Monday, June 29, 2015

MK Nissan Slomiansky: "We need to highlight that Israel is a Jewish state"


Nissan Slomiansky, the new chairman of the Committee on Constitution, Law and Justice, is against the enactment of Basic Laws and in favor of setting new rules. In a confrontational interview he criticizes the Supreme Court ("Haredim and Arabs feel they are without representation") and promises to see that more and more laws passed by the Knesset will be grounded in Jewish law

By Gideon Alon, ISRAEL TODAY, June 29, 2015 (translation)

MK Nissan Slomiansky
Although only a few weeks have passed since he took office as Chairman of the Knesset Constitution Committee, MK Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) has strong and clear positions on issues of law and justice, and he knows just what he intends to accomplish during his tenure.

Slomiansky (69) has served ten years in the Knesset, but not continuously. He previously served for more than 20 years (1998-1977) as mayor of Elkana, where he lives with his family. He was a founder of the Gush Emunim movement, and the secretary general and member of the Yesha Council. In 1997 he became an MK for the first time on the NRP list. He lost his seat in the next elections to the 15th Knesset, but returned to the Knesset in 2003 as part of the National Union and has served two terms. In the elections to the 18th Knesset he won first place in the list of the Jewish Home party, but gave up his place for the benefit of the late journalist Uri Orbach. In the 19th Knesset was appointed to the prestigious post of chairman of the Finance Committee.

MK Slomiansky is a very hardworking MK and a pleasant person all around. He was born in Ramat Gan and studied at the YBA Nechalim yeshiva high school and then at Yeshivat Hesder Kerem b'Yavneh, where he received rabbinical ordination. He also has two Master’s degrees, in Physics from Bar-Ilan University, and in Jewish Law from Tel Aviv University.

The Chairman of the Constitution Committee makes no secret of the criticism he has of the Supreme Court, and in particular the judicial activism of the former Chief Justice Aharon Barak. When I reminded him that eight years have passed since Barak resigned, he replies: "But his spirit still reigns there in the Supreme Court."

"The court is not the legislator"

The platform of the Jewish Home party says that you oppose the excessive and unnecessary intervention of the Supreme Court in legalization. What does that mean?

"During the period of Justice Barack, the Supreme Court became the country's chief legislator. For example when I was a legislator, I passed a law that had a particular purpose with explanations and justifications. But when the law came up for judicial review, Barak said: 'I interpret the law differently than the legislature,’ and from that moment on, his interpretation became the binding interpretation in all circumstances.

"Barak also assumed the authority to overturn laws passed by the legislature, which was never the intended role of the Supreme Court. He was not the legislature. If he thought that a law needed changing, there were ways that he could unofficially direct the attention of the politicians to changing the law. The Knesset is the democratic body elected by the public, and therefore the Court must act in accordance with the laws of the Knesset, and assume the authority to overrule them."

You also claim that the Supreme Court is disconnected and does not reflect the general public. How so?

"I'll give you a few examples. In the Barak era the Court upgraded two laws that the Knesset enacted as ordinary laws into Basic Laws [referring to the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation - GA]. This gave these laws enormous power comparable to a constitution, and then the Court began to compare any new law that the Knesset enacted to these Basic Laws. If Barak’s understanding of the new law passed by the legislature contradicted a Basic Law, he abolished the new legislation. You understand what tremendous authority he assumed for himself? Furthermore, analysis of Supreme Court rulings made by various parties clearly proves that there is still a strong tendency toward the Left on the Court. I aspire that the Supreme Court will be connected to the public, with everyone being represented in some way. Today there are sectors of the general public, including the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs, who do not feel that the court represents them, and that for all intents and purposes, the Court exists in a vacuum; and that's not good. Once wider sectors of the public feel that the Supreme Court represents them, it will give the Court legitimacy. "

"Change the composition of the committee"

How will you handle this situation?

"First of all by expanding the composition of the Judicial Appointments Committee, so that there will be three ministers instead of two and three MKs instead of two, because today there are three judges on committee who typically operate in coordination with two representatives of the Israel Bar Association, thus controlling a majority on the committee. We need to create a situation on the committee where five committee members will not be able to veto judicial appointments."

Why are you against legislation of other Basic Laws to complete a Constitution?

