June 15, 2024
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First RZA Post-Pandemic Delegation of North American Jewish Leaders Returns From Israel

Next generation of Orthodox Jewish leaders pledge support and action on behalf of Israeli brethren.

(Courtesy of RZA) As delegates from the Religious Zionists of America (RZA)-Mizrachi rabbinic and communal leadership mission return to their home communities, they return with renewed energy to advocate for the Jewish state and calling on their local communities and politicians to act on behalf of their communal brethren in Israel.

The one-week trip, which brought them to the communities hardest hit by the recent violence in Israel and to meet with victims of the violence and other acts of terror, also included high-level meetings with members of Israel’s recently installed government. They also met with Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Rabbi David Lau, as well as other leading rabbis in Israel’s religious tapestry.

The delegation was made up of the next generation of Jewish communal leaders, including many who were either recently installed in their leadership roles in influential shuls, and many who work each day towards educating the leaders of tomorrow. The participant list included Rabbi Daniel and Rivka Alter from the Moriah Day School in Englewood, New Jersey and Yeshiva University’s High School for Girls in Queens, New York, respectively; Raizi Chechik from the Manhattan Day School; Rabbi Aaron Feigenbaum from the Irving Place Minyan in Woodmere, New York; Rabbi Yechezkel Freundlich from Congrégation Tifereth Beth David Jérusalem in Montreal; Rabbi Dr. Seth Grauer from Bnei Akiva Schools Toronto; Rabbi and Mrs. Leonard and Margaret Matanky from Congregation KINS of West Rogers Park and Ida Crown Jewish Academy, both in Chicago; Rabbi Steven Miodownik from Ahavath Achim in Highland Park, New Jersey; Rabbi Jonathan and Dr. Yael Muskat of the Young Israel of Oceanside and Yeshiva University; Rabbi Chaim and Dr. Shoshana Poupko of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey; Rabbi Adam Starr from Congregation Ohr Hatorah in Atlanta; Rabbi Chaim and Lisa Steinmetz from Kehillath Jeshurun in Manhattan; and Rabbi Yosef Weinstock from the Young Israel of Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Perhaps one of the most moving portions of the trip was when the group met with and heard from Dr. Leah Goldin, the mother of Israel Defense Forces’ Lieutenant Hadar Goldin. Goldin, then 23, was presumed killed during the 2014 Gaza war and his body has since been held by Hamas along with the body of comrade Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul. Despite seven years of covert negotiations and overt political pressure, the Hamas continues to refuse the Goldin and Shaul families’ basic human rights of allowing them closure and the religious burial of their children.

Before the pandemic, Dr. Goldin and her family spent months each year advocating on behalf of their son in the halls of parliaments across the globe, in the United Nations, as well as in in-person meetings with members of the U.S. government, and influential Jews across the globe. Due to the pandemic, these meeting haven’t happened over the course of the last 18 months, and the communal leaders on the RZA mission promised to assume the responsibility to bring Lt. Hadar Goldin’s story back into their shuls and classrooms, and to call on their local political leaders and advocacy organizations to work to pressure Hamas to return the bodies for proper burial.

After touring the destruction caused by the recent upheaval in Lod, the group announced the creation of the Israel Community Fund in partnership with Mizrachi Worldwide, the National Council of Young Israel and other U.S.-based synagogues and communal institutions.

Initially, the funds raised will support additional emotional trauma counseling resources in the communities hardest hit by the recent unrest. Funds will also go towards expanding Lod’s Central Synagogue and towards refurbishing Torah institutions in the city’s Ramat Eshkol neighborhood.

“Throughout our trip we saw how painful the last 18 months has been on both ourselves and our brethren in Israel,” said Religious Zionists of America Executive Vice President Rabbi Ari Rockoff. “Meeting with the families who have been so traumatized by the recent violence and meeting with the Goldins, left us leaving with the motivation to do everything we can for our brothers and sisters in Israel. Our sages tell us Kol Yisrael Areivim Ze LaZeh, and after seeing with our own eyes the needs of our brethren, we are ready to come home and act.”

Synagogues, schools, other institutions and private donors looking to join the fundraising efforts can do so at https://rza.org/israelcommunityfund/.

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