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Bnei Akiva (Hebrew: בני עקיבא) (lit: Children of Akiva) is the largest religious Zionist youth movement in the world, with over 125,000 members in 37 countries. It was established in 1929 in what is now Israel when it was under the British mandate.
- 1 History
- 2 Ideology
- 3 Organizational framework
- 4 Symbols of Bnei Akiva
- 5 Lexicon
- 6 Bnei Akiva around the world
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Bnei Akiva was established as the youth wing of the Mizrachi movement. The axiom of Bnei Akiva is Torah v’Avodah, a phrase coined by Rav Shmuel Chaim Landau (Shachal). Bnei Akiva first came into existence in the late 1920s, following World War I. Concurrent with the establishment of the movement in pre-independence Israel, organizations of religious youth operated in the Diaspora. Some of them adopted the name Bnei Akiva and others had appellations such as Hashomer Hadati. Twenty-five years later (1958), the Israeli and Diaspora groups merged and the Mazkirut Olamit (World Secretariat) of Bnei Akiva was formed.
Bnei Akiva's twin ideals of Torah and Avodah loosely translate to religious commitment/study and work on the land of Israel. The movement has an anthem called Yad Ahim. As a pioneering Zionist youth movement, Bnei Akiva believes that it is a central commandment of Judaism to emigrate to the land of Israel--"make Aliya"—and maintains that the future of the Jewish people is tied to the state of Israel. Bnei Akiva feels that Jewish youth in the Diaspora should be educated to realize that the State of Israel needs them, and that they, in turn, need it. In the early years of pioneering, Avodah was understood as meaning agricultural work, as reflected in the symbolism on the "Semel" (see below, #The Emblem). In more recent years, there has driven a shift in ideology towards a broader definition of working for the development of the country. (See Avodah article).
Similarly, the original socialist aims of Bnei Akiva are also taking more of a back-seat. Up to the 1980s many Bnei Akiva members joined religious Kibbutzim in Garinim (groups). They were either groups based on army service together Nahal or they were groups that came on Aliya (emigrated) to Israel together. Since the 1990s, a wider view of how to contribute to Israeli life has become accepted. Bnei Akiva members now typically settle in development towns, settlements etc. They are active in all areas of Israeli life including security, hi-tech, education, academia etc.
Bnei Akiva's objectives are to educate Jewish youth with values of Torah Va'Avodah (Torah and work), to provide stimulating experiential and informal opportunities for encountering Judaism, and to encourage Jewish continuity and leadership, e.g. members are encouraged to spend a year in Israel on organised learning and touring programs to broaden their knowledge of Israel and developing their leadership skills.
The term "Bnei Akiva" and its ideology relates directly to the story of Rabbi Akiva. At the age of 40 years old, after growing up tending flock, he changed his ways and decided that he needed to find out the essence of the Jewish faith. He reasoned that just as something as soft as water can penetrate a solid rock and cause it to erode, so too can the Torah penetrate into himself. Chanichim (lit. students) strive to emulate Rabbi Akiva and his qualities, namely his love of God, devotion to the Torah, respect for labor, love of Israel, and his fight for its independence.
Bnei Akiva's slogan is "Am Yisrael b'Eretz Yisrael al pi Torat Yisrael" - "The (Jewish) Nation of Israel living in the Land of Israel according to the Torah of Israel".
In Israel, Bnei Akiva is affiliated with the Religious Kibbutz Movement and the National Religious Party. It is run by a National Secretariat (Hanhala Artzit). Outside Israel, local branches of Bnei Akiva are under the Bnei Akiva Olami (Worldwide) organization.
Symbols of Bnei Akiva
The "Semel", Bnei Akiva's emblem, shows farming utensils and wheat sheaves symbolizing the agricultural perspective of the ideology, and two tablets of stone in the center symbolizing the Torah perspective. The two perspectives of Torah and Avoda are united together by the ribbon which says Bnei Akiva on it - symbolizing that the two aspects can only and must work hand in hand. The letters on the two tablets are the Hebrew letters 'Taf' and 'Ayin' standing for Torah veAvoda ("Torah and work") By work, Bnei Akiva means working in Israel. Helping and developing Israel, so Israel can be an example for all the other countries.
