Originally published in the New Jersey Jewish Link on June 15, 2017
The Religious Zionists of America led an effort that brought more than 500 people from dozens of communities across the United States to participate in a four-day mega-Yom Yerushalayim celebration in Israel on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. The conference, which was organized by and run in partnership with World Mizrachi, attracted 1200 people from across the globe and thousands more from Israel. The program included a live concert, presentations from leading rabbinic and political figures from both Israel and abroad, an uplifting Leil Yom Yerushalayim T’fillah in the Great Synagogue, an unprecedented and inspiring unified Shacharit at the Kotel, tours of the Old City and a trip to Chevron and Har HaZeitim.
Dr. Ernest Agatstein, co-president of the Religious Zionists of America, said “I was impressed by the large turnout of men and women from across the United States who picked themselves up in the middle of a busy work week to attend with their city delegations often led by their shul rabbis. US delegations included attendees from Los Angeles, Chicago, Columbus, Highland Park, Englewood, Livingston and the Five Towns. These participants joined together with delegations from England, South Africa, Canada, Mexico and Australia in celebrating this historic milestone.”
Rabbi Leonard Matanky, co-president of the RZA, joined from West Rogers Park, Illinois. He remarked, “the World Mizrachi mission was not only a huge success, it was an extraordinary kiddush Hashem, bringing together thousands of people from the four corners of the earth to celebrate God’s miracles and gift of Yerushalayim. To all who came and all who created this mission—we are so very grateful. And to anyone who missed this opportunity, I pray that they find opportunities to visit and bask in the glory of our eternal capital.”
Rabbi Elazar Muskin, senior rabbi of the Young Israel of Century City in Los Angeles, added “While walking in Jerusalem a few days ago, as part of the Mizrachi Yom Yerushalayim program, a TV reporter for Israel TV Channel 2 stopped and asked if she could interview me. Wondering why we traveled halfway around the globe, and spent thousands of dollars for the trip, she asked me what motivated us to attend. I explained that this was our way of saying thank you to God for giving us the great miracle of the Six-Day War, and more generally the great miracle of the state of Israel. It was our way of saying thank you to God for the great miracle of the Soviet aliyah, which was inspired and was a direct outcome of the Six-Day War. It was our way of saying thank you to God for the prosperity we enjoy today in Israel that was not even a dream in 1967.”
Jack Forgash of Teaneck said, “I spent Yom Yerushalayim in Israel with RZA-Mizrachi, and Shavuot following. Seeing is believing, the miracles that are taking place in our generation are just awesome. Stop for a moment, think, listen and look around—you’ll get it and thank Hashem for delivering in our time.”
Rabbi Shlomo Appel of Jamaica Estates, New York, remarked, “I was looking forward to being in Yerushalayim for this very special anniversary of the reunification of the city. The program put together by Mizrachi Olami, beginning with the concert in Binyenai Haumah, the lectures, tours and especially the tefillah at the Kotel on Yom Yerushalayim morning were moving and inspirational far exceeding all expectations.”
From the Columbus, Ohio contingent, Steven Lessnick said, “Being in Jerusalem for YY50 felt like returning from the exile. It helped me to appreciate the historical and spiritual moment we are living in.” Rabbi Howard Zack, also from Columbus, added “For me the YY50 program was transformative and energizing. Aside from the historical greatness of the event, it was amazing to see the depth and breadth of growth in the Religious Zionist community in Israel, of which Mizrachi is a central figure. I returned with a renewed commitment to connect my congregation, through Mizrachi and the RZA, with programs and opportunities in Israel and to bring more of Israel’s Religious Zionist leaders to our community.”
Rabbi Elie Mischel, rabbi of Suburban Torah in Livingston, New Jersey, remarked, “Though I have the good fortune to visit Israel often, being in Yerushalayim with Mizrachi for the 50th anniversary of its reunification was uniquely powerful. Dancing and singing together with tens of thousands of young Jews, witnessing firsthand the ever-growing spiritual strength of our people, was uplifting beyond words.”
Dr. Ernie Agatstein of Los Angeles added, “It felt like Klal Yisrael was reenacting the pilgrimage that used to take place three times a year when the Beit Hamikdash stood.”
The programming coordinated by a team led by Rabbi Doron Perez of World Mizrachi brought the most talented and recognized speakers from around the world. Presenters included former Chief Rabbi of the UK Lord Jonathan Sacks, YU Rosh Yeshiva Rav Herschel Schachter, Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of South Africa Rabbi Warren Goldstein, Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel Rabbi David Lau, Jewish Agency President Natan Sharansky, Minister of Knesset Michael Oren, President of the Conference of Presidents Malcolm Hoenlein and former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee. There was even a session focused on the future of world-wide Religious Zionism that was attended by the 80 or so Religious Zionist rabbis who had attended from overseas.
The Religious Zionists of America proudly sent the largest overseas contingent—many hundreds of individuals from dozens of communities—to represent the United States at the YY50 conference.