(Courtesy of AFYBA) Stepping boldly into a dynamic new era, American Friends of Yeshivot and Ulpanot of Bnei Akiva (AFYBA) www.afyba.org, proudly unveils a refreshed identity through its revamped website, emblem, and a distinguished lineup of leaders while honoring their legacy, founder and former leaders. AFYBA was founded in 1939 by Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neria, and when he passed away in 1995, Rav Druckman took over as head of AFYBA and remained in that role until he passed away earlier this year. AFYBA moves into the New Year with new and strengthened leadership and a strong passion for growth, as well as an expanded donor and alumni base, here in the U.S. and worldwide.
Adding to this exciting era is the induction of Jack Gourdji as AFYBA’s new executive director. Gourdji’s notable 12-year service as executive director of JUF/Yachad and other various Jewish institutions speaks volumes about his dedication and experience. An alumnus of Hofstra University and a longstanding board member at Anshei Shalom synagogue in West Hempstead, New York, his passion for AFYBA’s vision is evident.
“We are thrilled to welcome Jack Gourdji as our new executive director,” said Ari Raskas, president of the AFYBA board. “This new leadership, combined with our refreshed branding on the website, makes the AFYBA mission much clearer as we shepherd in a new era and communicate to our American supporters and those worldwide, the importance of the AFYBA organization.”
“I am honored to be part of the long-standing legacy of AFYBA,” said Gourdji. “We hope to educate supporters of Israel and students about AFYBA and invite people to learn about the extraordinary mission of AFYBA’s 70 schools and to join our call to support the educational mission of the future leaders of Israel.”
The rich tapestry of AFYBA’s history reaches back to 1939, courtesy of Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neria, a close disciple of Rav Avraham Yitzchok HaCohen Kook and a future Israel Prize winner. He laid the foundation with a pioneering yeshiva high school in Kfar Haroeh. Today, AFYBA proudly oversees a network of 70 esteemed institutions, including yeshivot, ulpanot, hesder and pre-military academies, spread across Israel.
AFYBA’s annual intake of 24,000 religious students is a testimony to its unwavering commitment to all-encompassing education. Their diverse curriculum promotes intellectual curiosity in various fields like Jewish religious studies, secular studies, arts and sciences. Their schools consistently earn national recognition for scholastic excellence, always prioritizing inclusivity by keeping doors open to students irrespective of their financial situations. A noteworthy achievement is AFYBA’s innovative integration of students hailing from diverse backgrounds, including Russia, Ethiopia, India, North America, Europe, South Africa, and Australia.
AFYBA alumni’s achievements illuminate their significant contributions to Israel and the broader world. Truly unique to Israeli education are the studies through the AFYBA hesder yeshivot, where students find their place in elite IDF combat units, or commit to Sherut Leumi, Israel’s National Service Corps. Many surpass national averages in college admissions, reflecting Torah values while influencing various sectors of Israeli society, economics, academia and more.
Gourdji, as new executive director, strengthens an already accomplished leadership team that includes:
Moshe Berniker, who takes the reins as head of fundraising at AFYBA. Jerusalem-born and bred, Berniker, before joining AFYBA, dedicated his service to the IDF’s elite Duvdevan unit.
Rav Shlomo Kimche, serving as AFYBA’s vice chairman. After making aliyah at 8, Rav Kimche went on to establish Yeshivat AFYBA Orot Yehuda and then lead it for over two decades.
Ari Raskas, who dons the mantle as president of the AFYBA board. Beyond being a successful managing director at Pickwick Capital Partners, Raskas has a longstanding connection to AFYBA, having spent a year and a half studying at the AFYBA school Yeshivat Hakotel, and is an active supporter of his community’s synagogue, having spent three years as president of Young Israel of Scarsdale.
As AFYBA embraces the opportunities of the New Year, it does so with renewed leadership vigor, an engaging website and an unwavering dedication to creating a meaningful impact. To learn more about AFYBA’s innovative programs and contribute to their mission, please visit www.afyba.org.