The Bnei Akiva's anthem (himmnon in Hebrew), was composed by Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neriya (originally known as Chaver Minkin). He composed the anthem during the Chol Hamoed period of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, 1932, at a gathering of youth leaders in Kfar Saba.
Although the words and the melody have been changed to some extent, the anthem is sung on many Bnei Akiva occasions.
The anthem, Yad Achim, is sung in Hebrew.
|Original Text||Translation to English|
|יד אחים לכם שלוחה, הנוער החביב
על דגלנו כולכם, חנו מסביב
יזהיר לכם כוכב תורה
דרככם סוגה בעבודה
בלב אמיץ ובעזרת ה´, עלה נעלה!
קדימה בני-עקיבא, הידד במעלה!
מולדת זו, ארץ אבות, ארצנו הקדושה
מידי אביר-יעקב לנו מורשה
ראשינו בעמקי תורתה
כפינו ברגבי אדמתה
בלב אמיץ ובעזרת ה´, עלה נעלה!
קדימה בני-עקיבא, הידד במעלה!
|A brotherly hand is stretched out to you, O beloved youth:
Gather yourselves around our flag.
The star of the Torah shall shine for you,
Your path shall be one of labour.
With a sturdy heart, with the help of G-d, we will go up,
Forward, Bnei Akiva, forward to the heights!
This homeland, the holy Land of our fathers,
our heritage from the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob.
Our minds are steeped in her Torah,
Our hands are immersed in her soil.
With a sturdy heart, with the help of G-d, we will go up,
Forward, Bnei Akiva, forward to the heights!
Bnei Akiva snifim all over the world start or end their meetings with mifkad, a "chet", or rectangle missing one if its smaller sides, shaped assembly where announcements are made, members are counted, and the ideology is reaffirmed. With slight variations, the text of mifkad is the same all over the world, following a basic structure shown at .
|שבט||Shevet||Tribe||Age group. A Shevet receives its name at age 14 approximately. The name remains with that shevet forever.|
|סניף||Snif||Branch||Local branch of the movement, usually holding activities on a weekly basis.|
|מדריך||Madrich||Guide||Counsellor, group leader|
|חניך||Chanich||Pupil||Member of the movement, before Gap year.|
|הכשרה||Hachshara||Preparation||Gap year programme for high school graduates in Israel. There are various programmes but all mix elements of Torah study and other activities.|
|שליח||Shaliach||Emissary||The World movement sends emissaries to the local branches. The idea is to teach Hebrew, encourage aliya and Judaism. Shlichim can be bachelors after army service or families.|
Bnei Akiva around the world
Bnei Akiva Brazil
In Rio de Janeiro there are two snifim one in Copacabana (Snif Metzadah) and one in Tijuca (Snif Beit Yafah). Bnei Akiva's presence in São Paulo started in the 50s. Now it has two snifim, one in Jardins and one in Higienopolis. Bnei Akiva also have a snif in Belém. The activities of Bnei Akiva include Shabbatons, camp (each year there are two camps in São Paulo and two in Rio de Janeiro), many field trips, and commemorations of the Jewish holidays.
Bnei Akiva Canada
Bnei Akiva of Montreal is divided into two branches, one called Beth Israel and the other called Baily. This program has run many popular programs, such as Purim celebrations and Shabbatons. It is led primarily by the students of Hebrew Academy and other schools as well. The current Shlicah in Montreal is Shira Tauber. Bnei Akiva Montreal runs weekly and monthly activities, educational training and Intercity Shabbatonim.
Bnei Akiva of Toronto was started in 1935, and today has a strong presence in Toronto . There are 3 chapters (BAYT, Or Chaim, and Shaarei Shamayim) with over 100 children attending on shabbat afternoon, as well as programming for grades 3-12 throughout the year. Bnei Akiva Toronto is a member of the Midwest Region. There is also the Bnei Akiva run camp Moshava Enismore just outside Toronto, along with a day camp, Moshava Ba'ir Toronto, run in the city. Toronto houses the only Bnei Akiva Yeshiva outside Israel, Yeshivat Or Chaim with Ulpanat Orot, forms Bnei Akiva Schools of Toronto.
