In the year 2000 Asher Cailingold wrote a chapter on the history of Bnei Akiva and Bachad in the book titled ‘The Jewish Emigrant from Britain, 1700-2000’
I will start at The Finale.
Over 80 youngsters standing on the stage at the Astoria Theater in Charing Cross Road 40 years ago. Singing their young hearts out. “Meileh Sheyiheyu Yamim Caelea”. Only let there be days like these.
This was the Chagiga for UK Bnei Akiva’s 40th year. A musical play performed just twice – once in the West End and once in Manchester.
It was a journey through time with Jewish history as our backdrop. From Rome to the present day. The present day was 1980. Half way through the life of BA UK.
I was in my final year at university. It was overambitious but London chaverim stepped up and 100 people got involved – as actors, singers, dancers, musicians, stage hands, costume makers. You can see their names in the Programme and there they are in the pictures, young, ambitious, idealistic….
It was called In Every Generation “Bechol Dor Vador” The cast and crew of my generation are now in their fifties or sixties and everyone has their own memories.
Mine include Sunday afternoon rehearsals in my student flat and Dunstan Road shul hall and the thrill of sitting in the West End law firm office of the late Mr. Hebert Kaufman negotiating t theater contracts.
I did not remember that I had cast a girl as innkeeper as our original male star had to do medical school exams. I do remember that the final scene included chayalim. Today as a Mum of soldiers I am glad that my 21 year old self had them center stage.
And casting my mind back I think of that rocky dress rehearsal. And my heart beating as the curtain went up.
I think I knew even in those giddy times that UK Bnei Akiva was much more than just a youth movement. It was ,and is, a family, an identity and even a destiny.
As BA Mazkir Alan Deitch and I wrote in the programme you can see below with all the pomposity of the young.
“ One feels that the way of Bnei Akiva, synthesizing a life of Torah with the building of the State is vital to the future of the Jewish people in their land.”
The Dramatis Personae of that evening were poised for two historic roles : as leaders of the UK jewish community and in becoming the bedrock of religious Aliya.
Some of the cast went on to lead national Jewish bodies & provincial communities and reach the heights of the British peerage.
In Israel we founded Kibbutz Beit Rimon, taught in yeshivot of all kinds, rose to the heights of every profession and settled all over the country including and my beloved Raanana.
There is a special sweetness about Israeli Brit ex BA families. We are everywhere now and somehow the kids recognize and are drawn to each other –in yeshivot, midrashot and the army.
In 1980, we stood in that West End theater never dreaming what Israel would be; developer of cures, leader of technology, pioneer of inclusion, world influencer with more Torah learned in this tiny country by more people than at any time in history.
I am writing this at the end of UK Bnei Akiva’s 80th year. May there be many more. It was just a few nights 40 years ago. These are my memories but I hope I have made others remember too. But it is the arc of history and the promise realised which is what I feel when I look back.
Meileh. Only let there be days like these, we sang. We were not nearly ambitious enough. Eternity knows what history can only begin to guess.
Special thanks to Channah Persoffand Deborah Finn. While most of us had only sweet memories they kept the memorabilia.
I was on the Hanhala for 3 years, 1973-76, and Mazkira Clalit – the 1st woman to do the job, in 1976-77 before making Aliya to Netivot as part of the Garin Ir Pituach
In 1976, the year I finished my BA at University, I was asked by the cental Shaliach, Berale ז”ל, to take on the job of Mazkira for a year. It was a very full and fulfilling year. One of our achievements that year, with the inspiration and energy of Yitschak Stern to back us, was to set up a snif of BA in Belfast. I went there for several shabbatot to help get it started, and many children from relatively assimilated backgrounds, were drawn in and subsequently came to camps and made Aliya. Altogether. BA in the UK did a fantastic job bringing kids from nonreligious backgrounds back to the fold. I felt proud of that achievement, and still do today.