"In principle, we are against Basic Laws and a Constitution, because we believe that Israel already has a constitution and it is the Bible. In one of the meetings of the Knesset Constitution Committee, which was attended by Justice Barak, I argued with him about the importance of the Constitution. I asked him: 'If you have a constitution, who will interpret it?' And he replied, ‘the Supreme Court.’ I told him I thought the constitution should interpreted by a special court established just for constitutional review, or another external entity composed of public figures, to which he replied: ‘If so, then there is no point to a Constitution.’ The meaning of his words is that once the Constitution is ratified with the Supreme Court as its interpreter - then there will be nothing to prevent the Supreme Court becoming the supreme sovereign."

Your party's platform states that "legislation should be avoided that imposes religious or secular standards, and the status of Jewish law should be upgraded in the country.” What does that mean?

"There's no reason for there to be a conflict between the legislation in the Knesset and Jewish law. To date, no legislation passed by the legislature contradicts Jewish law. It is very important that the Jewish state should incorporate as many concepts as possible from traditional Jewish law in our modern legal system, because many of the 3,000 year-old laws have much beauty. I submitted a bill that states that every lacuna in modern legislation should include precedents found in Jewish law. Jewish law will thereby be modernized while at the same time enriching our modern law."

Do you support the proposal to split the roles of the Attorney General into two positions, one Legal Counsel to the government and the other to head the Public Prosecutor’s Office?

"The issue of separation of the functions of the Attorney General and the head of public prosecution is a heavy topic that needs to be changed, but it should be carried out in a serious manner. I intend to hold in-depth hearings on this issue. The current situation is not good, the Attorney General is essentially the landlord for all ".

"Everyone is equal before the law"

How about the phenomenon of corruption in law enforcement, prosecution, police and among lawyers?

"There is no doubt that it is a very difficult situation when the heads of government - including a former president, a former prime minister, a former finance minister and others - are sent to prison or convicted of serious crimes. Nevertheless, we should view in a positive light the fact that the state is waging a campaign against corruption in such cases, and does not flinch from prosecuting even the most senior positions in government. We must invest in denouncing these kinds of phenomena in our educational system, even in early childhood education."

Look do you think will be the highlight of your activity in your current term of office?

"We need to highlight any parliamentary legislation that first of all, Israel is a Jewish state. When Barak was president of the Supreme Court, he turned the tables and explained Jewish state as something amorphous and abstract. Therefore, with any law enacted by the Knesset we must emphasize that we are a Jewish state, and interpret what the Jewish moral tradition is in this area of Statecraft. Take for example the Law of Return. When the state was established the state’s leaders had the wisdom to enact the Law of Return, as well as family law governing marriage and divorce, so that we can live here as a Jewish state. We also will need to make changes in the laws regarding governance and national sovereignty. "

Slomiansky believes he has a chance to promote these changes: "A leader needs to have ambition, a desire to move forward, and to know what he wants to accomplish. It’s a bit difficult with a coalition of 61 Knesset members, but I'm optimistic."

Sunday, June 28, 2015


YBA has found the secret to instilling a love of learning Torah in the hearts of their students: a return to the classical formula of Hevruta study in the Beit Midrash

By Moshe Glanz, ARUTZ SHEVA NEWS (translation)

YBA yeshiva high school students in the Beit Midrash
In the ongoing discussions over the past several years about how to make Gemara (Talmud) study more popular among yeshiva high school students, the YBA educational network began developing two years ago a new method of teaching Talmud, which has gained momentum in the past year. This year the method was applied in 16 different Bnei Akiva yeshiva high schools throughout the country, and the network plans on expanding the system to more schools next year. The goal is to double the number of participating students from 800 to 1,500, with the assistance of the Religious Education Department of the Ministry of Education.

Not like Math and English

On of the initiators of the change was Rabbi Meir Toiber, Rosh Yeshiva of YBA Netiv Meir in Jerusalem. In an interview with B’sheva, Rabbi Toiber explained that the decision for the change was made after a gradual decline in the total number of hours dedicated to Gemara study in yeshiva high schools over the past 15 years for various reasons. As a result, the Beit Midrash (study hall) was hardly being used for the purpose of independent learning. "We realized that in order to instill the love of Torah in our students we would need to turn the situation around 180 degrees."

What was the method of study before the change?

