Orthodox Union’s B’Yachad LaNetzach Project Memorializes IDF’s Fallen Heroes

16 Apr 2024

Ahead of Yom Hazikaron, Communities Encouraged to Adopt and Honor a Fallen Soldier in a Show of Gratitude and Support for Their Ultimate Sacrifice for Klal Yisrael

Staff Sgt. Maoz Morell Hy”d

Staff Sgt. Maoz Morell Hy”d of Talmon, was only 22 years old on February 15, 2024, when he succumbed to wounds sustained during combat a week earlier in the Gaza Strip. Maoz was a student at Yeshivat Hesder Kfar Tapuah and was highly devoted to learning Torah, requesting that seforim be brought to the frontlines so that he could pursue his passion while on duty. Known for his physical strength, Maoz was also an excellent athlete. A member of the Paratroopers Brigade, Maoz immediately returned from a trip to the US to defend his beloved country following the tragic events of October 7.

Staff Sgt. (res.) Adi Odeya Borech Hy”d

The eldest of three siblings, Staff Sgt. (res.) Adi Odeya Borech Hy”d was on her way to reserve duty in the Judea Brigade on October 12, 2023, when she was mortally wounded by a falling rocket near Sderot. The 23-year old from Kiryat Netafim was a leader in the Bnei Akiva youth movement, was loved by all, and always eagerly helped others with endless generosity and energy.

Thirty-two-year-old Captain Lior Sivan Hy”d was serving as a tank commander in the Armored Brigade when he fell in combat in the Gaza Strip on December 19, 2023. Born in Melbourne, Australia, the Beit Shemesh resident is survived by his pregnant wife, Liav, and two-year-old son, Tal. A lover of humanity and nature with a wonderful sense of humor, Lior used his skills as a mechanical engineer to improve the lives of others with numerous inventions, including a special toy car for children with disabilities, a wheelchair that floats in water, and a suicide prevention system.

Captain Lior Sivan Hy”d

Maoz, Adi, and Lior are among the roughly 300 soldiers who have lost their lives in battle, Al Kiddush Hashem, since the war’s onset. This year, Yom HaziKaron will be commemorated on Hey Iyar, Monday, May 13, 2024. A meaningful initiative launched by the Orthodox Union is ensuring that these heroes will not only be memorialized by their immediate friends and families, but by all of North American Jewry.

“Since Simchas Torah, hundreds of Israel’s precious soldiers have given their lives, and thousands have been wounded in defense of our land and its inhabitants, changing the lives of their families forever,” says OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer. “Thousands of Israelis have been living for months with the unimaginable tension of having a child, spouse, parent, or sibling on the front lines as they await the dreaded knock on the door.”

Rabbi Hauer cites a significant gap in lived experience between Israelis who serve in Tzahal and the vast majority of American Jewry, who cannot fathom the emotional burdens Israelis bear around the war.

“This year, when so many are grieving their raw and fresh losses, we must seize the opportunity for pure and unadulterated empathy, nesius b’ol im chaveiro, as we try our hardest to understand the experience of those who have sacrificed their lives for us,” says Rabbi Hauer.

“Each and every one of the kedoshim deserves to be remembered individually by having their story told and by having Torah learned and tefillos said in their memory,” he adds. “Each and every one of their families deserves to know that their sacrifice is recognized as having been on behalf of all of Klal Yisrael.”

In anticipation of Yom Hazikaron, the OU is encouraging shuls, batei midrash, and schools to join the families of the fallen in recalling and appreciating their profound sacrifice, through a unique initiative called B’Yachad LaNetzach. The project aims to bridge that gap, offer bereaved families chizuk, and elevate the neshamos of the departed. Participating organizations will receive a metallic print and bio of their adopted soldier, as well as a connection with their family, if possible.

“Our hope is that the kehillos will do something meaningful around their chayal on Yom Hazikaron and beyond that as well,” says OU Special Assistant to the Executive Vice Presidents Rabbi Yisroel Motzen. “Some shuls have already chosen to dedicate shiurim and tefillos in their memories.”

It was American-Israeli educator Racheli Fraenkel who inspired the OU to initiate the campaign. Shortly after the horrors of October 7, the mother of Naftali Fraenkel, Hy”d, was among the featured speakers who brought chizuk to hundreds of listeners on the OU’s weekly chizuk calls. Fraenkel recounted how meaningful it was when she would meet North Americans who had davened on Naftali’s behalf when he was kidnapped in 2014.

“When Racheli visited different communities in Chutz La’Aretz, people would say, ‘You don’t know me, but I know you,’” says Rabbi Motzen. “She would reply, ‘I know exactly who you are. You were with me during the hardest time of my life.’”

Fraenkel relayed that every single Jew knew about her son and cautioned that people could get lost in the numbers, rather than focusing on the victims’ names and life stories.

“Racheli believes each of these victims deserves a Yad Vashem,” says Rabbi Motzen. “Each should have someone who really knows who they are.”

Staff Sgt. Hallel Saadon H”yd

Bereaved families who have learned of the project have been overwhelmingly touched by the gesture. New Jersey’s Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton has adopted Staff Sgt. Hallel Saadon H”yd. The 21-year-old soldier from the Nahal Brigade was murdered by Hamas on October 7 near Kibbutz Sufa. A former camper and counselor at Camp Moshava IO in Pennsylvania who loved horses, Hallel lived in Ma’ale Michmas. His mother, Devora, was moved to learn about the OU’s and Young Israel’s memorial tribute to her son.

“It’s very uplifting to know that Hallel’s name and amazing soul is spreading in the world,” she says. “Hallel’s friends said he had the largest heart of anyone they know. Every time he returned to his base, he made sure to stop at the supermarket to buy snacks for the whole team. He knew what each friend liked best, and got it for him. Even in his final moments, Hallel chose to protect his friends, and not himself, by firing back from the entrance of the safe space, instead of going inside.”

On a recent Shabbat, Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton reflected on Hallel’s life at the first of many shiurim and programs that will be dedicated to elevating his neshama, preserving his legacy, and bringing his family into the heart of the community.

“It is our kehilla’s greatest privilege to honor the memory of Hallel Saadon, an incredible warrior of the Jewish people who fought and gave his life, Al Kiddush Hashem, for the land of Israel and for the people of Israel,” says Young Israel’s Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, who also serves as the OU’s managing director of Community Engagement. “B’ezras Hashem, we will have the opportunity to have many other moments, both on our own, and shared with the family, to be able to ensure that Hallel’s contribution is forever immortalized in the hearts and the souls and the communities of the Jewish people.”

When Rabbi Zolly Claman of Montreal’s Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem learned about OU’s B’Yachad LaNetzach initiative from Rabbi Motzen, he immediately wanted his Kehila to be part of it. 

“We are all so eager and thirsty to find ways to connect,” he says. “During our shul’s recent mission to Israel, the most impactful parts were not the things we saw, but rather the people we met. The heroic sacrifices that every element of the country is making are both heartbreaking and inspiring. Having the opportunity to build a personal relationship with Hila Klein – the widow of 29-year-old Elchanan Klein Hy”d, who was shot by terrorists while driving home to the Shomron from reserve duty –  is something that we will cherish forever. We owe a debt of gratitude to the OU for making this idea come to fruition, and including our shul in it.” 

To register your shul, beit midrash, or school in B’Yachad LaNetzach, please visit https://www.ou.org/lanetzach/. If you or a member of your organization has a personal connection to a specific chayal, please contact motzeny@ou.org.