Bnei Akiva France
There are snifim in the most important cities like Paris, Lyon, Marseille or Strasbourg. Paris counts several snifim. Each year several mahanot are organized for the winter holidays and for the summer holidays. A shabat for is organized each year for every madrihim of the country. In France, the director of a snif is called a merakez.
Bnei Akiva Mexico
Bnei Akiva in Mexico was founded in 1948. It is located in Mexico City, there are three chapters and one main house, which is the center of activities. It counts around more than 100 active members in the movement and a large population of non active members, those who have grown too old for the Youth Groups, or those who have "made Aliyah" (moved to Israel). Bnei Akiva members are involved in community service such as participating in its institutions, studying in Jewish day schools, Hebrew schools and Yeshivot, and participating in Chessed activities (community service).
Bnei Akiva Netherlands
In the Netherlands Bne Akiwa (the way it is transcribed in Dutch) started after the Holocaust-period. During the latter half of the 20th century its main yearly activities were: weekly pe'ulot on Shabbath in Amsterdam and on Sunday in other cities, summer- and wintercamps in the country, different European camps in the summer (Sayarim and Seminar Torani), Avoda summercamp in Israel, and participation in Hachshara year in Israel-programs; Shabbath Ha'irgun weekend; publication of the magazine Zeraim. Different from other countries the movement is led by a Board which consists of members in the age of 16–22 years, putting a rather big responsibility on young shoulders, while the Shaliach is the chairman. Many members went on aliya, while those who stay(ed) play(ed) significant roles in Jewish communal and non-Jewish life. 
Bnei Akiva South Africa
Bnei Akiva's presence in South Africa dates back to the 1920s. Today, it is one of the largest active Jewish youth movements in the country. It runs many shabbatonim as well as weekly activities at its various centres on the country. Bnei Akiva runs a month-long annual summer camp in the Western Cape, which is attended by over 1000 chanichim (campers) and madrichim (counselors). There is also a winter camp held in different locations each year, youth from all over South Africa attend this camp. The movement also runs many Israel programs - including MTA, Tafnit, Hadracha Tzeira, Kfar Haroeh and Bema'aleh - throughout the year.
Bnei Akiva Switzerland
Bnei Akiva Switzerland was founded in 1936. Numerous former Bnei Akiva Switzerland Chaverim came on Aliyah as a result of being in the youth movement. Today, Bnei Akiva Switzerland has more than 120 members in the two chapters (snifim), in Basel and Zurich. Geneva used to have its own chapter, but was closed by the parent organization in Israel because of a lack of interested members. Bnei Akiva is the biggest Jewish youth organization in Switzerland. Currently they have Jael and Uri Rothschild as shlichim.
Bnei Akiva UK
Bnei Akiva in the UK was founded in 1936. Its beginnings were closely associated with Bachad and the Torah Va'Avodah movement, who all encouraged Aliyah. Arieh Handler was the main figure in the early growth of Bnei Akiva, as he brought over children from Nazi Europe on the Kindertransport and placed them in Bachad Hachshara (preparation) centres. These aimed to prepare the youth to work the Land of Israel on kibbutz by learning agricultural technicques. The first of these was at Gwrych Castle, which held the first ever gathering of Bnei Akiva UK in December 1940. After the local Marquis shut down the centre and expelled the Jewish immigrants, other Hachshara centres were set up in Bromsgrove, Buckinghamshire and the most famous, Thaxted, Essex.
Many Kibbutzim including Lavi and Bet Rimon were founded by members of BAUK. In modern times, Hachshara takes place in Israel and involves two schemes; Torani (the yeshiva and seminary track) and Lehava (giving participants a range of experiences in Israel). Bnei Akiva is the leading provider of gap years to Israel to 18 year-olds in the UK.
