The core mission of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva is to train future leaders for the State of Israel; men and women who are observant Jews devoted to Torah study, dedicated to the Land of Israel and the Jewish People and loyal citizens of the State, particularly regarding army and national service.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
AFYBA Rosh Hashana Appeal Letter, 5775
Dear AFYBA supporter,
Over 400 YBA
Hesder Yeshiva soldiers fought in this summer’s Operation Protective Edge, as
well as the hundreds of YBA alumni reservists, putting into practice one of the
core values taught at all YBA schools – to serve the Nation of Israel and
protect the Jewish State with conviction and pride.
At YBA schools
we don’t measure success by scholastic achievement alone. We strive to help
every student become the best person that he or she can be: a person who leads a
value-driven life; a life dedicated to giving of one’s self to help
repair the world. Just consider these few examples:
Yosef arrived in Israel from
Ethiopia with his parents in 1991 when he was five years old, as one of 13,000 Olim
in Operation Solomon.
“The first few years were hard. At first,
the Jewish Agency put us in a hotel in Arad that they used for an Absorption
Center. Then we lived in a caravan camp in Beer Sheva. In 1993 my father found
a job with the JNF and we settled in the Negev town of Ofakim. I remember that
I desperately wanted to become an Israeli, even if my parents couldn’t help me
to reach that goal.
end of 8th grade, I heard about a new yeshiva that would open in
Ofakim in the fall, and I signed up. At Yeshivat Bnei Akiva Afikei Aretz
I was one of six Ethiopians in in the first class of 30. It felt natural being
there – I was no different than the other students. I became active in the Bnei
Akiva youth movement and was even chosen to became a counselor. At the yeshiva
I learned that whatever I do, I should go for it all the way; to dare to
challenge myself; to set high goals and to work hard to achieve them. The Rosh
Yeshiva, Rabbi Adi Falach, took special interest in the six of us and made sure
we got tutoring when we needed it in order to complete our matriculation exams.
graduating, I postponed enlisting in the IDF in order to join the YBA
Mechina of the Northern Negev, in Kiryat Malachi. The Mechina helped me
mature both physically and spiritually, and to develop leadership skills. I
enlisted in the IDF Paratrooper Brigade and eventually graduated officer
training school with the rank of Lieutenant.
serving as an IDF officer, I came to realize that many of the soldiers in
military prison were Ethiopian recruits who had little motivation to serve as
soldiers. I personally made sure that the Ethiopian soldiers under my command would
be proud of their heritage and to be serving in the IDF.
was discharged I founded “Tzeida Laderech” (Provisions for the Road), a program
to empower Ethiopian teenagers and motivate them to do a substantial service in
the IDF. We provide counseling and work to remove barriers so that they will succeed
as combat soldiers in the IDF. Being a good soldier is the best stepping stone
to becoming a good citizen.”
(res.) Aftamo Yosef was recently awarded the Moskowitz ‘Spirit of Zionism’
Award, recognizing his leadership role in ensuring the successful integration
of the Ethiopian community into the fabric of Israeli society.He was called up for reserve duty at
the start of Operation Protective Edge and led troops into combat in Gaza.
Noam Donda made Aliyah from Ukraine without her
parents in 1997 through the Jewish Agency’s Naale Program, at the age of 16.
Luckily, she landed at Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Neot Avraham in Arad.
“I spent three of the happiest years of my life at the Ulpana
in Arad. These were three years of
living as part a huge family, some 240 girls, with Rabbi Shmueli, the head of
the Ulpana, as the father, and the Matron, Bluma, as the mother.
I grew up in the town of Saki, on the
Crimean peninsula – a town with no organized Jewish community, no Jewish
schools or Jewish social life. My
friends were local Ukrainians and it never crossed my mind that I would one day
be studying in a religious boarding school in Israel.
My parents, both of whom are
university-educated construction engineers, had a relative living in Israel and
in 1995 the hot subject of discussion among Jews in Ukraine was the question of
immigrating to Israel. So, when I was
14, I came on a trip here with my father. This trip to Israel opened new
horizons for me and my first thoughts of living in Israel began to develop.
