Shavuot Thinking: Challenges in Chinuch

By Dena Schwartz

A major current challenge with chinuch in Bnei Akiva is the fact that Jewish education in schools is becoming more informal. While a creative, innovative and more informal educational style is arguably the best route for Jewish education, this has become too similar to what we do at BA. It means that when we run a more formal activity, our chanichim are often switched off as they see no difference between informal Jewish education in Bnei Akiva and in school. This also does a disservice to our chanichim who have come to learn in an atmosphere that is less formal than school.

Therefore, it’s now become more important than ever to find new and innovative ways to educate our chanichim in order to retain our unique brand of chinuch. On the converse, while we our always infusing our tochniot with chinuch, how much of this is retained? How many tochniot can we look back on and explain out what we learnt? This too calls upon us to keep innovating.

As a movement that, by virtue of its nature, is always moving, we want to find the balance between bringing brand new ideas and using chinuch methods that have already been proven to work. However, too many times I’ve seen people push for change and new ideas only for them to be met with reluctance and cynicism. In order for Bnei Akiva to nurture a culture of innovation and change, this can no longer go on. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that roles in the movement are short-term positions. While I’m not saying that this is the right or wrong way for these jobs to run, it still presents a challenge in this regard. When that person is replaced a year later, they can revert to the old process seamlessly. This is the case regardless of if it’s madrich on Aleph Machane or Mazkir. As the world is quickly changing around us, we need to react to this sooner than ever so that Bnei Akiva can keep advancing and actualising our ideals.

Between Manchester and Jerusalem: A Crisis of Identity

By Aaron Seitler

The air is warm. Streets, crammed with tourists and schoolchildren, are thick with rich sounds and smells. The waft of pizza; excited shouts and laughter. After the flurry of activity accompanying President Trump’s visit to the Western Wall yesterday, the Old City of Jerusalem is once again in a state of keen anticipation. Everyone is eagerly looking forward to the celebrations due to begin this evening, marking 50 years of Israeli sovereignty within a reunified Jerusalem.

Yet I cannot celebrate with an open heart. The tragic news of last night, the murder of 22 innocent people and the injuring of dozens more a mere three miles from my house has been shattering.Continue reading “Between Manchester and Jerusalem: A Crisis of Identity”

Celebrating in the wrong places: On Mizrachi’s Yom Yerushalayim trip

By Kobi Weiner

This year marks the Yovel, the 50th anniversary, of the Israeli victory in the 6 Day War and the Reunification of Jerusalem. There is no doubt that this is a time to honour the memory of a war which, had we lost, would have mean the annihilation of Israel but instead we won miraculously. Perhaps even more so, we should celebrate the 50 years we’ve been able to access the whole of Jerusalem, including the Kotel and the Temple Mount. My Yeshiva are marking the occasion by travelling to Jerusalem for a special tefillah at the Kotel, plus two days of studying, exploring, singing and dancing in our Holy Capital.

Nor should the celebratory atmosphere be limited to Israelis (and pretend Israelis like myself), because the strength and safety of Israel is in the interest of all Jews, and Jerusalem is historically, culturally and religiously important in the Diaspora too. That is why I am pleased that Mizrachi – the movement from which Bnei Akiva grew out of and remains affiliated to –  is organising a trip to Israel to mark this special and significant occasion. However, the celebratory atmosphere does not preclude Mizrachi from being sensitive to where it goes and whom it associates with.Continue reading “Celebrating in the wrong places: On Mizrachi’s Yom Yerushalayim trip”

What does it mean to be a Zionist?

By Adam Shasha

As the “Zionism 301” series draws to close and I reflect upon the articles published I thought I would join the conversation with the above question.

A few years ago, Bnei Akiva brought over Rabbi Jeremy Gimpel as a guest speaker. In one of his discussions he attempted to answer the above question by exploring the difference between being “Pro-Israel” and being a “Zionist.”

In the name of Rabbi Yehuda Hakohen he described someone who is “pro-Israel” as someone who supports Israel the way someone supports a football team. They follow them in the news and results, attend games when they can and cheer them on. In contrast, a Zionist isn’t on the sidelines cheering on his team. A Zionist sees himself as a player in the game. A Zionist is an active character in the story of the Jewish people and their return to Eretz Yisrael.
Personally, I feel that Zionists have always had to fight for something.  Having recently made Aliyah, I’ve heard people make various complaints about Israel–bureaucracy, the difficulties in finding a job, among others. These are obstacles that Olim have to overcome but they’re not different from those in the past.

Olim of the 18/1900’s, who came from different countries, didn’t know the language, didn’t know where they were heading, were living in places with no infrastructure yet. Very slowly they built up Kibbutzim and built the country we know today. They built up something from nothing–took their problems and worked to solve them, did their best to perfect something that was imperfect. They were the “active characters” I just mentioned.

Although Zionism takes different forms and there are many different pieces in the puzzle to our end goal. Based on the above this how I chose to define a Zionist.