Today, Bnei Akiva is the largest Jewish youth movement in the country, with over 1000 members paying Mas Chaver (membership) each year. It is run by five full-time sabbatical workers who work in the London Bayit, the offices of Bnei Akiva UK. Bnei Akiva also brings over families of Shlichim (emissaries) from Israel, one serving as the Bnei Akiva Rabbinical couple and one serving the Northern communities. The Mazkirut and Shlichim together with the Nivcharim [elected representatives] who are elected by the movement's members each year form the Hanhalla [Governing body].
Bnei Akiva runs 28 svivot (branches) around the UK. They run activities on Shabbat afternoons as well as running Succah Crawls, Family Friday Nights and Shabbatot Ha'Irgun. This year, there are active Bnei Akiva groups in Barnet, Belmont, Birmingham, Borehamwood & Elstree, Brondesbury Park, Bushey, Cheadle, Chigwell, Edgware United, Edgware Yeshurun, Finchley, Golders Green, Hale, Hampstead Garden Suburb, Hendon, Kenton, Kingsbury, Leeds, Maida Vale, Mill Hill, Pinner, Radlett, Redbridge, Salford (Salford is known to be the biggest sviva in the UK with over 150 Chanichim each week. The salford sviva operates within The Northern Bayit), Southgate, South Hampstead, South Woodford, Stamford Hill, Stanmore, Whitefield and Woodside Park. Previous Svivot which have now closed include Sheffield, Edinburgh and Boden The svivot mostly operate in local synagogues but Bnei Akiva have two purpose-built buildings to house activities in London and Manchester.
Bnei Akiva runs summer and winter camps (machanot) from school years 6-12. The winter camps include Aleph (Years Six & Seven), Ma'apilim (Year Eight), Haroeh (Year Nine), Gimmel (Year Ten) and Hadracha Course (Year Twelve). H-Course is a long-running leadership training camp which gives participants the skills to become the future leaders of the movement.
Summer camps include Aleph (Year Six), Aleph Chalutzi (Year Seven), Bet Base (Year Eight), Bet Chalutzi (Year Nine) and Gimmel (Year Ten). For Year 11, there is Israel Machane, a month long tour visiting sites in Israel. In 2011, Machane Cadur Regel (Football Camp) was initiated for years 3-5 in partnership with Arsenal Football Club. Bnei Akiva also runs the widely acclaimed Yachad programme, which caters for children with disabilities who want to be involved in camps.
In addition, there is a Beit Midrash Programme (BMP), that runs in conjunction with the other camps every summer. In recent years, Bnei Akiva has teamed up with Kaytana to run camps for Ethiopian children in Israel and also with Camp Simcha UK to run Keshet camp in London for children with serious illnesses. Over 1,000 people are involved in Bnei Akiva camps each year, making it the biggest provider of Jewish youth group camps in the UK.
Bnei Akiva UK actively supports projects in memory of Yoni Jesner who was heavily involved with the Glasgow branch of Bnei Akiva. He died from a critical head injury following a suicide bus bombing in Tel-Aviv, Israel.
Bnei Akiva USA
Bnei Akiva of Chicago, established in 1940s, is now known as the Midwest Region of Bnei Akiva North America which is one of the largest regions in the country. The Midwest Region includes glilim Detroit, Cleveland and Toronto. Chicago hosts several local and Regional shabbatonim each year. Galil Chicago has four snifim named Saad, Tirat Tzvi, Lakeview and Kfar Tzion. Chaverim from Chicago traditionally attend Camp Moshava, Wild Rose, WI, in the summers.
Bnei Akiva Cleveland is one of the strongest branches of the Midwest Region, with over 100 members including chanichim and madrichim. They run a number of annual activities including their Purim Carnival and Neshef production, as well as a number of community programs such as Musicians Towers (prayers led by Bnei Akiva in a nursing home for the major Jewish holidays). Their current shlichim are Elad and Rivki Shoval, as well as the two Bnot Sherut. Members of Bnei Akiva Cleveland typically attend Camp Stone in the summer.