In 1996 I managed to find the
representative of the Naale Program and asked him a lot of questions. In the end it was decided that I would go to a
religious Zionist school, without my having a clue where on earth I would end
up. That fall I arrived together with a group of girls at the Ulpana in Arad,
on the edge of the desert. The extraordinary scenery around Arad, the amazing
road down to the Dead Sea, and the hills and gullies of the desert were totally
different from the landscape I grew up with in Ukraine – brown replaced
The break from home was difficult. The other
15 girls came from different parts of Ukraine and I didn’t know any of them. But
our counselor was very understanding and we were wrapped in a cocoon of caring
– the amount of love that I was showered with was totally overwhelming. We were
able to call home, send emails and write letters, but our time was mostly taken
up with our intensive studies, field trips throughout Israel and the full social
life that living in the dormitory involves.
After a year, when I went to visit my parents in
Ukraine, I found that I really missed the Ulpana and couldn’t wait to get back
again. I wasn’t used to this type of school, with its combination of fun activities
and a top level educational challenge. The
open atmosphere, the warm-hearted people, and the genial and refreshing talks
with the teachers and the head of the Ulpana left me with the feeling that
these three years were both the most enjoyable and the most important in my
life. My thanks go to
the wonderful staff of the Ulpana – a place which for me is like a family in
After graduation Noam served for two
years in the National Service as the counselor of a new group of Naale girls at
Neot Avraham. Today she is an Occupational Therapist living in Tel Aviv with
Weisberg was eleven
years old when he suffered through his parents’ very traumatic divorce. Due to his
mother’s extreme hardship at the time, the court placed Haim in a group home in
Afula until he was old enough to attend a residential high school. At the start
of 9th grade, Haim transferred to Yeshivat Bnei Akiva Beit Shmuel
in Hadera, and his life began to look up.
Rabbi Haim Weisberg
“By the time I got to high school, my record
was so bad that no school wanted to take me. I had all kinds of behavioral
issues because of my difficult childhood. I thank Hashem that Rabbi Elyashiv
Hacohen, the Rosh Yeshiva of Beit Shmuel, agreed to give me a chance.
arrival at the yeshiva was like landing on a pile of pillows. Rabbi Elyashiv
took me under his wing and treated me like his own son. For the first few years
my mother was barely functioning, so I more or less lived at the yeshiva full
time, including weekends and vacations. In the homes of my teachers I witnessed
a level of love and caring that I never knew in my own family.
remember that before I came to the yeshiva no one believed that I would ever
amount to anything. But I felt that Rabbi Elyashiv had faith in me, and that gave
me faith in myself. I did everything I could to earn his praise, and for the
first time in my life I began to study in earnest. I finished high school with
full matriculation and was accepted to the prestigious Hesder Yeshiva in
Yeruham – not out of pity, but because I had earned it!
I did my
IDF service in the Chaplaincy Corps, and I was chosen by the Jewish Agency to
go to the FSU for six months to teach and lead Jewish youth groups. After my
discharge I went to the Hesder Yeshiva in Kiryat Shmona to study for rabbinic
ordination. When I got engaged I asked Rabbi Elyashiv to officiate at my
wedding. Even nine years after their divorce my parents still refused to speak
to each other, so I asked Rabbi Elyashiv and his wife to walk me down the aisle
in their place. It felt right to me because they really were my adoptive
finished my ordination I enrolled in the training course for IDF Chaplains, and
during that time I published a book on Hilchot Avelut (Laws of Mourning), which
earned me the rabbinic equivalent of a doctorate degree.”
Weisberg lives with his wife and four children in Kiryat Shmona, and has served
as a commander in the IDF Chaplaincy for the past six years.As the Chief Chaplain for Yehuda and
Shomron, he was actively involved in the search for Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer
and Naftali Fraenkel, who were kidnapped from Gush Etzion and found murdered
was raised in Givat
Olga, a working-class neighborhood in Hadera, and came to Ulpanit Bnei Akiva
Mevaseret Baruch in Hadera in 7th grade with a track record of
poor grades due to undiagnosed learning disabilities.