"The students perceived the Morning Seder (study session) in the Beit Midrash as preparation time for the class in Talmud that followed, in which the teacher would cover everything they needed to know anyway. This created a feeling that Talmud was just like any other subject. We finally came to the conclusion that the reason why our students were lacking motivation to study Talmud," he says. "was that they felt the same, whether studying for a Talmud lesson, a math lesson or an English lesson. But if we look deeply into the concept of Torah study, we understand that the Talmudic competence is acquired not only from hearing a lecture, but through struggling to understand a passage in the text through the give-and-take of independent study with a hevruta (study partner)."

The Talmud consists of the Mishna, Gemara and commentaries
Rabbi Yehuda Felix, who until six months ago, was the head of Education Department at Yeshivot Bnei Akiva educational network, properly understood the need to change the equation. , and together with Rabbi Toiber and the financial backing of YBA benefactor, Mr. Benjamin Landy, it was decided to change the Morning Seder both literally and figuratively. "This is a significant change;" Rabbi Toiber states. "it is not just about learning in an hour and a half. We moved the Talmud lesson to before the Morning Seder so that everything learned in the classroom becomes preparation for the Seder session itself, where students sit with their study partners and actively acquire the skills for learning Talmud." According to Rabbi Toiber, this self-instruction experience leads to a love of Torah because it provides the natural connection to the Torah that was so lacking before.

The results were not long in coming. A few months after some of the yeshiva high schools decided to adopt and began implementing the system, the initiators realized that they had caught a wave. "I had students tell me happily: ‘Before Talmud was just another subject for me; now I understand that what I am doing is learning to learn Torah.’” That proves to me that this is a big change," Rabbi Toiber says enthusiastically.  "Just recently, I went into the Beit Midrash of one of our yeshiva high schools to look for a certain teacher, and I saw dozens of boys sitting and learning with their hevruta partners. I looked to my right and to my left and couldn’t find their rabbi. When I approached the students and asked them where he was, they replied: ‘He is in reserve duty [in the IDF].’"

Rabbi Toiber could not resist and asked: “So why are you sitting and learning in the Beit Midrash instead of playing ball outside?” The students did not understand the question. "It's an amazing thing," he continues smiling. "This shows that the change worked. The students understood that they acquired Torah by sitting and learning with their hevruta. This should not to be taken as a given – these are fruits that we had not seen before. At the end of the year we visited all the Yeshivot and met with students, teachers and yeshiva heads. They filled out feedback sheets, and we discovered a huge surge in love of learning Torah. All the measures of attention, attachment and motivation were well above anything we had ever seen before."

Does not contradict matriculation

It is no secret that in Bnei Akiva yeshiva high schools there is tension between the desire to study Torah and the connection to the real world. But according to Rabbi Toiber, the struggle between different forces only proves that Torah study must receive greater expression. "Over the years the students have come to expect and demand high achievement levels in both general and Judaic studies matriculation scores. This “wanting it all” demands that we provide enrichment in both directions," he explains. "Ultimately, the ideal of the yeshiva is that Torah should influence every aspect of life - everything," he says. "Our concept is: be a military man, be a lawyer, be a farmer, merchant or be anything you want; but on one condition: that you stay connected to the Torah. The connection to Torah must not be just intellectual; it must be a spiritual link. It is clear to me that students should learn for matriculation tests, but all subjects must be wrapped up in the connection to Torah."

Following the success of the initiative, YBA wants to expand to an even higher level. "We want to eventually include another measure of success – we hope to have our students writing term papers on the Talmudic issues they dealt with during the year."

When learning Torah becomes achievement oriented, don’t you lose something of the value of learning Torah for its own sake?

"First of all, that’s a great question. And you’re right, that is a difficult challenge," says Rabbi Toiber. "But it is important to emphasize that we are not talking here about just a positive learning experience." According to him, the bottom line must be that the students master in depth the Talmud they were studying during the year. "When we ask the students what is the conclusion of a Talmudic passage they learned, they need to know the answer, and not just that they enjoyed studying it. That’s not how you raise Talmidei Chachamim. We need to work simultaneously on both aspects, so that on the one hand they will learn the proper tools of Torah study with their hevruta that will serve them later in life, and on the other hand to professionally measure their scholastic achievement."

How do you intend to move the process forward in the years ahead?

