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Depriving young people from “experiential Judaism”?

My father, may he rest in peace, was a stoic man who served in the Russian army as a Polish captive until he was sent to Siberia along

with many other Polish soldiers. When his fellow soldiers attempted to make fun of him bc he was a Jew he told them off in profane

terms (not befitting this family newspaper) that he had no fear of the Germans whereas his fellow soldiers sometimes would lose their

nerve. In America, as a businessman when he had to travel late at night in shady areas of town with relatively large sums of money he

dressed in shabby clothes so people wouldn’t suspect he had anything and wasn’t afraid.

The 2 areas in life when my father would be a real softie and weep like a child would be 1) his happiness for the creation of a state of

Israel and concern of survival of the Jewish people 2) the spiritual well being of his children, as demonstrated when he would bless us

before Yom Kippur. He never visited Israel but he had family there (brother and sister and their families) but his connection to the land

was palpable as he cried to see the image of young Israelis dancing the Horah after the victory of the 6 Day War.

Similarly I was never in Israel (and hope to make the trip someday), but I was deeply affected even as a child by the history of Israel and the

victory of the 6 Day War as well as the victory of the ’73 War. The ’73 war was the very flip side of the 6 Day War in terms of

Israel’s lack of preparedness and the horrifying losses that were suffered by Israel during the beginning of that war.

I attended Yom Yerushalayim in Young Israel of Hillcrest sponsored by the Queens Jewish Community Council. I would guess there were

about 100 people with mostly middle aged to elder people. Rabbi Michael Miller, Executive Vice President - CEO JCRC told of

his experience as a first year after high school Yeshiva student in Israel living through the period of the 6 Day War. He relayed the experience

of how the Yeshiva allowed their students for the first time in that year to listen to the radio to hear of the daily events that preceded the

war. There was darkness of spirit and fear that there could be another blood bath of the Jews in Israel by the 6 or so Arab armies that were amassing

on Israel’s border. He also learned how all of the “civilized” or Western countries were telling Israel not to start the war (including France

who turned into an enemy of Israel after the war because Israel committed the first strike and was deemed the “aggressor” in the war.)

We were also shown a video of the “6 Day War”. The film showed or reminded us of the history: First there were intensified skirmishes along the Israel

and Syrian border where Syria was bombarding Jewish settlements along its border to which Israel retaliated by shooting down 6 of Syria’s

planes. On Israel’s Western front Egypt had been attacking Jews for many years through the Gaza strip and from the Eastern border Jordan had been

bombing Israeli civilians through the West Bank. But the war was officially precipitated by Egypt mobilizing it’s forces on the border with Israel and expelling the

UN Emergency Forces while also blocking the Straits of Tiran which then impeded Israeli’s major shipping route. President Johnson refused to

break the blockade fearing a confrontation with the Soviet Union. Jordan then also signed a mutual Defense Treaty with Syria and Egypt. Iraq,

Kuwait, Sudan and Algeria also sending troops to fight alongside the Arab forces.

On the South, Egypt had amassed 80,000 troops along with 500 tanks and 1,000 artillery pieces. On Israel’s Eastern border with Jordan there

were amassed 60,000 soldiers with additional troops from Iraq and 300 tanks. On the Northern border Syria had 50,000 troops fortified with

concrete fortresses. From the sky, Israel would have to fight against 600 combined military air-craft from Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq “ready

for action”. Israel felt that it was being confronted by another Holocaust with fear and anxiety gripping the nation. Schools and public transportation

were cancelled and schools were turned into bomb shelters. 14,000 hospital beds were readied and 10,000 graves were dug for the possibility

of massive casualties. Israel prepared itself for gas attacks by stockpiling medicinal antidotes. Jews from all over the world were also gripped

with grave concern and trepidation as to what devastation could befall the new Jewish State and there was massive Jewish monetary contributions

along with many volunteers to serve in Israel’s army.

I won’t tell you the end of the story - no, just kidding, we all know what happened then. In a matter of 6 hours through strategy and G-d’s miracles

Israel decimated most of the air forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The gist of the victory of the entire war was implemented in this crucial time period.

Towards the end of Rabbi Miller’s address though brimming with pride and joy when he spoke of the immensity of the miracle that is now the state of

Israel, he gently said that "while not meaning it as a criticism I would want to see more of your children and grandchildren to this event next year”.

After the event I spoke with a Rabbi who is connected to a Yeshiva and asked him whether Yom Yerushalayim is commemorated in his Yeshiva and he

said “no”. So then I asked him whether it would be a good idea to invite the bochrim to the event next year to which he said “we don’t cancel seder

for anything”. I then said to him that "perhaps there is a balance” - meaning that for certain things Seder should be canceled. We lament why

the young generation of Jewish youth, even Yeshiva youth, who learn so much about the Eretz Hakedosha from S’forim but don’t have an emotional

response to our current state of Israel. This is not a mystery. Torah learning and appreciating Torah’s wisdom can only come with a mix of book learning

and real life experience. We have to make Torah meaningful through what children and students can relate to in real life and to that - real life has to be

taught including proper ways of dealing with peers, parents and authorities, love of country - both adopted in “Galus” and our mother land. Later on, as

young adults we learn about the professional world, the domestic world of marriage and children and the political world in more practical ways. We must

learn and teach young people to appreciate G-d’s graces wherever they may arise - be it through good health, a good parnassah and the ability to enjoy

religious freedoms in this great country of ours in the United States and for our fellow Jews to live in peace in Israel - our homeland.

There is a time to break from the rigors of the Talmud and learn the history of miracles that G-d graced on the Jewish State of Israel and even to listen

to an entertainer to sing lovely Israeli patriotic songs. Jewish survival has to be a mix of cerebral and emotions. We can not continue to offer a diet

of cerebral alone and then wonder what happened to the feelings and emotional connection to what we hold dear. Without a foundation of “experiential

Judaism” it is very difficult to implement all of the midos and proper judgment to live by, that we are taught from our chachomim, past and present.

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