To heighten the emotion and meaning of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel, the Orthodox Union has sent an impressive variety of materials to its member synagogues across North America for use on the OU’s National Israel @ 60 Shabbat, May 9-10, the Fifth of Iyar, on which the Torah portion Emor is read. Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, is celebrated this year on the Third of Iyar, Wednesday evening and Thursday, May 7-8.
The materials were prepared by the OU’s Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services. In a letter to synagogue leadership, Rabbi Bini Maryles, Director of Synagogue Services, wrote: “We are quickly approaching the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel. As we celebrate this important, milestone, it is important for us to give thanks to Hashem for the wonderful gift that He has given us. Sixty years is an opportunity to reflect on the miracle of the State of Israel and express our hakarat hatov (gratitude). For the first time in over 2,000 years the Jewish people have sovereignty over our Homeland. This is a true source of joy.”
The Israel @ 60 Shabbat is only one aspect of a year-long series of Orthodox Union programming, which includes the OU Biennial National Convention in Jerusalem, November 23-30; missions to Israel; and the distribution of 60 Days for 60 Years -- Israel: A Commemoration and Celebration, a collection of inspirational essays by Jewish educators, historians, writers and scholars, which has been sent to OU synagogues.
In addition, the OU has prepared and transmitted to the shuls a large and striking poster with the Prayer for the State of Israel composed by the Chief Rabbinate, and which is recited weekly in OU synagogues. (See sidebar for the prayer.)
The multiplicity of materials sent to the synagogues include the following:
•A suggested schedule for the Shabbat from Ma’ariv Friday to Ma’ariv Saturday;
•An outline, providing Talmudic sources, of two shiurim, or lectures, on the topics of Israel’s Modern Mitzvot: What Might Change When the Bulk of World Jewry Lives in Israel, and Three Approaches to Religious Zionism, Three Definitions of Success. The outlines were provided by Rabbi Modechai Torczyner of Congregation Sons of Israel in Allentown, PA and are suggested to be used Shabbat afternoon, one hour before Mincha.
•Divrei Torah connecting Parshat Emor to Eretz Yisrael, including the counting of the omer. The divrei Torah can be used as the basis for a sermon, shiur or discussion, and are reprinted from the book Eretz Yisrael in the Parsha, (Devora Publishing) by Rabbi Moshe D. Lichtman, and are reprinted with his permission.
•A model sermon by OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb (to be sent after Passover);
•A prayer, in Hebrew and English, for State of Israel.
•Hatikvah, in Hebrew and English;
•Quizrael: An Exciting Trivia Game, with questions on geography, modern history, Tanach (Bible), Jewish law, and biographies;
•A guide for youth programming, with specific ideas for younger and older children. Materials for younger children include a song, Eretz Yisrael Sheli, “My Land of Israel,” in Hebrew and English. Like Had Gadya, sung on Passover, it adds items as the song goes along. For older children, programming includes Israel@60 Taboo Cards, as well as The HaCohen Family Tree, letters written by members of a fictitious but realistic Israeli family to each other at major times in modern Israel’s 60-year history, from the War of Independence in 1948, through the Six-Day War, up to 2002, after the outbreak of the second intifada. The youth programming was created by Melitz, Israel’s leading provider of informal educational services
•Materials relating to the endowing by synagogues of a Portable Field Beit Knesset kit for Israel’s army, with prayer books, sets of tallit and tefillin, and a Kiddush and Havdalah set, among other objects, to be used when conducting religious services in the field. A synagogue can endow a unit for $1,800.
Rabbi Maryles declared, “Each congregation will of course celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday its own way. But these materials, prepared by Assistant Director of Synagogue Services Laya Pelzner, can provide assistance to each rabbi and ritual committee in making this Shabbat truly special. Because of these materials, each shul, in a sense, will be on the same page in terms of the celebration. The OU is happy to provide these programming suggestions for this very significant day.”