There are a reported 15,166,200 Jews on the face of the earth. While this might seem like an impressive number, we all know that we Jews make up a tiny global minority. However, what if I told you that there are at least 100,000,000 people out there who might very well be counted as our Jewish brothers and sisters? This is what Rabbi Harry Rozenberg teaches us. Rabbi Rozenberg, best known as a spiritual mentor to NBA star Amare Stoudemire who converted to Judaism last year, is a co-founder of the Theological Research Institute.
Rabbi Rozenberg is a descendent of the Vilna Gaon, a great eastern European rabbi who lived in the 1700’s. The Vilna Gaon was dedicated to rebuilding the land of Israel and the Jewish people. His students, inspired by his commitment, were committed to reaching out and assisting the lost Ten Tribes of Israel. While many believe that these tribes, exiled from the land of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BCE, ceased to exist, the Vilna Gaon’s students, Rozenberg and many others believe that they are out there, waiting to be reconnected to the mainstream Jewish world. Communities with rich histories in Ethiopia, Myanmar, India and China, communities with rituals and traditions with apparent Jewish roots, help support the notion that the Ten Tribes are out there.
In this week’s Haftarah from Ezekiel, we read: “Behold I will take the children of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side, and I will bring them to their land.” (Ezekiel 37:21) Ezekiel’s words, which were shared more than 2,600 years ago, show us that the desire to find our missing brothers and sisters has been part of our tradition for centuries. The communities in Ethiopia, Myanmar, India and China show us how racially, ethnically and geographically diverse we are. Some say that we must wait for the Jewish Messiah to arrive for us all to be reunited. However, this reunification has already begun. While there have been significant challenges along the way, we have watched Jews from far off lands reconnect to the global Jewish community and even make aliyah to Israel.
During Chanukah, which came to a close this year on Monday, we celebrate the miracle that is the incredible strength of the Jewish people. This Shabbat, we read the words of Ezekiel and reflect on the idea that there just might be 100,000,000 more Jews out there. We’re strong with 15,166,200 people. Imagine how strong we will be when we find the millions of our missing brothers and sisters!