areas of chinuch, housing, and employment.

YCS: How do you understand the time period we live in? What role is Operation Home Again coming to play?

R. Epstein: One does not need to be a historian or a sociologist to realize that we live in historic and dynamic times filled with uncertainty and unprecedented challenges. Growing and unrelenting concerns across so many sectors including the political, economic, social, and cultural have left us thinking aloud about what’s next? Some of our collective human values have been so trampled on, that at times we hardly recognize plain truths of the societies in which we grew up. It is becoming increasingly hard to overlook all of this.

It is well known that Rav Chaim of Volozhin zt”l predicted that the United States would be the final Tachanah (station) of the Galus before we return home. Projections indicate that, in the very near future, the majority of world Jewry will be living in our Homeland.

We have lived to see the prophecies of Tanach materialize in front of our eyes. OHA is working as the resource, conduit and partner to groups that want to come HOME together.

YCS: How can interested Rabbinic and lay leaders connect with you?

R. Epstein: I can be reached personally at

YCS: Thank you for your time.

R. Epstein: B’simcha. I can tell you this: All of my colleagues look forward to greeting and assisting communities who are looking to chart their journey Home Again. It is our pleasure and privilege to help Jews come HOME.

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