Learn About BDS

If you are in Northern Westchester, this event is for you. Come learn what BDS is, what it is not, and how YOU can make a difference on your college campus. Parents… this is relevant for you too!

For more info, see the flyer below. RSVP: president@firsthebrew.org


Shlichut Roundup 2016

What a year it has been!  Looking back, it is almost unimaginable to think that an entire year has passed since we welcomed Yael, held an Israel solidarity evening with over 620 people, sent our third Hillel student delegation to the AIPAC conference, celebrated Israel’s 68th birthday at JCC Mid-Westchester, studied Hebrew at First Hebrew in Peekskill, bid farewell to the Rosenthal JCC, learned how to overcome the BDS challenge and prepare for college, heard the Yamin Orde Choir in White Plains, welcomed the Tzofim Friendship Caravan to multiple location in Westchester, advised BBYO chapters in Central and Northern Westchester, met with our lone soldier families to support them and their soldiers, and much much more.

It is even more unimaginable to think that three years have passed since the shlichut initiative kicked off, and to look at how far we have come since summer 2013. Thanks to the leadership of the Rosenthal JCC, the Westchester Jewish Council, and the generosity and support of UJA Federation of NY’s professionals and lay leaders, the shlichut initiative has reached thousands of people in Westchester and beyond, and managed to humanize the Israel story, ask some tough questions and bring some first hand knowledge and experience that goes beyond news headlines and accusations.

Israel has always had a special place in the Westchester community, and moving forward we hope that this connection remains as strong and vibrant as it has been until today. Next year shlichut will be continuing with the arrival of Oshra Fattal Rosenberg and her family, who will bring her unique flavor of Israel as she joins the community. We know she will be in good and welcoming hands🙂

We wish everyone a happy, warm and summer, and look forward to seeing you soon (in Israel of course!)

Yoav & Yael


Growing up in Israel, Shinshinim

As the end of the year approaches, I had the pleasure of attending the wonderful Shlichut (Israel Emissary) appreciation yearly reception, hosted by the UJA-Federation of New York.

There we, the Shlichim, were recognized for our hard and sacred work of strengthening the connection between our US Jewish communities and Israel.

What especially touched me that night was the group of Shinshinim, which in Heberw stands for Shnat Sherut – a year of service. Israeli teenagers volunteer for this service, right after high school and before their army IDF service. These are few special handpicked individuals within the Israeli society who do a year of voluntary community service abroad, representing Israel in Jewish communities around the world.

It struck me that among eight young, cheery, naïve and wide-eyed kids, at least four will be enlisted into combat units in the coming months once they return to Israel.

This army service will build them, mature them, teach them much about life and how to survive in it. However, their naivety and youth will quickly fade away.

When I think about their wonderful smiling, happy and cheerful young souls I know that the army will change them.

It will make them tougher, and more competent to live in our world. It will make them uniquely competitive in the Western world where most teenagers grow and mature in their own time – through college, relationships, family, sports, etc. Whereas, Israelis do that growing up in the IDF, among brothers, sisters, officers and commanders.

I believe that this process of growing through strong brotherhood of the IDF, hard work, courage, sacrifice and Zionist/nationalistic ideology, is good and creates a society which is grateful for what they have in life. It forces one to achieve all that they can as best as they can in as little time as possible. This contributes to what makes the Israeli society so efficient in certain areas, such as, cutting edge in technology, medicine and agriculture while being warm and appreciative of every moment.

However, at the same time, it saddens me that these pure, eager and energetic kids will, in less than a year, have more responsibility than a first time father at times. Being tasked to protect their entire team of thirty of their comrades from harm. They will think in ways that sometimes only a parent would – putting others before yourself and sacrificing yourself to save your team mate, or giving up your own life for your country.

It is a crazy notion to think about, but this is our reality.

So behatzlachah, good luck, to all the seventeen going eighteen year olds in Israel.

Your journey to adulthood awaits…

You will not kick us down

Originally posted on the Times of Israel

In the space of a single day today I went from relief to sadness to celebration.

