April 13, 2024
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Founder of Kever Rachel Heritage Group to Speak at Beth Aaron

To meet Miriam Adani is to meet a woman whose faith and strength shine in her eyes. The visionary and guiding spirit behind the Kever Rachel Heritage Foundation, the Jerusalem mother of seven was instrumental in securing for Jewish posterity the burial place of the biblical matriarch Rachel.

Adani’s visit to Teaneck next week is a homecoming of sorts. Over the years, the Jewish community here has been a bastion of support in her efforts to rescue Kever Rachel from the serendipity of diplomacy and politics, and for projects her foundation has undertaken. When she arrives, she will bring with her a dream to usher her foundation into phase two of its development, as well as stories of the lives that have changed as a result of its work.

Her stories are largely about yearning or broken-hearted women and men, religious and secular, who pray at Kever Rachel and see miracles happen to them. “I can give you names and pictures of many of these people,” Adani said modestly, one rainy morning at her home-away-from-home in Bethlehem, a few hundred meters beyond the southern border of Jerusalem.

“This place has amazing power. I believe it’s because Chazal say that when the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, all the gates of tefillah were closed except one, the Gate of Tears. Kever Rachel is the Gate of Tears because Rachel Imeinu is crying for her children, and people from all over the world come here to cry.”

Other stories tell of Israeli soldiers who grew up secular and were clueless about Rachel and why her gravesite, once slated to be turned over to the Palestinians, is so important to Jews. Aviva Pinchuk, Kever Rachel Heritage Fund assistant director, related one such story about giving a private tour to the commander in charge of education for all of the IDF.

“Afterward, he told us he wants every soldier to visit here and learn about this place. This convinced us that teaching about Rachel Imeinu was the most direct way of educating people about being Jewish,” Pinchuk said. Today, the foundation organizes lectures, prayer sessions, holiday celebrations and gift baskets for soldiers as well as programming for tourists and visitors.

How Adani became a driving force behind reclaiming and renovating Kever Rachel is yet another story. Twenty years ago, while Israel was suffering through one of the region’s seemingly endless cycles of violence, she organized a gathering of women on the yahrtzeit of Rachel Imeinu as a display of solidarity and simcha. More than 3,000 attended and the event became annual, today continuing not only in Jerusalem, but, according to Adani, in 100 communities around the world.

Four years later, during the first Intifada, with a neglected Kever Rachel on the verge of abandonment by Israel’s government due to the Oslo Agreement, Adani and her organization joined the struggle to keep the site under Israeli sovereignty. At a meeting she requested with the commanders in charge of security and police as well as with several Knesset members, she was allowed one brief statement in an effort to dissuade them from closing the site.

“I thought, what can I say? But God gave me the words. I told them: Israel is the home of all Jews, and a home without an Ima is not the same house. Please allow the children of Rachel Imeinu to come and visit their mother.” Adani said the powers-that-be sat in stunned silence and then agreed, with the proviso that they would handle security only if she found funding for bulletproof buses to transport visitors.

This is where the Teaneck connection began. Members of the community undertook to raise money and eventually collected enough to help provide free transportation for two years, ensuring a daily Jewish presence at the site until Israel’s sovereignty over it was secure.

Teaneck’s support continued when, during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, Adani undertook to raise money for 1,000 gift baskets for soldiers. Community members here raised enough for 10,000, and the project became the focus of yet another story. “The room where we prepared the packages looked like a war room and people asked us, what’s going on here. I told them we indeed are fighting a war, a war for ahavat Israel,” Adani said.

Now, she has her sights set on a new project, an educational center that will tell the story and stories of Rachel Imeinu and Kever Rachel in multiple languages and using a variety of media. The center will be dedicated to the memory of Naava Applebaum, a 20-year-old Israeli-American woman who was murdered together with her father on the evening before her wedding by a Palestinian suicide bomber. A piece of her wedding gown was made into a parochet and hangs in the women’s section of Kever Rachel.

“We want to connect all Jews with Rachel Imeinu, the mother of us all. It takes a lot of work to bring her children home to her, but when people help us they have bracha in their houses,” Adani said.

She will speak during a melave malka at Congregation Beth Aaron on March 19, at 8 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

By June Glazer

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