April 16, 2024
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Nahal Haredi Will Be Featured During Teaneck’s Shabbat Chayal

This Shabbat, Parshat Tazria, four of Teaneck’s shuls—Congregation Bnei Yeshurun, Congregation Rinat Yisrael, Congregation Beth Abraham and Congregation Beth Aaron—will host Shabbat Chayal, designated in memory of Ilan Tokayer, z”l, a native of Teaneck who served in the IDF as a lone soldier in the Kfir combat unit from 2005-6. In 2011 he was tragically taken from his family while studying to become an enologist (botanist specializing in wine-making) at UC Davis in Sacramento, California.

Each of the participating shuls will host a kiddush in support of an Israeli amuta (non-profit organization) that supports the IDF. As part of its Shabbat Chayal programming, Congregation Beth Aaron will host Meir Elbom of Nahal Haredi, also referred to as Netzach Yehuda, who will enlighten attendees as to the strides the organization has made over the last 19 years working with lone soldiers from abroad, and especially with Israeli young men from haredi families who they have mentored throughout their IDF service.

According to Rabbi Tzvi Klebanow, president of Friends of Nahal Haredi, who has been with the organization for most of its history, “The Nahal Haredi environment in the IDF allows haredi young men to perform combat duty without compromising their religious way of life. We provide guidance, from recruitment throughout their military service and beyond.”

Nahal Haredi, founded in 1999, focuses on two distinct groups of lone soldiers. It allows young American men to serve in the IDF alongside Israeli soldiers while ensuring them a fully “kosher” environment including food, proper observance of Shabbat and Yomim Tovim, ongoing shiurim and a “like-minded chevra.” Congregation Beth Aaron boasts of two such admirable young men, Akiva Pudell, who is still serving in the IDF, and Chanan Schnaidman, who were assisted by Nahal Haredi during their service.

In praise of the program, Schnaidman commented, “Netzach Yehuda definitely had a positive impact on me. Rebbeim often came to our bases to give us inspiring shiurim. We were always given enough time to daven properly. Many of my fellow soldiers were allowed to keep their beards. Such religious efforts truly made an indelible impression on me.”

The second and larger group consists of haredi youth in Israel who are neither learning in yeshivot nor serving in the IDF. Friends of Nahal Haredi, in conjunction with the IDF, has created a non-profit organization that reaches out to these haredi youngsters who want to join the military but have little understanding of the challenges that await them during their military service and their eventual integration into the general workforce of the country.

Nahal Haredi has served over 9,500 haredi veterans to date. Currently, over 2,100 soldiers are serving in fighting battalions, including over 40 in elite units such as Givati. Nahal Haredi provides lone soldier housing in pleasant apartments, provides kosher meals daily as well as on Shabbat and chagim, ensures proper davening environments and venues and creates a warm and nurturing “home” atmosphere for many of these haredi soldiers.

Foremost among its services is the constant supervision of the soldiers’ progress and well-being on the army bases throughout the country. This is done through an exemplary, hand-picked team of 17 rabbi-mentors who travel more than 100,000 kilometers per year throughout the country to more than 24 bases to bring chizuk to these soldiers through shiurim and genuine love and concern. These rabbi-mentors also serve as liaisons between the IDF and the haredi community and advocates for the haredi soldiers.

Upon completion of their service, the Veteran Resource Center, located on Rechov Bezalel in Jerusalem, provides needed assistance to veterans of Nahal Haredi as they transition back to civilian life. Through academic guidance, learning programs in English, computers, home finance and other vital skills provided, the veterans are assisted in entering the workforce with a true sense of purpose. The hope is that they will become an economic asset and a sturdy bridge between the haredi community and mainstream Israeli society. According to Klebanow, “This may take a few generations but we are certainly on the right track.”

Veterans are also assisted financially through joyous life-cycle milestones such as marriage and childbirth. The Marriage Fund of Nahal Haredi helps provide the basics for young haredi soldiers and veterans who wish to marry and establish positive Jewish homes.

Congregation Beth Aaron invites the community to hear from Meir Elbom, who completed the second Nahal Haredi program 17 years ago, and will share his gratitude to the organization for enabling him to be a productive and religious veteran of the IDF. Elbom will be speaking on Shabbat at 6:40 p.m., followed by Mincha. Chairing the Shabbat Chayal Program are Mordechai Ungar, Nechama and Steve Pudell and Shifra Shafier.

To learn more about opportunities to lend financial support to Nahal Haredi contact Evelyn Weinberger, stateside volunteer liaison, at [email protected] or visit www.nahalharedi.org or [email protected]. Local representatives can be reached at 201-377-3575.

By Pearl Markovitz

 

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