By: Gavriel Factor  | 

Israeli Colonel Visits YU for Shabbat

Golan Vach, a reserve Colonel in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) who commands a humanitarian search and rescue unit, joined Yeshiva University as a guest for Shabbat Parshat Noach as a guest on October 28th-29th. 

Vach was brought to YU by The United States Chaplain Corps (USCC) and by Rabbi Herschel Hartz, program administrator for Undergraduate Torah Studies (UTS). On campus, he spoke with students and led prayers, a tisch and a melava malka.

Vach, a commander in the IDF’s Search and Rescue Brigade, led a unit in conducting search and rescue operations during the collapse of the Champlain Tower South in in Surfside, Florida in the summer of 2021. Vach also works with the people trying to make Aliyah to Israel from other countries. 

Over Shabbat, Vach led Friday night prayers as well as a tisch with Mashgiach Ruchani Rabbi Josh Blass, who also stayed for Shabbat. Vach also led a melava malka after Shabbat, while playing the guitar, with about 75 students, alumni and chaplains from the USCC over the course of the evening.

Vach also spoke about Israel and the IDF.

“I also tried to bring the songs of Israel ‘Mizimrat Haaretz’ to YU,” Vach told The Commentator, “and spoke about the beauty of the Land of Israel and the unique values ​​of the IDF working all over the world to help countries in need.”

Chaplin Max Coen and Rabbi Chaplain Mendy Coen from the USCC, who worked together with Vach in Surfside, Florida during the rescue operation contacted Hartz when they heard that Vach was visiting the United States, leading to Hartz’s visit. Shabbat coordinator Rabbi Jed Zaslow and UTS Dean Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky also helped plan Vach’s visit. 

Hatz told The Commentator that he felt that Vach was the right person to visit YU given his accomplishments, and that inviting him was a “no-brainer.”

"Besides providing powerful Shabbat programming on campus,” Hartz told The Commentator, “we have a responsibility as an institution that believes in core Torah values to show students how to live those values in real life. Colonel Vach represents the best of the Jewish people — someone who is devoted to sacrificing his own comfort to live by example.

“It was a no-brainer — when offered the opportunity, Colonel Vach was a perfect fit."

Students enjoyed Vach’s visit and found it inspiring.

“Hearing Colonel Vach on Shabbat was truly an honor,”  said Yosef Scher (YC ‘25). “The stories he shared about going to places where people needed his help and then saving them from nearly collapsing buildings were extremely inspiring.

“I hope that the Colonel returns to YU in the future,” Scher added.

Similarly, Vach also enjoyed his visit.  

“When I entered YU's shul on Kabbalat Shabbat,” Vach told The Commentator, “and heard the singing of Yedid Nefesh, I realized that I had found what I had been looking for a long time abroad, and in general … Jewish students who know how to sing and have the right depth and intention. 

“I am looking forward to visiting YU again,” Vach added.

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Photo Caption: Chaplin Max Coen, Colonel Golan Vach, Rabbi Herschel Hartz, and Rabbi Chaplain Mendy Coen at Shenk Shul

Photo Credit: Moishe Rechester / Yeshiva University