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On Yom HaZikaron six years ago, I was filmed speaking to my Chassidic students in the Beis Medrash of HaMidrasha HaChassidit yeshiva high school in Beitar Illit, about the importance of acknowledging this holy day. The video went viral on YouTube.  

Today, I am proud to report that the 13 day schools of the Charedi Netzach Educational

Rabbi Menachem Bombach

Network that grew from that Midrasha held events for Yom HaZikaron this year. In our kindergartens, the students lit candles and said Tehillim for those who lost their lives. In our elementary schools, they were given the names of fallen soldiers to research and created a memorial room to display the profiles that they wrote. In our Chassidish Yeshiva high schools, the boys heard shiurim from the Roshei Yeshiva and learned Mishnayot in memory of those who were killed defending Israel. 

The Charedi world is changing. For the first time this year, the municipality of Beit Shemesh – now headed by Charedi mayor Shmuel Greenberg – held the city’s first Yom HaZikaron memorial ceremony with a chazan and a Chassidish choir. (We are proud to partner with this municipality with six of our schools in Beit Shemesh.)  

The Charedi world is changing. This is an evolutionary change rather than a revolution, but the changes were already noticeable even before the Pogrom of October 7. Pogroms are a familiar part of Charedi history – they are part of our DNA as victims of antisemitism throughout the centuries. But on October 7, for the first time, the Israel Defense Forces fought back, and our holy soldiers have been battling with Hamas ever since. 

My own role in the war for the IDF Home Front Command has been in recruiting Charedi men to serve in non-combat roles in what we call Shlav Bet. Their numbers are small but significant, because they reflect a change in attitudes. In communities where IDF uniforms used to be spat upon, they are now worn with pride.  

Following terror attacks in Har Nof, Ramot, Bnai Brak and Elad, groups of Charedi men have signed up to join local armed defense teams and undergone basic training. It is no longer shocking to see a Chassid in his Shabbat clothes and shtreimel carrying a machine gun to defend his family, his community, and yes, his country.  

Since October 7, our schools have taken on a wide range of chesed activities – organizing accommodation, running activities and distributing groceries to displaced families from the North and the South; tying tzitzit onto Army vests; volunteering on farms with no workers; visiting parents who are sitting shiva for their sons killed in battle; and delivering gifts to women whose husbands are serving in the IDF. For the first time, Charedi high school students are thinking about what it means for parents to lose a son, or for a mother to send her husband off to war and look after her children by herself for weeks and months. They are reflecting on what it means to be ‘moser nefesh’ – to make sacrifices for our country. 

Gratitude – “hakarat hatov” in Hebrew – is one of the important Jewish values that we try to reflect in our schools and in our lives. It is one of the cornerstones of our programs for Yom HaZikaron, and we can see increased levels of gratitude toward the IDF all across the Charedi community in Israel. However, showing gratitude is not enough. We want our students to see themselves as full participants in the Israeli nation, which means that we share the pain and acknowledge the sacrifice of our brothers. We cannot stand by as their blood cries out from the ground. Since 2018, we have taken the lead on this issue and encouraged the Charedi community to find acceptable ways to commemorate Yom HaZikaron, and to become more engaged citizens on every level.

The Netzach Education Network has been asked by the Ministry of Education to develop an entire curriculum of Civic Studies, customized to include Charedi values, and this will be shared with 74 state-regulated Charedi elementary schools around Israel. It focuses on core values such as the rule of law, mutual responsibility, and respect for others, and it encourages students to appreciate what it means to be citizens of a Jewish state.  

Our Darkei-Sara girls’ high school in Jerusalem has developed a transformative program of visits to significant sites around Israel that tell the story of the establishment of the State of Israel from the ashes of the Holocaust. It encourages the students to develop gratitude for the pioneers who gave their lives for our country, and to those who continue to defend our borders.

At the same time, our Network is pioneering an innovative Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum with the teachers across all 13 of our day schools, to help them address the emotional needs of their students and to answer difficult questions that are typically brushed aside in Charedi schools. Next year, we will introduce SEL classes for all our students, helping them to become more empathetic in their interactions with their peers, and teaching them to interact with people from different backgrounds as they integrate into Israeli society. 


Soon after October 7, we published a list of the Hebrew names of 12 graduates of Netzach high schools who were fighting on the front lines in the Iron Swords campaign. Some of these Charedi boys were present in HaMidrasha HaChassidit yeshiva high school when I gave my first class about Yom HaZikaron in 2018. I am extremely proud of them, and of the other graduates who have served their country in other ways and who are studying to become doctors, engineers, lawyers, and accountants.  


It is my hope and dream that all of our graduates will go on to play an active role in Israeli society, influencing their Charedi peers and perhaps even joining the next generation of Charedi political leaders that we so desperately need.  

 May the memory of each and every one of those who have been killed Al Kiddush Hashem (as martyrs) be blessed, and may they inspire us to build a more unified and caring society.

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Rabbi Menachem Bombach is the Founder and President of the Netzach Educational Network, an educational entrepreneur, media spokesman for Israel’s Charedi communities, and winner of the 2023 Jerusalem Unity Prize for Education.