By: Akiva Marder  | 

Commemoration and Celebration: Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut at YU

Over 1,000 students filed into the Lamport Auditorium this past Wednesday night for a dual Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut tekes ma’avar. The first portion of the program was a memorial to the fallen soldiers of Operation Protective Edge in this past summer’s war in Gaza. The commemoration began with a flag lowering and siren, followed by remarks from Co-Chair of the event, senior Daniella Eisenman, Vice President of Stern’s Torah Activities Council. She introduced the program and its first speaker, Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Vice President of University and Community Life. The father of a current soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, Rabbi Brander powerfully articulated the dichotomous emotions of fear and pride that he and other parents of IDF soldiers experience. The audience also heard from Ethan Gipsman and Daniel Gofine, Yeshiva University students who recently finished their service in the army and shared their thoughts and experiences on serving the land of Israel. In his meaningful speech, Gofine explained his reason for joining the Israeli army: “it was that sense of need, that sense of being apart of something important that was larger than myself, of continuing a tradition that had started on the 26th of May 1948 with the founding of the IDF, that I wanted to be apart of. We have no other land- and it is our duty to protect it.” The Yom Hazikaron commemoration continued with a candle lighting in memory of fallen IDF soldiers and ended with prayers for both the fallen and current members of the IDF.

[caption id="attachment_4073" align="alignnone" width="250"]Students from YU's Soldiers in Exile Club light a memorial candle at the Yom HaZikaron tekes. Students from YU's Soldiers in Exile Club light a memorial candle at the Yom HaZikaron tekes.[/caption]

With a beautiful musical tribute by the Y-Studs and flag raising, the program then moved into its Yom Ha'atzmaut portion, celebrating the state of Israel’s 67th birthday. The program’s Co-Chair from Yeshiva College Student Association, senior Josh Nagel, gave opening remarks on the transition from commemoration to celebration and introduced the Spokesman to the International Media for the Jewish Agency of Israel, Avi Mayer. In his speech, Mayer focused on how students can make the long distance relationship between Israel and the larger Jewish world a closer one, urging the audience to not only “love” Israel but to be proactive in making Israel a place it can “like” as well.

The Yom Ha'atzmaut portion of the tekes closed with a speech by Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Meir Goldwicht, a heartfelt Hatikvah led by the Y-Studs, and a tefila chagigit.

[caption id="attachment_4071" align="alignnone" width="250"]Dancing continued for hours into the night at the Yom Ha'Atzmaut Chagiga. Dancing continued for hours into the night at the Yom Ha'Atzmaut Chagiga.[/caption]

Students then made their way to the Rubin Hall where they were greeted by vibrant blue and white streamers. While Golan delicacies were served in the cafeteria, there was a tangible simcha exuding from the Chagiga in the Max Stern Athletic Center. In the packed gym, students danced and sang, waving their Israeli flags in the air and celebrating the State of Israel in genuine joy. “There was such an energy in the room,” exclaimed Stern sophomore, Carly Friedman. “It was impossible not to feel a sense of community and just pure happiness.” Friedman and her peers could not get enough of the celebration which went late into the night, ending in a kumzitz led by the Israel Club.

The next day was just as jam packed, beginning with a Shacharit tefilla chagigit at 8 a.m. From there, men and women experienced respective Yom Iyun programs on the Wilf Campus. The Yom Iyun included a Seudat Hoda’ah, or meal of gratitude, as well as shiurim given in memory of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l. Following the Yom Iyun came the ever-so-popular Yom Ha’atzmaut BBQ. As busses from the Beren Campus pulled in, Yeshiva students flooded the Wilf Campus to continue their Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations. Due to the cold weather and wind, many students quickly took their burgers and hotdogs from the Tenzer Garden into Weissberg Commons where music blasted from the walls. There, they enjoyed perusing the student-produced Art Gallery, playing Pac-Man, and trying to squeeze together into a photo booth. Others made their way to the basketball courts where they battled their friends in a basketball shootout or bopped around in bumper cars. Perhaps the most popular location however, was the “Israeli Shuk,” a new feature at the Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration. Throughout the day, students could be seen eating the Shuk’s dried fruits, nuts, and candies, having a great time.

[caption id="attachment_4072" align="alignnone" width="250"]Senior Adir Pinchot leads the Ma'ariv tefilla chagigit. Senior Adir Pinchot leads the Ma'ariv tefilla chagigit.[/caption]

All in all, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut were tremendous successes. The programming was spearheaded by its Co-Chairs, Josh Nagel and Daniella Eisenman, as well as Office of Student Life Program Manager Tami Adelson. Also contributing to the programs were Yona Magence of SCWSC, Alexa Ratner of SYMSSC, Aitan Magence of YSU, Ben Kohane of YCSA, Natan Bienstock of SOY, and Yoni Pfeifer of SYMSSC.

It is vital to show that Israel is something which is important to us,” explained Nagel. “On Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, we reaffirm that Israel is integral to our identity as an institution in the larger Jewish community. That’s why we come together to commemorate and celebrate.”