Ashreinu and Acheinu: Counting the blessings of Israel

My home community of Silver Spring, MD is located just outside of our nation’s Capital, within shouting distance of America’s policy makers. As such, the members of my synagogue, Young Israel Shomrai Emunah of Greater Washington, have a unique and humbling bond that conjoins our dedication to our Israeli and global brethren with our commitment to ensure that our elected leaders comprehend the inherent dangers posed by external threats.  As you can imagine, this activity keeps us pretty busy.

Our rabbi, my fellow congregants, and I participate in periodic public events and engage with elected officials, availing ourselves of opportunities to discuss the importance of Israel’s safety and security, explain the decisions made by democratically elected Israeli leaders to disregard international pressures for concessions to its neighboring adversaries, and draw attention to the continual threats to communal Jewish life globally.

Nevertheless, beyond our unending full-throated political advocacy on behalf of our co-religionists in Israel and around the world, our goal, within our Mesorah and Zionistic principles, must also be to declare how truly fortunate we are that Hashem has bestowed so many gifts upon Eretz Yisrael and Klal Yisrael.

With absolute clarity and forceful passion, my communal Rabbi, at his synagogue installation five years ago, articulated the notion of “Ashreinu” – counting our abundant blessings – as a guiding religious principal.  At times, this philosophy can be daunting.  But as a fervently religious people with a throbbing memory of the past (and an expectant vision of the future), Ashreinu provides the basis for a fundamentally sound outlook on life in general and our religious homeland in particular.

It is essential that we try to comprehend just how fortunate we are right now. Despite all of our challenges, we should view our glass as mostly full, rather than half-empty.

At no other time in our history were we able to boast a national presence at the forefront of technological advances benefiting all of humanity as well as the ability to make a wide variety of learning opportunities available to anyone with a thirst for Torah.  How fortunate we are that Israel serves as an intellectual incubator for Torah and technology – Ashreinu.

One of the world’s best-trained and most effective defense forces safeguards our sacred homeland and its brave and resilient population.  How fortunate we are that the Jewish State is capable of training and maintaining a strong military presence so that we are not forced to rely on others for our protection – Ashreinu.

For generations, despite the immense difficulty, countless Jews yearned for the opportunity to visit Israel. In our time, travel from virtually any city with a Jewish population to Israel takes less than a day. How fortunate we are that the journey to Israel can be made with ease – Ashreinu.

And it is also important that we acknowledge how fortunate we are that world Jewry has developed such a deep, broad and enduring bond with one another.  This remarkable connection is put on display every time national, communal or personal trauma comes to light.  We discuss this phenomenon within the context of “Acheinu” – the relationship we have with our brothers and sisters, regardless of whether or not we have ever met them in person.

This permanent and intimate relationship exists between each and every Jew, no matter the distance, whether defined by miles or by religious observance. This uniquely Jewish trait is embedded within our DNA and also demands a declaration of our good fortune – Ashreinu.

Acheinu is not an effortless recitation of prescribed Tehillim and Tefillot upon learning about tragedies or challenges that have befallen other members of Klal Yisrael.  Acheinu is not just a melody sung in times of despair. We must feel as if a member of our own nuclear family is encountering the danger. With the mantra of Acheinu, we must consistently strive to reach one another and establish genuine empathy, and we must perpetually stand in solidarity with our brethren in Israel in good times and bad.

It is for this reason that I encourage you to vote in the current World Zionist Congress elections, a unique opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with our brethren in Israel and decide the future of Israel.  This is Acheinu in its truest form.

What’s more, by seating members of the Religious Zionist Slate (, delegates from America’s foundational religious Zionist organizations, we will be able to strengthen Israel’s “Jewish soul,” to safeguard Torah values and ensure the future of religious Zionist ideals.

It is an opportunity to build bridges and increase unity within Am Israel, promote Jewish continuity, and preserve and enrich Torah values and Jewish life in Israel and around the world – Ashreinu.

Let’s just make sure that we heed the call and make our voices heard.

Indeed, we are fortunate for the blessing that Hashem has bestowed upon us by virtue of our land and our relationship with our brethren in Israel. This acknowledgement should guide us through our political advocacy, national empathy, and abiding faith.

About the Author
Bob Levi has served in numerous Jewish communal positions, worked on Capitol Hill, and in governmental affairs representing public employee associations for the past 30 years. He is a former two-term chairman of the board of the National Council of Young Israel and past president of Young Israel Shomrai Emunah of Greater Washington.
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