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Rabbi Benjy Myers: Building Community

 

It’s hard to move houses or towns. Even harder to move countries. But Rabbi Benjy Myers doesn’t see it that way, when reflecting on all the places he’s lived and all the countries he’s seen. To him, every stop along the way was just that – a layover, a stepping-stone leading him to Israel, and to his beloved kibbutz community, Migdal Oz.

Benjy was born in England, but “My earliest memories are from Israel,” he says. His family made Aliyah soon after he was born, so Benjy spent his formative years in Israel. Israel in the early 1980s was rapidly growing, developing, and coming into its own; it was a poignant time for Benjy to grow up here, as though he and his Homeland were growing up together. Fitting, for a boy born on Israel’s Independence Day!

But unfortunately, Benjy didn’t stay in Israel long. As a synagogue and community rabbi, Benjy’s father went wherever a congregation needed him, so the Myers family moved around a lot more than the average family. From Israel they went to Australia, and then back to England where Benjy completed his high school education. After high school, Benjy took a gap year to study Bible in Israel. Like his parents before him, Benjy realized that his true calling lay in Jewish education, so when he returned to England for university, he pursued a degree in Jewish Studies. He married his wife, Ayelet, in England, and after graduating from university, they made Aliyah to Israel together.

In Israel, Benjy and Ayelet settled in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, which was the first real taste Benjy had of kibbutz life. He decided to continue his Jewish studies and obtain rabbinical ordination. Benjy didn’t want to be a synagogue rabbi like his father; instead, he wanted to use his new status as a rabbi to become more deeply involved in Jewish education. After a few years in Israel, Benjy was asked to move to Texas, to bring Jewish education and a Zionist vision to the Jewish community there. The whole family had some adjusting to do in their new home, but for the English-born and Israeli-raised rabbi, it was a totally new experience. 

While Benjy did enormous good and learned so much while in the US, he was eager to return to his homeland, and after five long years in the United States, Benjy and his family finally returned to Israel. They settled in the community of Efrat in Gush Etzion, and for a few years worked at building their home there. But Benjy wasn’t satisfied. “Israel is home,” he says, but he wasn’t just looking for a home. “We were looking for something small, and green, and with a sense of community.”

That was when they discovered the religious kibbutz of Migdal Oz, a faith-based economic collective. Migdal Oz is located just across the road from Efrat, so it was a short move. But kibbutz life is radically different from life in a town or a city. “In a kibbutz, there is this notion of giving what you can, doing what you can, and getting what you need,” Benjy explains. “The Kibbutz looks after the family, and everyone takes care of each other.”

In a kibbutz, there are many jobs that need doing, jobs that keep the kibbutz society going. These jobs include working in the laundry, the cafeteria, the kitchen, the gardens, the school, the fields, and the dairy. Some members of the kibbutz make these jobs their only profession; others, like Benjy, perform these tasks on a rotating basis on top of their existing jobs outside of the kibbutz. So in addition to his full-time position as an educational director at the Ohr Torah Stone Educational Network, Benjy also takes his turn in the kibbutz dairy.

Soon after moving to Migdal Oz, Benjy became CFOIC Heartland’s representative in Migdal Oz. He takes pride in being able to host groups in his kibbutz and loves interacting with Christian groups. “Any time I have an interaction with anybody else, there is always learning going on,” says Benjy. “Learning is a two-way street. Sometimes you can learn more from the students than from the teachers, and I find that I am always learning new things from the people I meet.”

When speaking to groups, Benjy always sets aside time to talk about the dairy. The Migdal Oz dairy currently has three hundred milk cows and produces ten thousand liters of milk per day. “You get to see with your own eyes Israel flowing with milk and honey.”

Living in Israel, and living on a kibbutz, is a literal fulfillment of Biblical prophecy for Benjy and his family. “If home is where the heart is, then the heart is Israel,” Benjy says. “This is where we are, this is what we aspire to, this is what we’ve dreamt about for the last two thousand years. We have the fantastic opportunity to be part of living that dream, which is something that previous generations didn’t have. The Jewish People have always been a people of vision and of dreams, and we have always been able to unite those visions and dreams with reality. We welcome the rest of the world, no matter their faith, to come and be a part of that dream.”