Since the 1950s, Bnei Akiva has been operating on and off in metropolitan Detroit. It is currently the home of Tzachy Chayun, the Midwest regional director, who lives in Oak Park, MI. Bnei Akiva has two branches that meet every Shabbat, at the Young Israel of Oak Park and at the Young Israel of Southfield. Numerous members of Bnei Akiva of Detroit have moved to Israel, and one former director, Otniel Schneller, is currently serving in the Knesset.
Bnei Akiva of Philadelphia is consistently recognized as one of the most vibrant glilim (regions) in North America. It really is the best in North America. The Madrichim here are consistently enthusiastic, bringing a lot of spirit to the table. Maintaining two sniffim in Northeast Philadelphia and Lower Merion—a half hour drive apart—Galil Philadelphia prides itself on its dedicated and spirited core of madrichim that year in and year out allows the galil to sustain itself successfully. Part of the Mid-Atlantic Region, the two sniffim host a range of exciting activities and shabbatonim each year and receive guidance from college-aged bogrim. While the Northeast branch has been in existence for decades, Snif Lower Merion began weekly Shabbat programming in September 2003 under the leadership of Rosh Snif Chava Forman. From its inception, the snif has been associated with Lower Merion Synagogue and has been lauded for its quick progress and rising popularity despite being one of the only sniffim in North America that is run completely by high-schoolers without the aid of shlichim or paid adults. In September 2012, Galil Philadelphia added a third snif in Cherry Hill, NJ! Kicked off by our annual Hadracha Shabbaton in September, Snif Cherry Hill has become an integral part of our galil and region (BAMA- Bnei Akiva Mid-Atlantic- the best region in the country!) under the leadership of its Roshei Snif, Rebecca Hess, Hannah Hess, and Dani Panitch and its Bnot Sherut, Shaked Abayov and Revital Shifman
Bnei Akiva of New York and New Jersey (BANY) has hundreds of members in 10 chapters across the region. BANY has weekly programs in New Jersey (in Teaneck, Fair Lawn, Englewood and Tenafly) and New York (on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Riverdale in the Bronx, and West Hempstead and North Woodmere in Long Island). BANY also runs Shabbatons and special events throughout the year for youth who are connected to Camp Moshava in Indian Orchard, Pennsylvania. Additional programs are run for college students, and largely focus on a commitment to live in the Land of Israel. 
Although there was an active Bnei Akiva in Pittsburgh for many years, activities ceased in the 1960s, only to be resumed in the year 2005. Currently, Bnei Akiva of Pittsburgh operates weekly Snif out of the Shaare Torah synagogue. It is a member of the Bnei Akiva Midwest region (Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, and Toronto) The Bnei Akiva youth group of Pittsburgh provides weekly Shabbat groups at Shaare Torah called Snif for the Jewish youth of Pittsburgh in grades 3-9. Snif provides a fun environment while instilling a love of Israel and Jewish values. In addition, Bnei Akiva sponsors monthly social activities. For example, on March 25h, Shevet Shvut (11th grade) had a scavenger hunt and trip to the movies, on March 25, Chevraya Aleph (grades 3-6) had a make your own matza activity, on March 29, Zach (grades 7-8) had a trip to Cyber Conxion. Bnei Akiva runs a special leadership program for Bnei Akiva Chanichim (participants) in 9th grade called Manhigut to help prepare them to be Madrichim (volunteer high school counselors in grades 10-12.) Bnei Akiva also offers leadership training for the Madrichim who volunteer several hours a week and act as counselors each Shabbat at Snif.
Bnei Akiva Boston has two active Sniffim: Sharon Bnei Akiva in Young Israel of Sharon, and Newton Bnei Akiva (NBA) as a joint program between Congregations Beth El-Atereth Israel and Shaarei Teillah. Bnei Akiva Boston began in September 2007. Today, Sharon Bnei Akiva operates its weekly activities on Shabbat afternoons for 2-8th grade children while NBA operates on Shabbat afternoons in the Fall/Spring and Motzei Shabbat in the winter.
