(Courtesy of Bnei Akiva) On the evening of May 8, over 700 people joined together for the annual “Tekes Ma’avar” transitioning from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha’atzmaut run by Bnei Akiva and its young professionals’ program BAbayit at the West Side Institutional Synagogue in New York City.
To say the evening was inspiring would be understating the impact of the event. Families, students and young professionals all gathered to honor Israel’s fallen soldiers through tefillah, lighting candles and hearing from a chayal firsthand. Bnei Akiva brought in Yaron Porter of their partner organization, Tikvot, which rehabilitates Israel’s wounded soldiers and victims of terror through sport. Porter’s empowering story of perseverance despite the trauma and injuries he endured as a combat soldier won a standing ovation from the crowd of hundreds.
Rav Shaul Feldman, executive director of Bnei Akiva of the U.S. and Canada, then led the community into the second half of the evening celebrating Israel’s independence. He stressed the importance of Yom Ha’atzmaut as not just a national holiday, but as a date that must be marked on the religious calendar. The same way people go to shul and celebrate Simchat Torah, the tefillah chagigit of Yom Ha’aztmaut should be a given.
The room then went from a serious mood of deep respect and remembrance into an uplifting atmosphere filled with tefillah, inspiration and music led by Eitan Katz. In true Bnei Akiva fashion, through song and dance, the room was filled with tangible excitement and overwhelming gratitude for the very fact that Israel exists.
After the ceremony, young professionals joined together for a sold-out Israeli beer, wine and food shuk with imported Israeli drinks and foods.
With attendees from 10 Upper West Side-based shuls and organizations and young professionals originally from all over the tri-state area including New York City, New Jersey, Five Towns and Westchester, it was truly a community event to be remembered. Along with this event were tekesim and tefilot chagigot run by Bnei Akiva shlichim and high school leaders throughout the U.S. and Canada, including a community-wide program at Frisch, run jointly with NCSY.
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