Dear Panim el Panim
We have just completed the festival of adding
and increasing our joy each day.
In this spirit we will also increase social justice,
wisdom and faith,
championing truth and heroism,
and carrying on the tradition of the sacred lights of Chanukah,
spreading more light to all of Am Yisrael.
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Tevet, the month enveloped by winter. The nights are longest and the days overshadowed by clouds. Yet its name is from the same root as Tov – goodness, and this is our mission in the world – to bring light and love.
Am Yisrael’s purpose in the world is to bear witness to Hashem’s presence, as even hinted and hidden in its name. We sanctify Hashem’s name with our very existence, yet today’s generation is barely aware of its identity and essence.
Panim el Panim therefore blazed a trail, to connect our youth who are yearning. And wonder of wonders, we did not fail, and they are now so involved in learning.
Most high schools are already aware they need rabbis for teaching Torah and values, and Panim el Panim’s professional educators are welcomed by students from junior high through graduation. In the army, too, we are strengthening Jewish identity, as both soldiers and commanders ask for more programs. Strong faith makes strong soldiers, and good leadership instills fighting spirit. With the military rabbinate’s blessing, Panim el Panim has become an integral part of operational training.
Kibbutzim founded on the principles of rural communism now welcome High Holiday services and Torah classes, build synagogues and affix mezuzot.
We have launched new programs for university students, high school teachers and parents, too, and have even reached out to the Diaspora, offering activities and promoting Aliyah and IDF service.
Panim el Panim is all this and more, and we pray that Hashem will help us to continue quenching the spiritual thirst and fulfilling Am Yisrael’s ultimate destiny.
Col. (res.) Geva Rapp
We have just finished celebrating Chanukah, a festival that teaches us that in all our practical activities, when we think and plan the finest details, Hashem’s light shines forth from within them and leads us to amazing successes.
The miracle of the small jug of oil outshines the miracle of the military victory, showing us that even when our physical might is winning the day, the most important thing to remember is that Hashem is the source of that might.
We remember this in all our activities, from the exciting educational programs to the mundane administrative and organizational tasks.
When the universities began their fall semester studies after Sukkot, we welcomed over 100 students to our Nitzanim program, and we have already held an amazingly meaningful Shabbat program in Jerusalem and a field trip to Gush Etzion. At Midreshet Yahad, designed especially for high school teachers, we have completed the preparation of the second volume of lesson plan and content ideas based on the weekly Torah portion and the Jewish festivals. This book was compiled by Rabbi Karov and his team of teachers in the Yahad Beit Midrash in Ra’anana, for both teachers and the general public.
All our other departments are also continuing to grow and expand – Midreshet Lahav has begun running two-day seminars and in the IDF we have launched a new program of telephone study partners.
On the organizational level, this year we are launching a major resource development effort that has begun with a new image film and meetings in the U.S. with partners and close friends, who are assisting us in developing new directions. In the coming months we are planning additional events in Israel, England, the U.S. and Canada.
With Hashem’s help we will succeed in all these efforts!
With Hashem’s help we have begun our fourth year of activities in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with a total of 100 students, some of whom are participating for their second or third year. At the first few meetings we held activities for the students to get to know one another and the instructors and heard fascinating lectures from Rabbi Yoni Milo, Rabbi Yehuda Meshi-Zahav and others.
The social fabric of the groups is taking shape and the students are forming friendships, especially after the uplifting Shabbat program in Jerusalem and the field trip to Gush Etzion. These events made a big impression on each and every one of the participants.
We have also opened a unique program for the third-year students and Nitzanim alumni, in order to maintain and strengthen Panim el Panim’s relationship with the students.
Panim el Panim’s teacher training program has been working on several initiatives. From before Rosh Hashanah until Chanukah we worked on a series of short films to aid teachers in introducing various subjects to their students, and suggestions for activities with the students.
During this same period we held a number of meetings on some sensitive topics that occasionally crop up during classes with the students. The meeting in Ashdod was attended by 25 teachers and principals, and the meeting in Acco by 20 teachers. In addition to regular meetings, Panim el Panim offers individual guidance to teachers who need extra assistance with various subjects.
After many months of hard work we have completed the preparation of the second volume of Parashat Chaim, on the weekly Torah portion, for the books of Bamidbar and Devarim. Many teachers who purchased volume one, on Bereshit, Shmot and Vayikra, have told us they are looking forward to the publication of volume two.
Everyone who has attended Midreshet Yahad meetings has expressed their thanks and interest in more meetings.
This project, headed by Michael Kirshenbaum, is more successful with each passing year! The many requests we received required special arrangements. At some of the kibbutzim there were objections and obstacles that had to be overcome, but in the end we managed to organize services in 62 communities. The enthusiastic responses we received fuel our motivation to continue this important activity in the future.
A special weekend program was held in Las Vegas with Panim el Panim’s public relations staff. The program was intended for Holocaust survivors and our supporters in the U.S., and its theme was “Holocaust Survivors and Panim el Panim Salute the IDF.”
Among the guests of honor were Israeli Consul to the U.S. Mr. Danny Danon, Rabbi Avraham Cooper, from the Simon Wiesenthal Institute and Rabbi Hershel Billet from Woodmere, New York. The topics they addressed included anti-Semitism in our times, from the Holocaust to the rebuilding of the Jewish People in our own land. There was a very special atmosphere throughout the entire weekend, and we made new connections and strengthened existing ones.
The heads of Panim el Panim received a warm welcome from revered Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, shlita and Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach shlita, who expressed their joy in the organization’s accomplishments in spreading Torah and deepening Jewish identity. At this emotional meeting the rabbis blessed Panim el Panim with continued success in all its endeavors.
The following are two of the emotional responses to our High Holiday services in the small Upper Galilee community of Mitzpe Hila.
“We would like to express our thanks and appreciation to your organization. The generous assistance of Rabbi Michael Kirschenbaum and the students he sent to us were a tremendous contribution to our Yom Kippur services in the synagogue at Mitzpe Hila for the second year in a row.
We would also like to thank Dvir, who accompanied the group of students. He managed the group, led the services and mediated the discussion with the community’s young people in an exemplary and praiseworthy fashion.
The young people who came last year kept in touch with the community’s youth throughout the year and even hosted them in their homes.
We look forward to hosting you for other programs in the future.
On behalf of the Mitzpe Hila Synagogue Committee”
“On Yom Kippur we all enjoyed an exceptional and emotional experience. After the Kol Nidrei services we sat and discussed the concepts of repentance, judgment and Jewish law. Even after the discussion officially ended, the students and the community’s youth remained in their seats well into the wee hours of the morning, exchanging thoughts on their commonalities and differences. This was an amazing example of ahavat Yisrael that breaks down the barriers. Even though there was disagreement on various issues, there was openness for dialogue.
The following evening, during the Neila service, the synagogue was packed and the intensity was palpable. As a leader of synagogue services it was a very emotional experience for me on a personal level. Before Yom Kippur my grandfather had lent me his old kittel, the white robe he had worn 60 years ago when he was my age and had begun leading High Holiday services. As soon as the fast was over, while we were getting organized to leave, members of the community approached us to make sure we would come again next year…