June 17, 2024
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June 17, 2024
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Bnei Akiva Goes Virtual: Taking a Community Event-Based Movement and Turning It 360°

(Courtesy of Bnei Akiva) And just like that Pesach is here. The last month has been quite the whirlwind, to say the least! It started out slow with murmurings about school closings and Purim celebration cancelations, but before we knew it our entire worlds were turned upside down.

Across the continent, we have been told to stay home and stay put, but as Jews this is particularly difficult as it goes against our very nature of being a unified community-focused people. Our daily and weekly activities are almost all centered around public gatherings and communal events—so how do we continue living by that value without leaving our homes?

At Bnei Akiva, we decided like many others—to take it virtual. Alone, together. It was quite the leap to take our weekly programming, which is strongly geared towards team building, leadership and in-person comradery to a virtual platform—but it turns out there are many aspects that have been enhanced through the ability to reach more people in different time zones from the comfort of their own home. Rav Shaul Feldman, executive director of Bnei Akiva of the U.S. & Canada explained, “Suddenly, for the first time in decades we are all sitting alone in our own homes. We are able to relate to how it would look like in Yetziat Mitzrayim when Jews were in distress and had nothing behind them, nothing in front of them, nowhere but upwards and Hashem to look towards. These are the days we are in now, gathering together in our own homes looking up to heaven to bring the miracle of Pesach into our own days and reaching out to connect to our communities in whichever ways we can.”

Everything from Havdalas, ongei Shabbat, chesed opportunities and tishes have gone virtual and we are now able to take small local community events and make them worldwide! For example, last week’s Moshava Ba’ir’s oneg Shabbat brought in over 200 people on a Friday afternoon to sing, dance and play games before Shabbat. A month ago, we would have never believed we could reach so many campers in the middle of winter. On a recent Thursday, Bnei Akiva hosted a virtual tish led by Ishay Ribo and Rav Shaul Feldman bringing in over 5,000 participants! Instead of an in-person tish, which could fit maybe 100 people in a room, we were able to spread the inspiration to thousands! Camp reunions and movement-wide leadership training, which used to be reserved for annual seminars because of the cost and difficulty of planning inter-city events, have since shifted to weekly sessions—just because we can!

Although in many ways it feels like the world has halted, Bnei Akiva continues to be moving faster with more events and participants than ever before. For Pesach, our Hanhalat Artzi (college-age Ideological Board) was instrumental in developing Chag BA-Bayit a four-day shabbaton schedule including divrei Torah, printable activities, games and checklists that families can use to create their own shabbaton-like event over Pesach. Our mazkirim and teen leaders feel empowered that the weekly snif and peulot (Shabbat programming and activities) that they usually plan for a few dozen have the opportunity to reach hundreds. As New Jersey college leader Eli Seidman said, “As we are being able to inspire more and more Jewish youth through the power of technology, it is really an amazing thing to see that Torah and the love of the land of Israel is still being spread during this trying time.”

In a time of increasing uncertainty and isolation, our hearts are with those who are sick or struggling, but at the very least we can provide a sense of community across all age ranges throughout our sniffim (chapters) across the U.S. and Canada.

For more information about Bnei Akiva and Moshava programming or how to get involved visit www.bneiakiva.org or find Bnei Akiva of the U.S. & Canada on Facebook or Instagram.

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