With aunt of kidnapped yeshiva student in attendance, hundreds of L.A. Jews pray for safe return

Hundreds of Jews gathered in Los Angeles Sunday evening at Beth Jacob Congregation for a communal prayer service in response to the Jun. 12 kidnappings of three Israeli yeshiva students by Palestinian terrorists near the West Bank towns of Gush Etzion and Alon Shvut.

As the aunt of Gilad Shaar, Lihi, listened and prayed from the front row, Rabbi Kalman Topp, Beth Jacob’s senior rabbi, called on the community to pray for the quick and safe return of Shaar, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19.

 “The IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] and security forces are doing all they can to locate the three boys—our boys, our brethren—and bring them home safely and quickly—but we are not in a position to do so,” Topp said, explaining how Jews not serving in Israel’s military can and should respond. “We can make a difference and we are responsible to pray to Hashem that Hashem should make a difference.”

As various leading rabbis in the Orthodox community read aloud from five chapters of Tehillim (Psalms), the hundreds in attendance followed suit, responsively reciting each portion aloud. David Siegel, Israel's Consul General in Los Angeles, was also present. It has long been customary in Orthodox neighborhoods to communally recite Psalms during particularly challenging times.

The three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped Thursday evening as they were attempting to hitchhike on a road south of Jerusalem, hoping to return home for Shabbat. Shaar and Fraenkel are both students at Yeshivat Mekor Chaim, a yeshiva in Gush Etzion run by Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, one of the most renowned Torah scholars in the world.

In March, Racheli Sprecher Fraenkel, the mother of Naftali and an American-born Israeli, spent a Shabbat in Pico-Robertson, speaking at B’nai David-Judea Congregation on Jewish laws relating to marriage and sexuality.

On Sunday, she tearfully addressed Israeli media outside her family’s Nof Ayalon home, thanking the military and those praying for the teenagers’ return.

According to the Jerusalem Post, on Thursday evening one of the boys called police at 10:30 p.m. and said, “We’ve been kidnapped.”

Police reportedly did not relate that phone call to the military for up to five hours.