Celebrating the Opening of the New "Ingathering of the Exiles" Tent in the Rzepka Twelve Tribes Plaza

Nothing could keep Peter and Aliki Rzepka away from their beloved Bar-Ilan University. Not even tornadoes and heavy storm warnings, which forced them to delay their flight to Israel to take part in the 58th Annual Meetings of the Board of Trustees. But when they did finally arrive, the University was waiting for them with open arms to celebrate the newly-installed tent for the "Ingathering of the Exiles" in the Peter and Aliki Rzepka Twelve Tribes Plaza, along with students of the Exodus Scholarship Fund in the couple's name.

The event was emceed by Howard Charish, National Director of Development of the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University (AFBIU), who noted the extensive Jewish symbolism of the new tent. A tent, or "ohel" in Hebrew, provides shelter, refuge and comfort, and carries with it great meaning in biblical and Jewish history, such as the tent in which G-d spoke to Moses, he said.

With a beautiful fountain in the middle, he said, the Plaza is much like an oasis in the desert – allowing individuals to refresh and be sustained. "This fountain symbolizes not only life, but Torah. Torah is referred to as life giving, another critical element of Bar-Ilan," said Charish.

"So many of our students owe their education to the Rzepkas," said University President Prof. Moshe Kaveh. He spoke of a talented Ethiopian doctoral student whom he encountered one day on campus that began speaking to him in Yiddish. "Without the scholarship he received," said Prof. Kaveh, "he would not have been able to complete his PhD in Yiddish."

Shmuel Gan-El, Deputy Director for Construction and Development, said the Twelve Tribes Plaza reflects the University's efforts to promote dialogue, harmony and unity among people. "Some 15,000 students study in this particular corridor on campus simultaneously, every day. You must come here during a break between classes to see what a lively location your Plaza has become," said Gan-El.

Peter Rzepka, Honorary President of the AFBIU, marveled at the beauty of the tent. To his and Aliki's students, he said, "I am very interested in helping students to get an education. I'm happy you're here and I'm happy you're able to get a good education because there is nothing like Bar-Ilan University."

Those students include Ilana, from Russia, completing an MA in Bible; Gabi, another Bible student; Vera, a Social Work student from Ukraine; Daniel, a first year student student in Hermeneutics, from Ethiopia; Avivit, who is studying for her MA in political science, and many more. "Thanks to you, I am able to be involved in the society we live in and share my knowledge, experience and motivation. Thank you for your recognition of my efforts to succeed and your belief that I am capable of achieving my goals," wrote Avivit in a recent letter to the Rzepkas.

To learn more about ways Bar-Ilan University is strengthening Jewish and Zionist values, as well as BIU's cutting-edge science programs, sign-up for AFBIU's e-news here, call Howard Charish at 212-906-3913 or email howard.charish@afbiu.org

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