ShofarFlash 90

Whether it's as a response to Operation Protective Edge or for some other reason, demand for cantors, Torah readers, rabbis, and others to lead synagogue services in IDF bases is at an all-time high. To help satisfy the demand, graduates of Hesder yeshivas are organizing groups of soldiers, reserve troops, and non-military Israelis to join soldiers on bases during the High Holidays.

Generally, groups from institutions like Beit Orot, one of the yeshivas organizing the effort, would provide assistance for Yom Kippur, when “everybody” goes to prayer services. This year, however, there is also a great demand for people to help run services on Rosh Hashana, which begins next week. Among those the group is seeking are qualified shofar-blowers, who are very much in demand during the holiday, where the highlight of prayers is the sounding of the ram's horn.

One of the organizers, Yisrael Speyer, attributes the demand to the summer war. “We got a huge increase in the number of inquiries from the army, and we need volunteers to ensure that every soldier who wants to can pray and hear the shofar."

Speyer and his friend Nadav Malka, both graduates of Yeshivat Beit Orot, said that they had often come across situations at IDF bases where soldiers wanted to hold services, but either did not know how, or could not scratch up the quorum of ten men required to hold organized services. To that end, they set up a hotline called “Tzav Hashana,” which soldiers can contact, outlining the needs on their bases and getting assistance.

Last year, the group had 100 volunteers, most of whom “worked” on Yom Kippur. In the light of the much greater demand this year, Speyer said, the group needed a lot more people. “The demand is definitely being caused by the experiences of many soldiers during Operation Protective Edge, and this is a great opportunity for us to reach out to these soldiers and help them have a 'down-home holiday,' even if they are far away from family.”