"In my first year at Mevaseret
Baruch, a substitute teacher sent me to the office for disrupting the class. I
knocked on the door of the Rosh Ulpana, Rabbi Danni Diner, and he asked me,
‘Elinor, what are you doing here?’ I was surprised that he knew my name! I told
him that I was thrown out of class. I remember that he led me back to the
classroom, took the teacher aside and said, ‘Listen, whatever happened doesn’t
matter; you have to let her back into the class.’ In some way, I think that
incident had a lasting effect on me. I said to myself, ‘This place is
different; they aren’t going to abandon you here. They’re going to keep you and fight for you
here.’ I felt like I was worth something!
sent me for testing and I discovered that I had Dyslexia. Soon after that, the school changed the way I
was taught and tested to fit my special needs and my grades began to improve. In
10th grade, for the first time in my life, I was awarded a citation
for excellence for the amount of progress I had made. I remember hearing my
name announced and WOW! My heart skipped a beat! I was so proud that I framed the
award, and I still have it hanging on the wall to this day.
the turning point of my life. From that day forward I felt like a different
person. Really! I felt like I have someone who believes in me, and I began to
believe that I could become whatever I wanted to be."
graduation Elinor enlisted in the IDF and served for two years as a logistics
officer with the Golani Brigade. Today, she is enjoying a successful career in
marketing and public relations for a telecommunications company in Israel. She
lives in Hadera with her husband and two children andvolunteers in her free time as a
summer of 2005 Gershon Ganz, then 16 years old, was one of 15 students
at the YBA SussyaHigh School for Environmental Studies whose
families were expelled from their homes in Gush Katif.
“The months leading up to the
disengagement at the end of ninth grade weren’t too bad. The real crisis began
after the summer of the disengagement. My family was bounced from hotel to
hotel, my parents couldn’t work, and there were tremendous pressures and chaos
in the family. Each student from Gush Katif was assigned an advisor to help him
get through the crisis.
remember that I could barely concentrate on my studies that entire year because
I felt so confused and anxious. My
family didn’t know from one week to the next where we would be. All our stuff
was put into storage and we were living out of suitcases. Sussya really became
a substitute for home that year. My teachers gave me private tutoring so I
wouldn’t fall behind, and when winter came and I couldn’t get to my winter
clothes, the school provided me with new clothes. They even gave me pocket
money because my parents couldn’t afford to.
time, I took everything for granted. But now I realize how lucky I was to be at
Sussya. I could never have made it through the Bagrut (matriculation) exams
without the extra help and support I got there.”
graduation Gershon enrolled in the Hesder Yeshiva in Otniel and served in the IDF
Artillery Corps.He was
called back to active service this summer to serve in Operation Protective Edge.He plans to begin studying for a degree in Social Work at Bar Ilan
University in the fall, with the goal of living and working professionally in
the southern region of Israel.
are the true stories of five genuinely impressive individuals, whose lives were changed for the better
because they had the good fortune of studying at one of the 73 schools in the
YBA educational network. There are, without exaggeration, thousands of stories
like them among the over 82,000 graduates of YBA schools who actively contribute
to the building of Israel today, in virtually every field of Israeli society.
enrollment policy means that no student is ever turned away due to financial
hardship in his or her family. Each year our schools provide tuition reductions
to nearly halfthe students in the network – that’s over 10,000needy
students like Aftamo, Noam, Haim, Elinor and Gershon.
would not be possible without the support of thousands of donors like you, who
care deeply about the future of Israel. We are counting on your support this
year! Your gift to the AFYBA Scholarship Fund will enable our schools to continue
providing the kind of value-laden education that leads each student to realize his
or her maximum potential.
the enclosed return envelope to make your contribution to the AFYBA Scholarship
Fund today, or visit our secure donation page at www.afyba.org.
Rosh Hashana bring Hashem's blessings of health and happiness upon you and your
family, and a year of peace and prosperity for all Am Yisrael.
Bienenfeld Joel Schreiber Arthur Alexander Menachem Bar-Shalom
Chairman Vice Chairman President Executive Director
P.S. When making your pledge, keep in mind
that your gift will not only ensure that students like Aftamo, Noam, Haim,
Elinor and Gershon continue to receive the top-quality education that YBA
schools have become famous for – it is an investment in Israel's future as well.
So please, give generously!