Friday, September 3, 2010

Echoes of a Shofar

Nothing like a new idea to begin a new year.

I'd like to introduce you to the bikkurim - the first efforts - of my friend and colleague Aryeh Halivni, who has devoted the last few years to a project documenting the recollections of people who played a role in the establishment of the State of Israel. This 10-minute film is a moving depiction of blowing shofar at the kotel under the British mandate and it offers the opportunity to raise a wide variety of discussion topics with students. Unfortunately the planned educational guide is not yet ready, but in the hands of a talented educator the film can be a powerful springboard for discussion.

Aryeh Halivni (Eric Weisberg) is Founder and Executive Director of Toldot Yisrael. He has served in senior positions at several US and Israel based organizations, including Bnei Akiva of the US and Canada, the Consulate General of Israel in New York, Edah, the Shalem Center, and Gesher.
Please read his introductory note below.

Your comments and feedback are welcome.

My best wishes for a Shana Tova,


Rabbi Shalom Z. Berger, Ed.D.
The Lookstein Center for Jewish Education
Bar-Ilan University
Blogging at
Follow me on Twitter: szberger


80 years ago, at the end of Neilah on Yom Kippur of 1930, as those gathered at the Kotel sang "Next Year in Jerusalem", 26 year old Moshe Segal blew the shofar. He was promptly arrested and taken - still fasting - to jail, and was only released when Rav Kook interceded later that night.

What was his crime?

In the aftermath of the Arab riots throughout Palestine in 1929, the British convened a commission of inquiry to investigate the cause of the unrest. The Shaw Commission's recommendations granted the Arabs absolute ownership of the Western Wall and adjacent property. Jews were forbidden to bring Torah scrolls to the Kotel, to pray loudly, or to blow the Shofar, so as not to offend the Arab population.

Despite this restriction, for the next seventeen years, the shofar was sounded at the Kotel every Yom Kippur. Shofars were smuggled in to the Kotel where brave teenagers defiantly blew them at the conclusion of the fast. Some managed to get away - others were captured and sent to jail for up to six months.

Six of these men are still alive.

Two weeks ago, these six men returned to the scene of their "crime". Armed with shofars, they recounted their individual stories and blew shofar again at the Kotel.

Their powerful and inspiring story is told in Echoes of a Shofar, the first film in Toldot Yisrael's Eyewitness 1948 series.

Toldot Yisrael is a Jerusalem based nonprofit dedicated to recording and sharing the firsthand testimonies of the men and women who helped found the State of Israel. Over 300 video interviews have been conducted with those who were involved during the pre-State struggle and the momentous events of 1948. Our aim is to conduct hundreds more over the next several years – while it is still possible.

Eyewitness 1948, a series of short films being produced together with the History Channel, is the centerpiece of an educational pilot program being developed with The iCenter and made possible through the generous support of the Jim Joseph Foundation. This program will present stories that address the heroism of the era as well as the complex moral dilemmas confronted as the young nation battled for its existence. Toldot Yisrael’s footage will serve as primary source materials for the Israel Education curriculum, bringing to life the founding of the State of Israel for today’s young Jews.

Aryeh Halivni (Eric Weisberg)
Executive Director
Toldot Yisrael
Mobile: 052-530-6020

1 comment:

  1. Not much you can do about Time Magazine beyond ridiculing it. The Onion does a fine job here -,17950/

    On a more serious note, I thought that Bret Stephens response in the WSJ was worth reading - (or in full at ).