"We are moving forward in two ways: first by training our Talmud teachers to use this method effectively. We are already doing this and we will do even more next year. Secondly, this year we included 16 Bnei Akiva yeshiva high schools, and by expanding next year to 22 schools, the number of students participating in the initiative will double. Thus, gradually we believe, we will succeed in bringing back the sounds of Talmud study to all the yeshiva high schools in the Bnei Akiva network." Rabbi Toiber explains, "Our goal is to increase Torah and glorify it."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Tikun Olam - UBA Orot Modiin student wins Volunteer of the Year Award

All 74 schools in the YBA Educational Network educate their students to put into practice the Jewish values of Tikun Olam and Gemilut Chasadim through weekly volunteer activities in the community, effectively improving the lives of thousands of needy Israelis of all ages.

UBA Orot Modiin senior, Carmel Amir
In Modiin, a growing young city in the heart of Israel, Mayor Haim Bibas has made a tradition of awarding certificates of appreciation to 15 twelfth graders each year recognizing them for their contributions to the community through their volunteer activities,with one of the 15 nominees being chosen for the Volunteer of the Year Award.

At the high-point of this years ceremony, attended by municipal officials, educators, family and friends of the nominees, Mayor Bibas announced that Carmel Amir (17), from Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Orot Modiin, was the 2015 winner of the coveted award. 

Carmel, who is also a leader in the local Israeli Scouts youth movement, was cited for her contribution to society for her leadership role for the past few years in the city's "Birthday Clowns" project. The project organizes and hosts birthday parties for children from needy families in cooperation with the municipality's welfare department.

Mayor Bibas praised Carmel as a worthy role model for her peers, who gives to others with all her heart. "I makes me feel proud to to be the mayor of a city that is blessed with so many youth who are imbued with the spirit of volunteerism. It begins in the home and extends to the values they learn in our schools. I want to thank our youth for all that they do for the benefit of the community."

Carmel Amir with her fellow "Birthday Clowns" volunteers
UBA Orot Modiin was established in 1998 as one of the first high schools in Modiin, and serves over 700 girls in grades 7 through 12 today. The school has won many awards, and is on the cutting edge of educational technology in Israel, with personal laptops for each student replacing traditional textbooks and paper-based homework assignments.

Learn more about the 74 schools in the YBA Educational Network by viewing the Interactive Map on our website. YBA - TRAINING ISRAEL'S FUTURE.

Friday, June 19, 2015

YBA Nechalim seventh grader wins national math competition

YBA Nechalim student Yehonatan Hermetz
receiving Mathematical Kangaroo Award
YBA Nachal Yitzchak, Nechalim seventh grade student Yehonatan Hermetz won first prize for his age category at the International Mathematical Kangaroo competition held recently at the Weizmann Institute. The Kangaroo competition is one of the most popular math competitions in the world, and its main objectives are to attract more students to engage in solving mathematical problems and prove that mathematics is not threatening but can instead be challenging and fun. According to the organizers of Kangaroo, the key competence tested by the competition is logical combination, not just pure knowledge of formulas.
The competition was introduced in Australia over 20 years ago, and functions today in over 60 countries. This year in Israel about 2,000 students in grades two through ten from schools throughout the country participated in the competition, with separate levels for each age group. Yehonatan was the national champion for the Seventh Grade. We congratulate Yehonatan and wish him continued success!
YBA Nachal Yitzchak is one of the first Bnei Akiva residential yeshiva high schools, established in 1955 at Moshav Nechalim, near Petach Tikvah. Today the school serves 485 students from seventh through twelfth grades. Many of the school's graduates serve in leadership positions in all areas of Israeli society, including singer Dudu Fisher, actor Shuli Rand, Member of Knesset Nissan Slomianski, professor of law Yedidya Stern and Chief Rabbi of Petach Tikva, Micha Halevi.

To learn more about how the alumni of YBA schools have influenced every facet of Israeli society, visit the Our Graduates page on our website. 


Thursday, June 18, 2015

UBA Meron students win first place in national Robotics competition

Four seventh grade girls from Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Meron took first place in a national Robotics competition the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) and sponsored by the Ministry of Science, Space and Technology. The four are Tikva Weiner, Hadar Sofer, Shirel Cohen and Niria Zinner.

UBA Meron Robotics Team receiving prize
from Minister Danny Danon
Over 300 junior high school students from over 100 schools participated in the annual nationwide competition. This year's challenge was particularly difficult. the teams of students had to program three different robots to fulfill three distinct roles and interact with each other. One robot was a car, another a pedestrian and the third a stoplight. The students had to program the robots so that the car moving along a road would stop at the red stop light or when approaching the pedestrian, and start again when the light turned green or the pedestrian had passed. The team succeeding in the shortest time was the winner.

