May 14, 2024
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May 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Six NJ Boys Inducted Into IDF’s Netzach Yehuda

Serving in the IDF is a privileged obligation. With these moving words reverberating in their heads, Akiva Pudell and five additional New Jersey lone soldiers were inducted into the IDF as members of the Netzach Yehuda division just before Rosh Hashanah. The ceremony was held in the national park in Beit Sha’an, between the Kinneret and the Dead Sea. To the delight of the inductees and to the credit of their proud and proactive parents, the tekes kumta (beret ceremony) was live-streamed to their homes in New Jersey to be cherished and shared with relatives and friends. Pudell’s parents, Nechama and Steven, were thrilled to be able to wave and throw a kiss to their new chayal through the stream, as were the other parents.

All six boys are chayalim bodidim (lone soldiers) from New Jersey who have just completed seven months of basic training in the Jordan Valley as part of the Kfir Brigade, the 97th Battalion called Netzach Yehuda, formerly the Nachal Charedi Brigade. The Kfir Brigade, one of the largest in the IDF, is stationed in the Yehuda and Shomron areas of the country, which requires alert, active duty daily.

Akiva Pudell from Teaneck, Avichai Wachsberg from Passaic and Yosef Kramer of Edison will be entering a commanders’ course after Sukkot that will require an additional four months of service. When they complete the course they will be deployed to the Beit El/Ramallah area.

Shlomo Rosen and Yitzchak Baum, both of Passaic, as well as Marc Cohen from Manalapan, are part of tofes kav units, which patrol borders and perform shmirot (guard duty) in the northern Binyamin areas near Shilo.

The draw of Netzach Yehuda, a division of Mitnadev Chutz La’aretz (MACHAL) for recruits from outside of Israel, is that it affords a structured framework for a religious army service. It offers a Yeshiva atmosphere within a serious army environment that meets the needs and goals of former hesder and yeshiva students from within Israel and abroad. The program incorporates serious hours of learning with rabbanim who travel the country to the bases to learn with the recruits, a high level of kashrut, and all-inclusive provisions for Shabbat and Yom Tov observance on and off the base. Through Netzach Yehuda, recruits are housed in dormitories with like-minded roommates or with religious families. Toward the end of the 18 months of service, Netzach Yehuda offers additional services including vocational training, help in completing bagruyot exams and assistance in returning to yeshiva programs.

Pudell studied at Yeshivat Mevaseret Yerushalayim for 1 ½ years. He was drafted into the IDF on March 31. His home base is in Chashmonaim with the Gidon family, formerly of Staten Island. Looking toward the future, Pudell hopes to make aliyah after completing his army service and pursue college and medical studies.

“Many factors led up to my being an IDF soldier today. My community of Teaneck is a stronghold of pro-Israel support and activism. My four years at MTA were imbued with true appreciation for Israeli language and culture. Topping off my high school experience were the six weeks I spent in Gush Etzion as part of an exchange program between MTA and Yeshivat Mekor Chaim (Steinsaltz) students. During those special 6 weeks, I felt completely immersed in Israeli culture and language. My roommates spoke Hebrew or Russian, my rabbeim were Israeli, our tiyulim were inspirational and I felt like a native. I believe that was an early turning point in my decision to eventually make aliyah. During my gap year at Mevaseret, I befriended many of the Israeli high school students who shared our campus and my rabbeim were very supportive of my plans. When I returned home and presented my dream to my parents, they were overwhelmingly encouraging and supportive, for which I am so fortunate and appreciative. My sister Shoshana has helped pave the way through her own aliyah to Zichron Yaakov with her husband and baby. My brothers, Gavriel and Naftali, are on board as well,” explained Pudell at a recent interview during a brief trip back home after his induction.

Marc Cohen attended JEC in Elizabeth and then spent a year and a half at Yeshivat Torat Shraga. His home base is Chashmonaim with the Eckman family, formerly of Teaneck. He hopes to make aliyah after his service but may first attend college in the States.

Cohen responded to our question about his motivation to join the IDF as follows: “I was raised in a pro-Israel environment. My family always attended the Israeli Day Parade and many pro-Israel rallies. Through my involvement with programs in high school, camp and other extra-curricular activities, I always dreamed of being a chayal but never believed it could be a reality for me. But after my senior year, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal were kidnapped. I felt helpless. Then Operation Protective Edge broke out. While sitting in camp and reading the names of the soldiers killed in battle, I realized that they were my age and I decided to act. With the approval of my family, I enlisted this past March through Netzach Yehuda so that I could continue my learning and daven with a minyan three times a day. The commanders and officers in my unit were great and the friends I made are the best. We are connected for life.”

Rosen, who attended Mevaseret for a year and a half, and whose home base is in an apartment in Ramat Beit Shemesh with other lone soldiers, sends a message to his home community of Passaic as well as to all communities in the U.S.  “Never forget to pray and learn for the safety of the soldiers of Israel.”

By Pearl Markovitz

 

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