The inspiration of the shlichim was very much felt, especially by the Bogrim – Berale, Yair Noy, Yoske Weinberg, Yitchak Stern and others. We knew that when we made Aliya, we would have many homes to welcome us, and for many of us these relationships remained and developed over the years.
Another memory concerns the decision to change the venue of hachshara from Lavi to Sde Eliyahu. I still remember how I had to calm a group of very worried and angry parents, deeply unhappy about the change. Thank G-d, it all worked out well and both the chanichim and their parents were happy with the decision. in retrospect.
Finally, I would like to mention the fact that many Bogrim, including myself, were sent during the 70s and 80s to Russia through Lishkat Hakesher, to give some encouragement and practical help to the Jews there (“refusniks”). For all of us this was a deeply moving experience, and I think we gained for ourselves at least as much as we achieved for them.
Chana is in Shevet Tsurim
I went to camp as a chanich every year from 1958 (age 9) till 1965, and then as a madrich. I was Rosh Machaneh of Coach Machaneh in 1971 and Bet Base in 1972, before spending a year on the Mazkirut as Camps Organizer in 1971.
I was a member of Hachsharah in Lavi in 1967-8. Machzor Daled.
Rosh Snif of North London (70 Cazenov Road ) 1970-1.
I came on ALIYAH TO ALUMIM as a member of the Garin in 1972
The picture is from Machaneh Pately Bridge 1963. In the middle holding his jersey is as he was then Jonathan Sacks and to his left is former President of the Board of Deputies Vivian Wineman.
Malcolm Weiner is in Shevet Nachshon and now lives on Kibbutz Alumim
I was a Chanich on every camp ’81-’89 and then a Madrich at multiple camps ’88-’92. At Sviva I was a Madrich in Hendon ’87-’89, before becoming Rosh Sviva Hendon ’92-’93
I was also a Rosh Machane Winter ’92, Israel Machane Madrich ’93, and delegate to Veida Olamit Winter ’91
The pictures below are from AC 1983 in Dorking, and BB 1984 in Gloucestershire. I can name every person in them!
Victor Ofstein is in Shevet Hechalutz.
(click on the slider to view the photos)
I attended B.A. from the age of 7, first in the Bayit at 70 Cazenove Road in Stamford Hill and moving from there to NW London.
In Norrice Lea I was first a chanicha, then a madricha, and then as Rosh Sviva. During my teenage years three svivot joined together forming a group called Donlilos. The chevra were from Hendon, Finchley, Golders Green and Hampstead Garden Suburb.
I attended machanot from the age of ten, going to three aleph camps – 1963 1964 and 1965. Machane Sayarim in the Lake District ( under canvas) in 1967. Seminar Torani in Maartens Maartens Hoos in Holland together with European Bnei Akiva chaverim, in 1968, and Israel Machane in 1969 – my first visit to Israel.
In between I attended the winter machanot, the most memorable being in Towcester, followed by the annual veidot. I did hadracha at various camps, and also worked as the camp cook with 2 assistants at the tender age of 17!
I was active doing voluntary work at the Willesden Bayit at 276 Willesden Lane, and actually was a paid employee there for about 6 months in 1973.
Aliya followed in 1979, after I had completed my studies and married.
Too many memories to mention!
These photos come from Chigwell Machane Hadracha in the early 1970’s. They include Shaliach Zvi Slonim and many other members of Shevet Tzurim and Shacham, most of whom now live in Israel with children, grandchildren and more!
Professor David Newman is in Shevet Shacham
Shlomo was a Madrich in Norrice Lea, a Chaver Hanhala Artzit and was Camps Organiser in 1974 alongside Sue Levy.
See the attached document below for some of Shlomo’s memories
Shlomo Koor is in Shevet Yachdav
1964 – BASI Created
1966 – Arieh Handler becomes Chairman of Bachad
1967 – Willesden Bayit opened
1970 – Queen Elizabeth greets Chaverim at US Centenary
1976 – First Mazkira – Chana Bayer
1986 – Offices move to 2 Hallswelle Road