Geographically removed from Israel, the flurry of Whatsapp messages gave the first hint. Twitter feeds, news alerts with information, misinformation, corrected information and finally validation gave confirmation that terror had struck again. The attack in Tel Aviv came just hours after a conversation with our community’s rabbis on the return to ‘normalcy’ in Israel’s streets. Professionally, personally, I felt guilty, almost to blame, that I had said something.

The day continued, because it does, and we continued because must. When the work day concluded I made my way down to Riverdale to see my rabbinic friends graduate from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and join the leadership of America’s modern orthodox rabbinate.

At precisely the same time as the Sarona Market was being visited by Israeli ministers vowing responses to the attack, the capacity congregation gathered at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale stood to recite Tehillim, sing America’s and Israel’s anthems, hear words of wisdom and Torah from learned scholars both young and experienced, dance, eat and raise l’chayims to the newest generation of young motivated rabbis.

That, in itself, was an ‘a-ha’ moment for me. In the same space of time, in different geographic locations, Israel, as a nation, sent the world two messages. Come at us with weapons, and we will defend ourselves militarily. In addition, we will continually defend ourselves by creating new educators, spiritual leaders, and community builders. They will carry and spread the lessons taught to them by the giants who preceded them, and breathe life and spirit into their posts on college campuses, schools, and synagogues.

Today two terrorists tried to kick Israel down, but no matter how many knives and guns come at us, we will always know how to get back up.

May the memories of the victims killed in the Tel Aviv attack be a blessing.

Israel on Campus

Our next event is right around the corner! Join our upcoming interactive workshop about Israel on Campus. Details in the flyer below. Don forget to RSVP: http://www.cbyarmonk.org/israeloncampus/ 

israel on campus-page-001


Dear Soldier…

Just before Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut- the kids from Temple Shaaray Tefila showed their appreciation for the IDF soldiers and security forces who keep Israel safe. Here is what they had to say:

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The Picture in my Office

The second photograph I put up in my office when I arrived in Westchester to serve as the community’s shaliach (Israel emissary), after the photo with my wife, was of my grandfather. The picture was taken in 1967. In it he is standing at the Kotel, the ancient stones behind him, wearing a tallis and teffilin, and looking up from his siddur towards the camera. The time, place and person in the frame all combine to form a powerful trifecta of symbolism.There is also a professional reason for having my Zeida in my office. He inspires me.

There is also a professional reason for having my Zeida in my office. He inspires me.

He grew up in the tiny town of Subate, Latvia, and knew that an anti-Semitic storm was brewing. Along with his brothers, he left to find a new life in South Africa, arriving with only the clothes on his back and petty cash in his pockets. On July 21st 1941 the relatives that remained in Subate were massacred by the Latvian SS. His answer to European Jewry’s devastation was to rebuild. He worked tirelessly to support a family, his two sons growing up to be successful themselves, with their own families and careers.

Along with his personal pride, he had a fervent love for Israel. He was a proud Zionist, making purposely timed trips to indulge in Israel’s euphoria in 1948 and 1967. He died in his 70s, then b’seiva tova (in ripe old age), but unfortunately well before his grandchildren were born. Originally buried in South Africa, he now rests in Israel reunited with my grandmother.

Throughout his life, he instilled the love for Israel in his sons, and without witnessing it, in his grandchildren. I may never have met him, but I knew him well.

Collectively as a nation we hold a library of memories from the generation that overcame, struggled, survived and fought. My grandfather’s life story is just one from the era when the Jewish people went from persecution and ashes to independence and pride. Every story is different in content but similar in magnitude and consequence.

Just weeks ago we read: “In each and every generation, a person is obligated to regard himself as though he actually left Egypt”. We recall the Pesach story so that the next generations will set their seder tables and relive the story once again.

And so it should be on Yom Haatzmaut. Our generation and those after must be obligated to regard themselves as if they actually created the State of Israel.

It would be impracticable to try to write one narrative, a Haggadah, about Israel’s independence, and we do not need to. For certain parts of Jewish education, we should instead draw inspiration and learn from the pre-written curriculum in stories, diaries, photos and objects that have been passed down to us. These are tangible, genuine pieces of Jewish history. They are personal in their teachings and powerful in their message.

I know. I use one every day.