Science, Space and Technology Minister Danny Danon, was very pleased that the competition was won by a group of girls. "One of the main goals I set for myself upon entering the ministry was to significantly increase the number of girls studying the physical sciences at the junior high and high school level," he said. In congratulating the winners, the minister stressed the importance of such competitions in sparking the imagination and creativity of young students, as Robotics promises to be the dominant field of research and economic growth for the future.

UBA Meron was established in 1975 a short distance from the YBA Bar Yochai yeshiva high school for boys, at Moshav Meron in the Upper Galilee, where the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai is located. The ulpana serves over 300 girls, mostly from towns and agricultural settlements in northern Israel. The ruins of the ancient town of Meron, mentioned in the Book of Joshua, are located just above the moshav on the southern slope of Mount Meron,

To learn more about our schools visit the interactive map of YBA institutions in Israel on our website.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

IDF Manpower Chief: "Hesder Yeshiva students bring an added value to the army"

Maj. Gen. Hagai Topolinsky
Major General Hagai Topolinsky, the newly appointed head of IDF Personnel Directorate, recently met with the heads of the Hesder Yeshiva Association at the home of Rabbi Haim Drukman in Merkaz Shapira. General Topolinsky listened to the Roshei Yeshiva describe their educational philosophy in training students to serve in the army while at the same time training to become Torah scholars, the difficulties they face in running their yeshivot and their vision for the future.

In response, Topolinsky said, "Your Hesder Yeshivot are producing high-quality individuals who are role models for the other soldiers of Zionism and Jewish values. This is a bonus for the IDF - an added value - that is unparalleled." He added, "Our major challenge in Israeli society is to bring together and unite the various sectors of our population. You have an important role to play in achieving that goal."

General Topolinsky recalled to the rabbis his personal memories of commanding Hesder soldiers in the army, "The norms of behavior, Jewish values and Zionist idealism that the Hesder yeshiva students bring with them to the army, I tell you, are the envy of the entire community, including secular Israelis. It is a pleasure to serve as their commander, and we very much appreciate them."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Photos of the 36th Annual AFYBA Gala are now online!

CLICK HERE to view a slide show of the event.

The 36th Annual AFYBA Gala was held on June 10th at Guastavino's, under the 59th Street Bridge in New York City. The 220 participants enjoyed a program presented by emcee Jessica Abo (pictured, left) featuring videos of the four Honorees, Harvey M. Krueger, Minister of Education Naftali BennettRabbi Shlomo Kimche and author Tuvia Tenenbom, a keynote address by former Head of Israel's National Security Council, Major General (Ret.) Yaakov Amidror, and musical accompaniment by the YBA Kinor David Jazz Ensemble and Violinist/Composer Ittai Shapira.

Monday, June 8, 2015

YBA Kinor David wins 1st Place in NY Jewish Music Festival

YBA Kinor David Jazz Ensemble
performing at the NY  Jewish Music Festival
The Kinor David Jazz Ensemble won First Place in NY Jewish Music Festival on June 7th, from among 32 performers at the Symphony Space Theatre. The packed audience enjoyed an electric performance of Rabbi Moti Hershkop's original composition, "Hashem, Ma Rabu Zaray."

Rabbi Hershkop heads the YBA Kinor David musical yeshiva high school in Israel, which trains young musicians for advance matriculation in musical studies, and a lifetime and careers that combine music and Jewish spirituality.

YBA KInor David Jazz Ensemble at OZ
The five boys in the ensemble spend the weekend as guests of Congregation Ohab Zedek on the upper West side, where Rabbi Hershkop acted as Hazzan and gave a guest sermon.

This is the first time that any of the Israeli boys has been in New York. They will provide the musical background ambiance at the AFYBA 36th Annual Gala at Guastavino's on Wednesday evening.

The ensemble will be performing tonight, June 8th, at Talia's Steakhouse on the Upper West Side from 7:30 till the lights go out....Come join the fun!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Minister of Education Naftali Bennett talks about YBA

Israel's Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, will receive the Keter Shem Tov Award (via video) at the 36th Annual AFYBA Gala in New York on June 10th. See what he has to say about the YBA Educational Network in Israel.