Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sometimes Leadership is Thrust Upon Us

Racheli Frenkel is not your typical national leader. Usually, a leader develops gradually, gaining in stature and prominence with the passage of time. But occasionally, seemingly ordinary people are thrust by extraordinary circumstances onto the national stage, to be universally recognized for their leadership qualities, despite their previous anonymity. Racheli Frenkel is such a leader.

Rachel Sprecher Frenkel is a mother of seven from Nof Ayalon, a town overlooking the main highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Having made Aliyah from the USA with her parents as a child, she spent six formative years at Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Tel Aviv, developing a deep commitment to the ideals of religious Zionism. After graduating high school and completing her National Service, Racheli went on to advanced Judaic studies, eventually receiving certification as a Yoetzet Halacha
(an advisor on matters related to Jewish law). She works as a teacher and halachic counselor for infertile couples.

Having a child snatched off the street is a common parental fear, although one with little basis in reality. However, when Racheli’s son Naftali became one of three Israeli teens who disappeared while hitchhiking home from school, such a nightmare became a reality. The Israeli teens were kidnapped on June 12, 2014 and killed shortly afterward. Their bodies were discovered 18 days later in a shallow grave in a field near Hebron.

As the three-week ordeal progressed, Racheli emerged as the spokesperson for the three distressed families, addressing the media in both Hebrew and English, and even travelling to New York to plead with the UN Human Rights Commission to intervene on behalf of their sons. “My son texted me saying that he’s on his way home — and then he was gone. Every mother’s nightmare is waiting and waiting endlessly for her child to come home,” Frenkel told the UNHRC.

Her eloquence and poise in the face of adversity inspired all Israelis to a level of national unity rarely seen. The missing boys became everyone's sons, and every citizen prayed for their safe return. In the words of songwriter Etzion Mayer:

“When I looked at Racheli, I felt like I wanted to cry and to tell her that I'm hurting - but it was she who found a way to give me strength, to give us all strength. We came to give her support and we left, ourselves, feeling strengthened – and all of that from parents who were dealing with the fact that their son was kidnapped, or perhaps already dead!”

When Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a teen from East Jerusalem, was murdered just hours after the funerals of her son Naftali, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach, apparently in retaliation for the murders, Racheli Frankel got up from Shiva to make a public statement outside her home in Nof Ayalon, offering condolences to the victim’s family:

“Even in the abyss of mourning for Gilad, Eyal and Naftali, it is difficult for me to describe how distressed we are by the outrage committed in Jerusalem – the shedding of innocent blood is against morality, is against the Torah and Judaism, and is against the foundation of the lives of our boys and of all of us in this country... No mother or father should ever have to go through what we are going through, and we share the pain of Muhammad’s parents.”

Frenkel added that the legacy of the three Israeli teens “is one of love, of humanity, of national unity, and of integrity. Alongside the pain of this terrible act, we take pride in our country’s zeal to investigate, to arrest the criminals and to stop the horror; and we hope that calm will return to the streets of our country.”

During the week of mourning, countless visitors came to the Frenkel home to console Racheli and her family. In the words of one visitor:

“We were mesmerized by her unshakable Emunah and grace. Rather than complain and express theological or political bitterness, Mrs. Frenkel became a role-model for us of the Simcha and the joy that she experiences living in Israel and being part of Klal Yisrael.”

Indeed, the leadership qualities Racheli developed in her youth remained hidden for years, waiting for the right moment and conditions to come shining forth.

Over the past 75 years, the Yeshivot and Ulpanot of the YBA network have produced over 80,000 graduates imbued with the commitment, ideals and fortitude needed to become leaders in Israeli society.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Svetlana's Angels: UBA Arad makes a wedding

Moshe and Svetlana are both 26 and new immigrants from the former Soviet Union. They met each other in Beer Sheva and fell in love. Svetlana recently lost her mother to cancer and has no contact with her father. Moshe also lost all contact with both his parents after making Aliyah on his own. The couple wanted to marry, but had no resources to afford a traditional Jewish wedding.

Svetlana with her UBA Arad angels
When Mevaseret Feld, a 12th grader from Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Neot Avraham in Arad heard about the couple's plight while volunteering in Beer Sheva, she immediately consulted with her classmates, and they collectively decided to "adopt" the young couple, and make them a wedding they will never forget.