A Zionist is someone who is playing an active role in the story of the Jewish people and their return to Eretz Yisrael.
A Zionist strives to protect and improve as many aspects of Eretz Yisrael as they can.
A Zionist is someone who takes the challenges they’re faced and does what they can to solve them.
A Zionist aims to perfect an imperfect country and nation – which hopefully we’ll all live to see it perfect.

The Forgotten Soldiers

By Jojo Weiner

This Yom Hazikaron, as in previous years, I visited the grave of Gidon Posner z”l in the military cemetery in Kfar Saba. Gidon was born in Israel but moved with his parents to England as a child. Like me, he was a student at JFS. He and his family were active members of the shul in Edgware of which my father was then the rabbi, and our families became close. When he finished there he decided to move back to Israel, leaving his parents behind, and join the IDF as a lone soldier. He was soon drafted to the Nachal Brigade. A year and a half into his service, on a rainy night in February 1997, he was on his way to a secret mission in Lebanon when the helicopter he was in crashed into another helicopter, killing all 73 soldiers on board both aircraft.

Everyone in Israel – at least all those I’ve met – knows at least one soldier who fell during their service. Everyone has somewhere to be on Yom Hazikaron. In the days running up to Yom Hazikaron the newspapers, television programmes and Facebook feeds are filled with stories of the heroic endeavours of the fallen soldiers, dying in battle for our sake, sacrificing themselves to ensure that we may live our lives in freedom and security.

But the truth is that not all soldiers die in battle. Continue reading “The Forgotten Soldiers”

Zionism 301: Herzl and the Belzer Rebbe

By Hannah Cowen, Shevet Na’aleh

When the Belzer Rebbe was escaping the Holocaust, the rescue committee insisted that he be issued travel certificates for Eretz Yisrael. These certificates were reserved for ‘tziyonim vatikim’ (longtime/outstanding Zionists). His brother argued that the Rebbe was entitled to one. “Three times a day he says ‘And may our eyes behold Your return to Zion’; thus he is a Zionist. Furthermore, he is a vatik [longtime/outstanding] Torah scholar.” In fact, this bracha from the Amida featured on the poster for the 5th Zionist Congress in 1901, marking the Rebbe’s Zionist credentials in black and white.Continue reading “Zionism 301: Herzl and the Belzer Rebbe”

Zionism 301: Escaping Definition

By Shira Collins, Shevet Ne’eman, currently on Hachsharat Torani

Not long ago, ‘Zionist’ was just something I said I was. I used to think I understood what it really meant, but on the Torani pre-Pesach Seminar I got an insight of how broad Zionism is and what modern Zionism actually means.

Before the seminar, I thought Zionism was a label which came hand-in-hand with my Judaism. I knew I could be one without the other but I grew up as a Modern Orthodox Zionist Jew. Continue reading “Zionism 301: Escaping Definition”

Zionism 301: Modern and Divine

By Rafi Dover, Shevet Hagevura

For me, Zionism has to justify itself in two interconnected ways, and through these justifications, I find profound meaning in it.

The Modernist-Zionist Way

As Zionism (even Religious Zionism) is self-consciously a product of modernism, it has to justify itself through tangible ‘hard facts’ – we are a people existing in continuation with those of the Tanakh, we are a people whose connection to the Land is verifiable (and, indeed, verified) historically and scientifically, the Land looms large over Jewish cultural memory. Zionism’s mission of re-establishing a Jewish presence in the Land is therefore justified and right.

The Divine-Zionist Way

A deep longing for the Land looms large in our faith.Continue reading “Zionism 301: Modern and Divine”

Zionism 301: A Third Path

by Yehuda Fink, Shevet Shvut, Technical Director 5775

“The national religious are dangerous. More dangerous than Hezbollah, more than drivers in car-ramming attacks or kids with scissors. The Arabs can be neutralized, but they cannot…”

These are charming words of “journalist” Yossi Klein, printed in Ha’aretz this week. I do not need to explain his words, they are clear. However, I wish Mr Klein had visited a BA Machane before writing this piece. If Mr Klein had spent just one day in the bubble of Religious Zionism, be it in a Welsh field or Dutch residential centre, he would know that being Dati Leumi means taking what was old and making it new: constantly reinventing ourselves to make the world a better place.

I am a Religious Zionist Jew, not a Zionist Religious JewContinue reading “Zionism 301: A Third Path”

Zionism 301: Conviction and Inclusivity

By Jordan Bernstein, Shevet Ne’eman

On the one hand, you have a religion that has been around for 4000 or so years, caked in history, spirituality, transcending all physical structures or fleeting political ideals. On the other hand, you have a belief that the Jewish people have a right to national self-determination in the Land of Israel, something very much grounded, seemingly, in physicality, and couched in terms and concepts that hadn’t really been formed until early modernity. In the words of the Chief Rabbi, an attempt to separate the ideas fundamentally misunderstands that the story of the Jewish people is immutably one towards self-determination in the land of Israel, with Jerusalem constantly at the centre of our prayers.

Zionism, at its core, is the expression of the inalienable right of a peopleContinue reading “Zionism 301: Conviction and Inclusivity”