Bet El Celebrates Thirty Three
It was the Fifth night of Chanukah. Hundreds of supporters of Bet El Yeshiva Center gathered at the Marriot Hotel in New York City to celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the Center and recognize the important work of its honorees at the 28th Annual Dinner of the American Friends of Bet El. Honorary Chairman Eugen Gluck was nothing short of glowing. He and his wife Jean greeted hundreds of long time friends and supporters who came to recognize the work of the Yeshiva Center and recognize the work of honorees Rabbi Dr. Richard and Sandy Weiss, Dr. Joshua and Sherry Fox, Dr. Jeffrey and Ester Weber, and Dr. Joseph and Karen Frager. With former governor of Arkansas and TV host Mike Huckabee and Malcom Hoenlein as Guest Speakers, the evening promised to be provocative, pro-active and political.
A robust and delicious cocktail hour began an evening of warmth and enthusiasm. Following the standard opening exercises of prayer and anthems, the lighting of the Chanukah Menorah by MK Yakov (Katzeleh) Katz initiated the first of many emotional moments. When the former Arkansas governor, and former and, potentially, future presidential candidate Mike Hukabee was introduced, he could not have found a more receptive audience.
Playing on the season, he began with some “holiday humor.”There were those,” said the former governor, “who thought there might be a Macabee ticket for the White House – a Mac(cain)/Huck)abee ticket, that is.”
Mike Hukabee spoke before a warm and welcoming group. Noting that he had been to Israel 14 times and would be returning in January, he connected with this pro-Israeli, pro Torah group very directly and with great strength. An especially warm response greeted his statement that the idea that a free people could not build in their own land simply to appease an enemy that does not recognize its right to exist was counter intuitive, superseded only by his unequivocal pronouncement that Jerusalem must be the undivided capital of the state of Israel.
Huckabee stressed the idea that every government must understand the “value of borders,” offering as example the comparison of the differences on each side of the Mexican/American line. “For anyone to suggest that the way to make a peaceful Israel is to lessen security is absurd.” The right of the Jewish people to a homeland, he reiterated, originated not with political declarations, but rather with G-d. “It is G-d who set the boundaries” declared Huckabee.
Huckabee’s declaration that the relationship between the United States and Israel is “not only organizational: it is organic” drew an enthusiastic response. The former governor described his then 11 year old daughter’s first visit to Yad V’Shem, an especially poignant moment. It was, he said, an experience he felt was inherent to her growth as a human being. “She needed to see what happens when people stand by and fail to challenge evil.” After the visit, he said, the child wrote a single question, one which remains haunting to this day: “Why didn’t somebody do something?” She asked, and then sat silently for four hours, hiding herself under a jacket.
Huckabee spoke of the historical impossibility and immorality of the 40-1 UNESCIO vote that declared Rachel’s Tomb to be a mosque, and not sacred to the Jewish People. The Tanach is a GPS to Jerusalem, said the enthusiastic presidential possibility. “If you take away a people’s past, you take away its future.”
Continuing, Huckabee spoke of the need to counter the attempts at de legitimization of Israel. “The America people support Israel in greater numbers than ever in history.” Other than saying the actual words, the governor’s positions were a virtual statement of Am Yisrael Chai!
Malcolm Hoenlein delivered an organized presentation replete with biblical references and historical notes, Hoenlein applauded the level of support by the United States for Israel, saying the cooperation between Israel and the United States was at “the highest levels.”
The miracle of Israel is “a miracle we cannot take for granted. We must help support the future of the Jewish people.” “We can overcome when we stand together.”
The American Friends of Bet El Yeshiva Center dinner was an extraordinary, warm, and enthusiastic event enjoyed by everyone attending. Guests stayed throughout the evening. Ending the event with music and community dancing sent all home with great good feeling.