Bnei Akiva Los Angeles has 4 active snifim, all named after famous religious kibbutzim: Snif Lavi (Tarzana), Snif Tirat Tzvi (North Hollywood), Snif Sa'ad (Hancock Park), and Snif Shluchot (Beverlywood). Every snif brings its own flavor to Bnei Akiva Los Angeles. For example, as the strongest snif, Snif Shluchot has about 50 chanichim on a weekly basis and very dedicated Zionist families supporting it, and Snif Lavi boasts being the "Israeli Snif" with more than 3/4 of the Snif coming from Hebrew speaking homes.
For the 2014-2015 year, Bnei Akiva of the US and Canada will be launching two new seminary and yeshiva programs in Israel by the names of (respectively) Midreshet Torah V'Avodah and Yeshivat Torah V'Avodah. In the words of the programs' website, www.tvaisrael.org, "Along with several months of focused in-depth Torah study in an Israeli yeshiva or midrasha setting, TVA will open you up to Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael through targeted internships, intense volunteering and service learning, living and working on Kibbutz, exploring pivotal issues facing the future of the Jewish people, rigorous spoken-Hebrew language training, and exciting tiyulim throughout the year. All of these experiences will be infused with rigorous Torah learning while living in apartments in the dynamic community of Katamon in Jerusalem."
Bnei Akiva New Zealand
Bnei Akiva is one of the main Jewish youth movements in New Zealand, with weekly meetings and activities in Auckland and Wellington and national bi-annual camps. Bnei Akiva NZ's goal: To educate Jewish youth with the values of Torah ve'Avodah - combining a deeply rooted association with Israel together with day-to-day life in accordance with traditional Jewish values. To provide stimulating experiential and informal opportunities for encountering Judaism. Bnei Akiva NZ ensures Jewish continuity and the future of the New Zealand Jewish community. Website of Bnei Akiva New Zealand.
There are four Bnei Akiva Moshava camps in North America: Indian Orchard, Pennsylvania; in Ennismore, Ontario; Wild Rose, Wisconsin; Camp Stone in Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania. These four camps have moved locations a number of times over their existence, but traditionally there has been a camp on the East Coast, in Canada, in the Midwest (currently there are two), and a now-defunct West Coast camp.
In addition, there are specific programs for certain age groups. The Mach Hach B'Aretz program consists of six weeks in Israel, and brings Israel and Religious Zionism to life for 16-year-olds through seminars, visiting historical sites, kibbutzim, and meeting with Bnei Akiva members in Israel. On TVI (Torah V'Avodah Institute), Bnei Akiva’s National Leadership training seminar, participants are provided with the necessary skills to assume leadership in Bnei Akiva as madrichim in Camp Moshava and throughout the year. Through shiurim, discussions, and actually planning and implementing programs at the Indian Orchard Moshava, the 17-year-old participants from across the country begin their transition from chanichim (campers) to madrichim (counselors), while also forming a national network of teenage leaders committed to Israel and Religious Zionism.
Bnei Akiva Australia
There are three snifim in Australia, in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne. They each hold weekly meetings on Saturday afternoons and bi-annual camps for chanichim.
Melbourne is the largest snif of Bnei Akiva Olami in the world.
The Madrichim, Chanichim and Bogrim of Bnei Akiva Sydney gathered on Sunday night 7 November 1999 in the Gold Star Room of the Hakoah Club for the 50th anniversary of Bnei Akiva Sydney.
There is a federal summer camp held in December where senior chanichim from all snifim in Australia and New Zealand all come together for a camp.
- Zionist youth movement
- Religious Zionism
- Mizrachi (Religious Zionism)
- Modern Orthodox Judaism
- Religious Kibbutz Movement
- "Bnei Akiva Sydney Australia". Retrieved 2010-12-31.
- Bnei Akiva Mexico
- Bne Akiwa Nederland
- Bnei Akiva Switzerland
- Bnei Akiva Pittsburgh
-  - Yeshivot Bnei Akiva - In Istrael (Hebrew)
-  - American Friends of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva
- - Bnei Akiva UK (Bnei Akiva of Great Britain and Ireland)