The Chief Rabbi and the Israeli ambassador to the UK have paid tribute to Zionist youth group Bnei Akiva as it celebrates 80 years since its founding.
To mark the occasion, a special 25-minute film detailing the organisation’s history and contribution was shown in London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, as well as screening in Israel – in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Modi’in.
Saluting the work of the world’s biggest Zionist youth group, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “As result of the success story of Bnei Akiva there has been a strengthening in the commitment to Torah values and a Torah way of life.”
Bnei Akiva has branches around the world, including Brazil, France, the Netherlands and Australia, with the UK branch having been founded in 1936 by Arieh Handler, who welcomed Jewish children brought to the UK on the Kindertransport.
Set up before the State of Israel was established, the movement initially set out to prepare young Jews to work the land of Israel on Kibbutzim, and the first of these UK preparation centres was at Gwrych Castle in North Wales.
Given that many British Jews active in Bnei Akiva over the years have since made aliyah, participants said the twin screenings in the UK and Israel united those involved with the organisation.
Jonny Lipczer, watching from Modi’in, said: “The screenings brought together Bnei Akiva graduates spanning the generations, reminding us why we are part of such a special movement.
“Arieh Handler played an instrumental role in the founding of Bnei Akiva, and it was a privilege to have one of his children, Professor Gaby Handler, present at the Modiin screening, where he shared his own memories of his father.”