For those who do not know, I will give you a brief and simple historical background. B’nei Akiva is an Orthodox & Zionist Jewish youth group in which boys and girls, later to become men and women, from all over the world, Israel and beyond, get together in celebration and solidarity. It was founded in 1929 and has over 125,000 members in over 42 countries. Each age group has what is called a Shevet, or in English, a tribe. Once you belong to a Shevet, you don’t change to another, you are part of that Shevet for life. B’nei Akiva’s slogan is 2 words. Torah ve’Avodah. Torah, which is for the Jewish people very literally the 5 books of Moses, but includes all forms of Jewish study and learning, and Avodah, work, or labor, the physical and supportive efforts needed to build the land of Israel and help the Jewish people.
On a more personal note, I am a proud and happy member of Shevet Amichai. When I was 13 and living in Philadelphia I flirted with a few B’nei Akiva events, meeting a few amazing people including the late Ari Horowitz of Blessed Memory. But it was not until I was 14, after my parents moved to Holland and I began to attend Hasmonean in the Hendon area of Northwest London, that B’nei Akiva (BA) became something so important to me that it would resonate with me till today. Little did I know that during that one lunch hour in school when I was approached by an older student and convinced to come to a BA event, that over 45 years later his younger brother would still be one of my best friends, as would be a number of other of my friends from Amichai. Socially, nothing has ever compared, and to this day, my 6 week BA Israel camp in 1978 is still the best summer of my life.
But today BA and what I can speak to specifically, Shevet Amichai, is so much more than just a gathering of men and women enjoying each other’s company whenever possible. It is an organization of comfort and support. With Israel going through what looks to be its worst crisis since its establishment in 1948, and the Jewish people under its greatest attack and continuing threat since the Holocaust, my friends from Amichai, many who have family, including children fighting in the IDF, Israeli Defense Forces, are stepping up with amazing commitment, resolve, and love. It is no surprise to me, since every time an individual in the group has experienced a crisis or a loss they are always there, but today the sense of responsibility for Israel and the Jewish people has never been on greater display. Their efforts are ongoing, practical and critical, and I have never been so proud and so honored to be part of Shevet Amichai.
If I am to call all of Israel my family, Shevet Amichai is my immediate family. I stand with you, I pray for you, and I love you.