Attendees at the event
Attendees at the eventSpokesperson

More than 1,000 gap-year yeshiva and seminary students celebrated Yom Yerushalayim at a pep rally Thursday night sponsored by Masa Israel and hosted in partnership with World Mizrachi, designed to inspire and energize them into ambassadors for Israel as many plan to return home and get ready for college campuses in the fall.

The back-to-back events at Heichal Shlomo, held separately for men and women, were awash with music, singing, dancing and food to commemorate the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

The event and new program are part of Mizrachi’s “Flying the Flag” initiative, an ongoing campaign aimed at solidifying the spiritual connection gap-year students develop with the Jewish state in order to cultivate a generation of Zionist ambassadors who will champion Eretz Yisrael’s reputation in the next phases of their lives. The initiative comes as rising antisemitism and the Boycott Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement challenge Jewish communities both generally across the globe and specifically on college campuses, where many of the event attendees are headed in just a few months.

Masa’s facilitation of the separately gendered programming was a first on their part as they now endeavor to appeal to a more religiously diverse audience.

The consecutive festivities began at 4 p.m. for men and 8 p.m. for women, with both events featuring the world renowned contemporary religious singer Shlomo Katz for musical entertainment and a dairy spread.

Keynote speakers included World Mizrachi CEO Rav Doron Perez at the men’s event and Rabbanit Shani Taragin for the women’s event who both focused on the critical impact that each student can and must play in maintaining a thriving Jewish community, whether it be in Israel or in the Diaspora.

Short video presentations and other speeches followed featuring descriptions of World Mizrachi and other programs in place that are specifically geared towards engaging former gap-year students and maintaining their spiritual and Zionistic high. Options presented included making Aliyah, joining the Israeli Defense Forces as well as partaking in college campus initiatives abroad such as Heart to Heart and OU-JLIC.

World Mizrachi plans to maintain relationships with all participants to maximize their ongoing contributions to both their local and greater Jewish communities as well as defense of the State of Israel.

“With antisemitism and defamation of Israel being one of the greatest threats to the Jewish people, we want to produce an ‘army of soldiers’ who will be empowered to address these challenges on campus,” said World Mizrachi CEO Rav Doron Perez. “Masa’s partnership with us on this initiative marks a historic collaboration to develop a generation of leaders dedicated to advancing the Jewish communities abroad and their connection to Israel. We are extremely grateful for their partnership and for sharing our collective responsibility to invest in a robust Jewish Diaspora.”

“The burst of enthusiasm and ruach expressed by our young leaders tonight promises a flourishing future for Eretz Medinat Yisrael,” said Religious Zionists of America Executive Vice President Rabbi Ari Rockoff. “The gap-year experience for many young men and women is the pinnacle of their religious and Zionistic personal growth. This is a pivotal opportunity to secure their current and future participation in Jewish communal life which includes the advancement of America’s Zionist movement.”

Participating institutions included: Yeshivat Hakotel; Midreshet Lindenbaum; Tiferet Center; Shaalvim for Women, Neve Yerushalayim, Yeshivat Ashreinu; Machon Maayan; Yeshivat Torat Shraga; Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi; Midreshet Torat Chessed; Yeshivat Lev HaTorah; Midreshet Eshel; Midreshet Emunah v'Omanut; Midreshet Emunah Torah V’Avodah; Baer Miriam Seminary; Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim; Stella K. Abraham Beit Midrash at Migdal Oz; Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh and Nishmat.