For four months during the period of their matriculation exams and their summer vacation, the girls assumed the roles of parents of the bride and groom, wedding planner, caterer, florist and dressmaker. They even raised the money needed to buy wedding presents: all the household goods the young couple would need to establish
a kosher Jewish home, from A to Z. The school, for its part, encouraged the girls by donating the use of the campus dining hall for the event.

On the night of the wedding, everyone in attendance was touched by the spirit of love and chesed that filled the air. Rabbi Yaakov Mendelson, Arad's Chabad rabbi who officiated at the wedding, compared Moshe and Svetlana to Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imenu in Parshat Lech Lecha, leaving the land of their birth to come to Eretz Yisrael, the homeland of every Jew for all time.

The celebration lasted late into the night, and as it wound down close to midnight, Moshe and Svetlana took the microphone to thank the Ulpana girls for what they had done for them: "We have no words to describe how excited and thankful we are that so many people took us into their hearts and worked so hard to make this such a joyous occasion. The warmth and caring you showed us in preparing this wedding is proof that we made the right decision to make Aliyah. This is where we belong, with our people. This is our home. We had to come here to meet our guardian angels."

View a video clip of the wedding ceremony

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

YBA students take to the streets to boost the nation's morale

Stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks by Palestinians against Jews  - as many as four times a day - have left ten Israelis dead and over a hundred injured in the first half of October. While the Israel Police and Border Police seem to be on patrol nearly everywhere, the first-responders in most attacks were regular citizens who carry licensed pistols; and in most cases, the perpetrators were neutralized within minutes.

YBA students handing out free Israeli flags in Jerusalem
With no let-up in sight, the national mood has become increasingly one of caution and fear - just the purpose of such random acts of terror. But at YBA our answer to terrorism is simple: "Am Yisrael Chai!"

This week, YBA high school students fanned out all across Israel to help bolster the resilience of Israel's citizens. They filled traffic intersections in all the major cities waving flags, dancing and singling while handing out 20,000 Israeli flags and bumper stickers saying, "Be strong and we will be strengthened" and "An eternal nation has no fear of the long road ahead."

Students volunteered their free time for these activities out of a sense of social responsibility. "Raising the flag of Israel in these times sends a message to our enemies that we are not bowing to terror," said one student, "we are never going to leave Eretz Yisrael, and we are not afraid."

"Lots of drivers sound their car horns in support; others roll down their windows and yell 'kol hakavod!' ('Good job!') and many thank us," said another participant. "That's the proof that 'Am Yisrael Chai'."

Friday, October 2, 2015

Profiles in Leadership: One Jew in search of the10 Lost Tribes of Israel

Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, z"l 
Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, was laid to rest on September 16, 2015. Since 1961, when he served as a rabbi/teacher at YBA Nechalim, he had dedicated his life to research and activity on behalf of the dispersed of Israel, in particular, research regarding the fate of the Ten Lost Tribes.

In 1975, at the urging of his mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, of blessed memory, he founded the non-profit organization, Amishav – for the Dispersed of Israel.

Rabbi Avichail has lectured widely in Israel and abroad, published numerous articles and the Hebrew books HaOvdim B’Eretz Ashur and Shitei Yisrael, the latter of which has been translated into English and French.

In order to assist in aliya and conversion, he wrote and published the booklet Judaism (Hebrew) which has been translated into numerous languages.

Rabbi Avichail was a member of the Rabbinical Court which converted the Belmonte community in Portugal. He facilitated aliya of the BaDerej L’Yerushalayim group from Mexico and the Bnei Menashe group from Peru. He continues to assist the aliya of Bnei Menashe from northeast India (some 1,000 souls to date). Rabbi Avichail has travelled the world, from India, Burma, China, Thailand and Japan to Europe and South America, in order to research, encourage and guide the dispersed of Israel.

Rabbi Avichail was born in Jerusalem in 1932. His parents came from Lithuania and Ukraine. At 16 he was drafted by the Israel Defense Forces during the War of Independence; he completed his service with the rank of sergeant in the Nahal brigade at Kibbutz Yavne. Afterwards he joined Kibbutz Saad, where he lived and worked for five years, and then studied at Yeshivat Kerem BeYavneh and Merkaz HaRav Kook. He received his rabbinical ordination and completed a teaching certificate for Bible studies and Mishna. He has held the positions of community rabbi, students’ rabbi at the Hebrew University, and teacher of Bible and Judaism for all ages. He received the equivalent of a Doctorate in Jewish Professions for his rabbinical studies and publications.

Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail and his wife Rivka were jointly awarded the Yakir Yerushalayim prize [annual citizenship prize in Jerusalem] in 2012. They have six children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their home was open at all times to the Bnei Menashe, new converts and all those who wish to study Judaism.

Thousands of citizens of Israel from the Bnei Menashe community will mourn  this  modest and saintly man, who paved the way for them to begin new lives as Jews in the state of Israel.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Training Israel's Future: Chief of Police nominee Ron Alsheich

Ron Alsheich

Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan announced last month his nomination of Ron Alsheich to be Israel's 18th Chief of Police . Born in 1963 in Jerusalem to parents of Yemenite Jewry, Alsheich graduated high school from YBA Netiv Meir, where Erdan also studied.

Ron was conscripted to the IDF in 1981 and joined the Paratroopers Brigade. He went on the serve as a commander of the brigade's Engineer Company and as deputy-commander of the 50th battalion of the Nahal Brigade.

Alsheich left the army in 1988 with the rank of Major, and joined the Shabak, Israel's equivalent to the FBI, where he rose through the ranks until being appointed deputy director in September 2014. He was expected to be tapped to be the next head of the Shabak before being picked by Erdan to lead the Israel Police.

Alsheich's nomination is expected to sail through the approval process, as praise for his talent and appropriateness for the position pours in from sources all across Israeli society. Israel's last Chief of Police, Yohanan Danino, a graduate of YBA Or Etzion, retired from the position three months ago.

The chairman of the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva educational network, Rabbi Haim Drukman, called Alsheich to congratulate him and wish him well. "It is a very important and demanding position," said Rabbi Drukman; "Your appointment is a source of pride for the entire religious Zionist sector in general, and for YBA in particular, because it demonstrates our commitment to educating toward the values of Torat Eretz Yisrael, which incorporates dedication to mitzvot between man and G-d, man and his fellow man, and man and his country."

Read more about Ron Alsheich and how his appointment reflects the growing trend of religious Zionist leadership in all sectors of Israeli society in the following links:,7340,L-4705001,00.html

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


- Meet families at the Mitzpe Yair hilltop settlement and learn about their unique lifestyle.

- Tour the ancient Jewish town of Sussya with its magnificent synagogue, caves, and tunnels

- See the unique 'green' campus at Sussya's Yeshiva High School for Environmental Studies

- Climb the Radjum Fortress for an incredible view from this strategic vantage point

- Visit the local goat farm and taste the local wine from Sussya's Shokek Winery

Transportation is by armored bus
Departing from Inbal Hotel, Jerusalem at 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
COST: $50 P/P
Register by Email to:
or call 212-248-0471 in the USA or 058-569-6140 in Israel

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Religious students in Israel are less proficient in English than their Secular peers

English week at Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Neria
A recently released study of the educational systems in Israel revealed that religious-Zionist high school graduates in Israel were less prepared for university-level English than their secular peers.

The study, conducted by Ariel Finkelstein for the 'Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah' religious-Zionist movement, was based on a sampling of psychometric exams for college entrance from the years 2000 to 2012. The findings were conclusive: religious students consistently scored 11 and 15 points below secular students in English proficiency, while on par or better than their secular peers in every other subject.

YBA Educational Network
Director General Elchanan Glatt
"To some extent this is understandable, given the extra hours and emphasis on Jewish Studies in religious schools that doesn't exist in secular schools," said Elchanan Glatt, the Director General of the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva Educational Network in Israel, "still, these findings are worrisome for religious Zionist educators. Perhaps in the past some elements in the religious Zionist public saw the study of foreign languages as unimportant. But that worldview is no longer relevant. Today it is clear to everyone that speaking a foreign language fluently, especially English, is an essential part of a high-quality education."

Glatt pointed to two graduates of YBA high schools as personal examples: Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipy Hotovely and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett. "Today's generation sees YBA graduates in the Knesset, and eloquently presenting Israel's case in English in the international media, and they understand the importance of English. They know that English is the international language in computer sciences, medicine, physics and every other scientific field, including the social sciences such as sociology or history."

Glatt stressed that the YBA educational network was taking the findings seriously and working to close the gaps in English proficiency. YBA created a new position for a network-wide English Instruction Supervisor to advise schools on how they can improve. In-service training programs are being planned for English teachers, and measurable benchmark goals are being set for each school. "The process should take two years to fully implement before we will be able to see quantifiable results," he said. "The improvement won't come at the expense of our Jewish Studies program. We have enough hours for English lessons, we just have to invest in making those hours as effective and productive as possible."