Nov 1, 2005 — As Israel filled up with visitors for the holiday of Succot, Yeshiva University’s Israel campus prepared an exciting program of events for its students, alumni and friends under the banner V’Samachta B’Chagecha.
Four aspects of YU’s engagement with Israel were explored through four events held in Jerusalem: Religious Zionism, Jewish History, Social Action and Torah Learning. Organized by Abby Weisz of Yeshiva University in Israel, under the direction of Howard M. Weisband, senior advisor on Israel affairs, these four events were coordinated with the Center for Jewish Future, whose dean, Rabbi Kenneth Brander, played an active role.
The first event was a stimulating panel discussion with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi Benny Lau, and Rabbi Kenneth Brander, and chaired by moderator Marc Belzberg, on the future of Religious Zionism.
In the aftermath of the disengagement from Gaza, Rabbi Riskin also lamented the disengagement of the Religious Zionist community from the rest of Israeli society, and Rabbi Lau described new measures to heal ideological rifts within the Dati Leumi (Religious Zionist) community itself. He praised the concept of community, which he said Israel could learn from, echoing the sentiments of Rabbi Brander who called for closer cooperation between religious Zionists within and outside Israel. A digital recording of the talk can be downloaded from www.yutorah.org.
During the intermediary days, Rabbi Brander led 50 people on a tour of the Old City, drawing on Biblical and historical sources to explain the archaeological features of the Jewish Quarter. He demonstrated that, during the time of the Second Temple, different Jewish sects managed to live side-by-side despite difficult circumstances –– a historical lesson with clear modern parallels.
In time for the final days of the holiday, volunteers from YU came to help prepare Yom Tov meals in the central Jerusalem soup kitchen of Hazon Yeshaya, which distributes 7,000 meals every day. Families chose to dedicate a morning of their vacation to helping feed Israel’s poorest citizens by peeling and chopping vegetables. More photos of the YU volunteers can be found at www.hazonyeshaya.org.
There is a tradition of staying up all night before Hoshana Rabba (the fifth intermediary day) to learn Torah, and approximately 400 people came to participate in the joint program arranged by the OU Center in Israel and YU in Israel. Rabbi Dr Norman Lamm, Rabbi Brander, Rabbi Hershel Shachter, Rabbi Meir Goldvicht, Rabbi Dovid Miller and Rabbi Asaf Bednarsh each gave a shiur, as part of the program which lasted nine hours through the night until 5 am, followed by prayers at the Kotel.
“It was exciting to see a diverse cross-section of the YU family participating together, including students and Roshei Yeshiva (teachers of Talmud), overseas visitors and Israel residents, and alumni of all ages and their families,” said Rabbi Brander. “It was clear that there is a tremendous thirst for the kind of learning that YU has to offer, in Israel as in the States, and this was the first in a series of programs designed to strengthen our university’s connections with Eretz Yisrael, Am Yisrael and Torat Yisrael (the land of Israel, the people of Israel and the heritage of the Jewish people).”