|Rabbi Eliyahu Blum addresses yeshiva students in Nahariya.|
“The miracle that happened in 1948″ will be the focus of a personal message from Israel to highlight a community-wide Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Independence Day) celebration at Cong. Keter Torah in Teaneck on the evening of May 9.
Rabbi Eliyahu Blum, head of the Nahar Deiah Hesder Yeshiva in Nahariya, told The Jewish Standard that he plans to impress upon the assemblage “how thankful we should be, and how important this day is for all of us – for Jews in Israel and for the people of our nation all over world.”
Zvi Sebrow, co-chairman of the annual event for the past 10 years, said he always chooses an apolitical speaker from Israel who can “impart Torah and information” for about 15 minutes between the afternoon prayer service (7:25 p.m.) and the reading of the names of terror victims from the past year. In recent years, these speakers have included the security coordinator of Hebron and the deputy Israeli United Nations delegate. (Carmi Abramowitz is co-chair.)
Area day school children are an integral part of the proceedings. Students will form a processional with Israeli flags as they come onstage to read the names. Later, flags will again be featured, this time in a festive presentation for Independence Day by children from two Paramus schools, Yavneh Academy and Ben Porat Yosef, under the direction of two Israeli National Service women working at Yavneh.
During Blum’s talk, simultaneous programming will be held elsewhere in the synagogue for kids from preschool to fifth grade. Based on past years, Sebrow expects up to 200 children and between 700 and 1,000 participants altogether.
In an interview in Israel before leaving for New Jersey, the 49-year-old Blum said he served as an Israeli emissary (shaliach) in Cleveland for several years and saw that Israel’s Independence Day provides a powerful bridge between Israeli and diaspora communities.
“Though it’s a big sacrifice to leave Israel on Yom Ha’Atzmaut, I believe what can be said and done on this day is extraordinary,” he said.
Blum has a special relationship to North Jersey, as Israeli-side vice chairman of the Partnership 2000 project linking the city of Nahariya with the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey. “I visit New Jersey several times a year because of Partnership 2000 and I want to deepen this connection,” he said.
He is scheduled to speak at area schools and also at Keter Torah on the weekend preceding Yom Ha’Atzmaut. His keynote talk will not focus on aliyah, the concept of “moving up” to live in Israel. “That is not the goal,” he said. “If people feel connected to Israel, one of the future steps would be aliyah, but I feel it is important to identify with people where they are now, not where they might be in the future. People need to be accepted the way they are.”
Back in Nahariya, the 100 young men in Nahar Deiah will celebrate the 63rd year of Israeli independence together with the greater community, which is largely secular.
This yeshiva is one of some 60 Israeli hesder yeshivot, where religious post-high school students spend five years in a Torah learning-environment, including approximately 18 months of duty in the Israel Defense Forces. Blum, who joined Nahar Deiah nine years ago, said the 15-year-old yeshiva stresses community service, such as hospital volunteering and delivering food to needy families, and has strengthened Jewish life in the seaside city of about 5,200 residents.
“It’s a process that is happening all over the Galilee,” he said. “Our mission is really to be part of the city and bring the Torah and a Jewish way of life as close as we can to the people in the street. We want to feel the rhythm of the life here and become part of it.”
He also is eager to share the excitement of Israel’s 63rd anniversary with Jews outside of Israel.
“Yom Ha’Atzmaut is one of the highlights that can bring us all to the same table with the same ideas,” he said. “I really feel it’s important for us in Israel to understand the meaning of Jewish peoplehood, and we cannot do this without understanding the feelings of the communities all over the world and especially in North America.
“Jews in [the diaspora] need to understand the mood and feelings here – not only what they read in newspapers but the spiritual process behind the scenes – and how they can be part of that process.”