Bnei Akiva Event at Beth Jacob: Mourning Losses and Celebrating Israel Independence Day


Tova Abady

Beth Jacob once again opened its doors to the community on Wednesday, May 11th to observe Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut. Thanks to a heartfelt and uplifting program by Bnei Akiva, those in the jam-packed synagogue enjoyed a program including four outstanding children’s choirs – belonging to the Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, the Gindi Maimonides Academy, Yeshivat Yavneh, and the Bnei Akiva Valley. There was a vibrant atmosphere of achdus between all those present to connect with Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael.

Rabbi Menachem Hecht, executive director of Bnei Akiva Los Angeles expressed great pride in the achievements of the organization stating, “Though dozens of shlichut families, through multiple iterations of the West Coast Moshava overnight camp, through hundreds of Bnei Akiva members who have made aliyah, through literally thousands of L.A. high school students who have learned activism, leadership and love of Israel by serving as Bnei Akiva madrichim, we hold true to our motto established by Meir Bar Ilan two decades before the state of Israel was established, that the nation of Israel belongs in, and belongs to, our homeland.”

Commemorating Yom HaZicharon, the sound of the siren blast heard in Israel pierced the room and everyone stood silently to honor the fallen and those slain by hostile enemies. A short film was shown about four of the wonderful Jews who were killed by terrorists, and who left the world a better place with their chessed and beautiful spirit, Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin; Hadar Cohen; and Dafna Meir, zt”l, hy”d.

The shofar was then blown, the flag raised, and tears turned into cheers to celebrate Israel’s 68th birthday.

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Photos: Lew Groner

The miracle of the ingathering of Ethiopian Jews back home to Israel was depicted in the video presentation, “Israel is Home: The Ethiopian Aliyah.”

The keynote address was given by Eden Malese, a bat ami working at the Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, who explained, “Ethiopian Jews dreamt of Eretz Yisrael for thousands of years.”

Ms. Malese, who is of Ethiopian descent, continued, “The Israel they [her forefathers] dreamed of was the land described in the Torah, a land flowing with milk and honey.” Also, she said, her family believed “Jerusalem was made of gold with a beit hamikdash and they believed korbanot were still sacrificed.” Yet Eden’s grandfather said that despite any difficulties or surprises it was worth everything to come because “there is nothing like living and speaking as a Jew among Jews.”

Eden said her being here in the U.S. and teaching in Los Angeles 31 years after her family made aliyah was “proof that the dream has come true.” She announced (to much applause) that Bnei Akiva has opened in Ethiopia to help with the transition to life in Israel.

The memorable speech by Eden was followed by a moving performance by the Bnei Akiva Valley Choir of the song “Jerusalem” in the Ethiopian language, Amharic, conducted by Avi Rodan.

Rabbi Hecht invited to community to reach out to Bnei Akiva to involve their families. He said that the western region in Los Angeles is experiencing a true renaissance. Bnei Akiva amazingly charges no fees or tuitions, relying solely on donations. He thanked their amazing shlichim, the Rodans and the Fridmans.

Avi Rodan later led everyone in the Tefilla Haggiga. He and his wife Dorit are Bnei Akiva shilchim in the Valley, and Eyal and Toby Fridman are shlichim in the City. Both couples helped to plan the Yom Haatzmaut program. They are loved by their students and have made a tremendous positive impact in the U.S.

Two amazing cantors, Nati Baram of Beverly Hills synagogue and Arik Wollheim of Beth Jacob, assisted the choirs practicing, conducting, and, as always, added their amazing talent and love for the Jewish people.

The evening events culminated with dancing and more celebration plus a typical Israeli barbeque in the social hall.