Two Teaneck residents have been named co-presidents of American Friends of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva, the premier religious Zionist educational movement in Israel.
The new faces at the helm of the organization belong to Joshua Annenberg, an attorney with a private practice and a professor at New York Law School, and Daniel Edelman, a commercial litigator and partner at a Manhattan law firm.
Among their top priorities is to attract new membership to the organization and draw more participants to future events in Teaneck and in other Jewish communities around the United States.
Annenberg and Edelman succeed Alan Wildes, who announced his retirement last month after serving for 11 years as the organization’s president.
Menachem Bar Shalom, the organization’s executive director, said he was pleased with the selection of the two men, who attended Zionist yeshivot for a year following their high school graduations.
“There are many thousands of families in communities across the country who identify with what YBA represents – especially in Teaneck/Bergen County and elsewhere in the tri-state area,” he said. “The organization, which is celebrating 70 years of growth this year in Israel, positively effects the daily lives not only of its students but of their extended families and the community at large through its educational and chesed platforms.”
Since the first Bnei Akiva yeshiva high school was founded on a hilltop on Kfar Haroeh in 1939 by Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neriya, the school system has grown to become the largest religious Zionist educational network in Israel, with 63 schools and 22,000 students from the Golan Heights to Eilat. Rabbi Chaim Drukman, a former Knesset member, serves as chairman of Merkaz YBA in Israel and is also rosh yeshiva of the Or Etzion Hesder Yeshiva.
Annenberg said that YBA’s school system is unique because of its combination of passionate Zionism and strong modern Orthodoxy. The male and female students, he pointed out, are immersed in all facets of Israeli society.
“YBA fuses religious observance and education with Zionism and army service,” said Annenberg, who is also a board member of Torah Academy of Bergen County. “YBA graduates assume leadership roles in Israel and demonstrate that religious Zionism has meaning and relevance for the country.”
Edelman added that YBA is impressive to him because “YBA educates more religious Zionist students than any other school system in Israel. It stands for principles and beliefs that are shared by religious Zionists all over the world.”
Edelman said he hopes to connect students of YBA schools with those of American yeshivot and day schools. “In our global Internet age,” he said, “we can develop ways for our local schools to partner with YBA schools via social and educational networking technology.
“American Friends of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva has accomplished much over the last 30 years in spreading the ideals of Rav Neriya. Now, we need to make those ideals relevant to American Jews in very practical ways.”