Rabbi Yedidya Atlas to visit Kew Gardens Hills. When my son-in-law and grandchildren were in Eretz Yisrael last summer, they came back inspired about many things. Probably the most interesting and inspiring place they visited was an Israeli army base with Rabbi Yedidya Atlas. David was truly impressed with the management of the kosher kitchen on the base under the direction of the IDF Rabbinate. He also realized how the IDF Rabbinate, although not a “kiruv organization,” through its intensive work to strengthen Jewish identity and commitment to traditional Jewish values, increases Jewish awareness among hundreds of thousands of soldiers every year.

Unfortunately, Israeli society is very polarized and politicized, each group not trusting the others. Many Israeli soldiers have never had contact with religious Jews or even been to Yerushalayim until the army takes them there and to the Kotel and instills in them the reason they are fighting for their land and the importance of our survival as a people.

The army is the great common denominator. There, a spirit of commitment and purpose and the opportunity of working side by side begin to dispel some of the misconceptions. It is also the greatest opportunity for the IDF Rabbinate to reach out to the non-frum and introduce them to and teach them about Judaism.

Because of the fieldwork of the rabbanim in the army, those aforementioned non-religious soldiers who grew up alienated from their Jewish roots become more positively attuned to their Jewish tradition and view more positively religious Jews and their communities.

Rabbi Yedidya Atlas, a lieutenant-colonel in the IDF reserves, was born in America and made aliyah when he was 17 years old. He is a graduate of Yeshivat Mercaz Harav Kook in Yerushalayim and received semichah from former chief rabbi Rav Avraham Shapira, zt’l, and from the Beit Din HaGadol in Yerushalayim. Yedidya volunteered for the IDF during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He spent time with a unit of the Golani Brigade in Lebanon in 1978 during Operation Litani, and served in the Arazim Regional Brigade in Lebanon during the early 1980s.

In 2009, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the IDF Ground Forces Command for his initiation and development of such projects as “Operation Sifrei Torah,” “Operation Sukkot,” the IDF Mobile Synagogue, the Field Beit Knesset kit, the “Magen Yisrael Tehillim-Siddur for Combat Soldiers,” as well as regular large-scale chesed programs for needy soldiers and their families. In addition to his operational duties, the chief rabbi of the IDF appointed him head of special projects for the IDF Chief Rabbinate.

Rabbi Atlas, his wife, Batya, and their family live in Bet El. He will be in Kew Gardens Hills this Shabbos on the invitation of my son-in-law to let people know all the important and special projects the IDF Rabbinate runs in the army for the benefit of the soldiers.

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This Friday evening (Shabbos Mevorchim), Parashas Sh’mos, January 4, (and every Friday evening of Shabbos Mevorchim) there will be a Nusach Carlebach davening at Yeshiva Kesser Torah. Minchah will begin at 4:33 p.m. and will conclude about 5:48 p.m. Men and women are welcome!

Don’t miss out! Sunday Night, January 13, Chazaq in conjunction with Beth Gavriel present renowned lecturer R’ Dovid Goldwasser live. “Extraordinary Acts by Ordinary People.” Refreshments at 8:00 p.m. Lecture scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Free admission! All are encouraged to come and bring friends. Location: Beth Gavriel Community Center, 66-35 108th St. Forest Hills, 11375. For more information, call 718-285-9132 or e-mail Info@Chazaq.org.

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