With impending presidential elections and an unstable situation in the Middle East, the Jewish community today is facing a critical moment, according to Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“This is a uniquely complex and serious time for the Jewish people,” Hoenlein said in an interview conducted via e-mail. “The decisions and actions that are taken now will affect not only us but our children and grandchildren. The elections in the U.S., Israel, and other places add to the uncertainties about the course of events in the year ahead.”
Hoenlein, who serves as an adviser to many public officials and is consulted on public policy, will examine such challenges when he speaks at a private home in Teaneck on Sept. 21. His topic will be “Is it 1939 again? Assessing the state of world Jewry.”
The event, which is open to the public, marks the inaugural reception in Bergen County of American Friends of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva. The cocktail and dessert reception at a private home will raise funds for Mercaz Yeshivot Bnei Akiva, the largest religious Zionist educational network in Israel today.
In a preface to Hoenlein’s talk, Elchanan Glatt, the director general of YBA, will be a featured speaker at several Teaneck synagogues during the Shabbat of Sept. 20. Under Glatt’s leadership, during the past 12 years, YBA has grown from 36 to 61 institutions for men and women, with 22,000 students from the Golan Heights to Eilat who are committed to Jewish learning while being part of modern Israeli society. Glatt will speak on “the chemistry of Jewish education.”
“YBA is committed not only to the best quality education it can provide for its students, but is consciously preparing the leaders of the State of Israel for coming generations,” said Menachem Bar-Shalom, executive director of the organization.
Hoenlein said he is an admirer of the Zionist organization, adding, “For almost 70 years, Yeshivot Bnei Akiva has played an integral role in the creation, life, and leadership of the State of Israel. Their tens of thousands of graduates have left their mark on every aspect of Israeli society, from the [Israel Defense Forces] to education to business and government. Most of all, they have sustained a commitment to Am Israel, Torat Israel, and Medinat Israel” – the Jewish people, Jewish culture, and the Jewish state.
Hoenlein’s tenure at the Presidents Conference, the coordinating body for international Jewish concerns for 50 national Jewish organizations, dates to 1986. Earlier, he was the founding executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New York, the central coordinating agency for Jewish organizations in the New York area.
He’s met with world leaders and Jewish communities across the globe, and has written and lectured on international relations, Israel, and Middle East affairs.
Daniel Edelman, co-chair of the Hoenlein event, was drawn to help with the fund-raiser because of his strong feelings for YBA. “My parents sent their children to religious Zionist institutions in Israel,” said Edelman, an attorney who has lived in Teaneck for 12 years. “They understood that these schools were vital for promoting the values and ideals that are at the core of Judaism. It is imperative for our community to support the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva because they represent and promote the very ideals and values that shape our own identity. Without YBA in Israel, it is hard to imagine how we could sustain schools and communities in this country that are committed to the aspirations and ideology of religious Zionism.”
Co-chair Martin Heistein, an attorney in Teaneck who is hosting the Hoenlein talk at his home, added that he feels strongly about supporting the cause because “the values represented by YBA are the same as many of the institutions that I support here in Bergen County – namely, the pursuit of excellence in education, love of Israel, and the belief that there is no contradiction between Torah values and the secular world.”
For more information or to RSVP, call American Friends of YBA, (212) 248-0471, or e-mail email@example.com.