For the past five years, Lamdeinu, a center for high-level, accessible and inspiring Torah learning in Teaneck, has hosted a meaningful Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration for the community. Under the direction of Dean Rachel Friedman, the program is designed to engage its participants in tefillah chagigit, or celebratory prayers, words of Torah inspiration, memories and expressions of appreciation for Israel, as well as films selected to reflect contemporary Israeli life.
This year’s program began with Tefillat Shacharit followed by additional tefillot of celebration led by talented Teaneck resident Marcia Schulman. Dean Rachel Friedman offered further inspiration through her dvar Torah in which she explored why Sefer Bereishit compares Am Yisrael to both the sands on the seashore and the stars in the sky. She concluded with a metaphorical message: for 71 years the State of Israel has been a source of blessing for the Jewish people and the entire world because it “reaches for the stars.” Through Israel’s innovations in hi-tech, economy, agriculture, medicine, as well as high-level Torah study, it has truly been a “light unto the nations.” But all this has been accomplished because the Jewish nation is rooted in the Land of Israel, in the “sands of the seashore.” Thus, both comparisons ring true.
After the festive breakfast, the attendees participated in the communal singing of classic Israeli songs from the past and present, led by Elana Greenspan on guitar. Personal reflections and expressions of hakarat hatov were shared by Dr. Monique Katz and Rebbetzin Bassie Taubes. Dr. Katz recalled visiting Israel in 1955, on the first Jewish Agency organized summer youth trip to Israel, encouraged by her parents who felt she should grab at the opportunity because “who knows how long the country will be ours!” She vividly recalls climbing to the spire of the Notre Dame church to peek into the Old City of Jerusalem, only to be stared back by a Jordanian soldier aiming a rifle at her. She and husband, Dr. Mordechai Katz of Englewood, are great supporters of institutions of higher learning and many other organizations in the U.S. and Israel and visit Israel frequently.
Rebbetzin Taubes, RN, shared that Israel has been a reality throughout most of her life and that it holds special meaning for herself and her family. She and her husband, Rabbi Michael Taubes, rabbi of Congregation Zichron Mordechai of Teaneck, both descend from grandparents hailing from Tzfat. Taubes took the opportunity to thank Dean Friedman and Lamdeinu for “waking up her brain” through the challenge of high-level Torah study.
Dean Friedman feels that a program celebrating the modern State of Israel should include glimpses into Israeli society through current films. Three films were selected that reflected the positives as well as some of the societal conflicts Israel faces today. The film “In Between” portrayed the very real quandary of a couple struggling to meld the different religious commitments of husband and wife.
Roz Friedman, a regular attendee at Lamdeinu, shared her gratitude for the program: “I have loved attending Lamdeinu since my retirement. Torah learning is a very important part of my life, and closely bound up with my identity as a Torah Jew. I feel that I have grown in my knowledge and in my dedication to our way of life in the time that I have been at Lamdeinu. It is a safe place for me to explore different ways of thinking and to deepen and broaden my commitment to Judaism.”
The Lamdeinu learning program is housed in the beit midrash of Congregation Beth Aaron at 950 Queen Anne Road in Teaneck. Classes are offered Monday through Thursday, day and evening, throughout the year. Special programs are held to celebrate the chagim, Roshei Chodesh, fast days, and to commemorate historical moments, such as Yom HaShoah and Yom Ha’atzmaut. Lamdeinu’s inspirational summer programs will be held June-August.
By Pearl Markovitz