It was Friday afternoon, shortly before Shabbos. Immediately upon entering the Bais Medrash, I was hit by a resounding kol Torah reminiscent of what can be expected from much larger crowds of talmidim on the first day of the zman. Wide smiles were plastered on the faces of both the Yeshiva bochurim and the rabbeim as they engaged in boisterous debate over the nuances of Rashi, Tosafos and Rishonim in the sugya of “Isho m’shum chetzyo.” I sat down with two bochurim and delved into the sugya, and was blown away not only by their keen grasp of their limudim, but also by their distinctly refined, respectful demeanor.
This scene would be delightful in any context, but the fact that this was a Yeshivas Acheinu, whose talmidim were devoid of Torah and mitzvos not all that long ago, made it all the more special. As its Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Zev Hofstedter, shlita, explained, “You can literally write a book about every bochur in this Bais Medrash.“
Indeed, books can be written about every single one of the over 10,000 boys and girls that have been brought under the wings of Torah through this organization over the past two decades. This year alone, Acheinu helped place 1,400 new students in the protective walls of various Yeshivos. We’d rather not think of where they’d be now without that effort…
With the stark divide between pious Torah Jews and rabid secularism permeating every aspect of Israeli society, its ramifications affect perhaps nothing greater than the educational scene for Israeli youth. Children and teenagers of any background who do not merit a solid Torah education can be expected to have virtually no knowledge of Hashem and His Torah, and are prone to the most decadent aspects of global secular society.
Down in the trenches of the battle to have Hashem’s children acknowledge and serve their Father is Acheinu, the foremost kiruv organization for youth in Eretz Yisroel. Acheinu works at various levels to reach out to Israeli youth from secular or weak religious backgrounds and lead them to become full-fledged bnei Torah, firmly rooted in yiddishkeit. Over the years, Acheinu’s unique multi-tiered outreach system has, b’ezras Hashem, enabled the organization to have an over 90% success rate in developing lost youth into earnest Torah Jews. The premier gedolei hador “” past and present “” have actively supported Acheinu. The revered elder mechanech, Harav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz zt”l, served as the organization’s nasi until his passing.
Shortly before Rosh Hashana, this writer spoke to Acheinu’s exuberant kiruv coordinator Rabbi Chaim Goldberg, who was immersed in opening yet another Yeshivas Acheinu, this time in Rechovot. This is in addition to the network of approximately 30 independent Yeshivos and girls schools that are affiliated with Acheinu and are matched up with suitable boys and girls seeking to advance in yiddishkeit.
As we spoke, Rabbi Goldberg was, in classic Acheinu fashion, making sure that the talmidim of the newest Acheinu Yeshiva are taken care of as best as possible, down to the last detail. Referring to the 1,400 neshamos that have been newly saved by the organization, Rabbi Goldberg commented, “Acheinu is like special operations commandos. They use sophisticated tactics to be effective in every situation.”
Besides for the comprehensive, growing network of Yeshivos, Acheinu runs “Batei Chizuk” youth centers across Eretz Yisroel, where youth are offered a haven from the streets, where they can interact with loving kiruv professionals and get acquainted with Torah true yiddishkeit in a most pleasant way. Another secret to Acheinu’s success is its comprehensive mentoring program, where qualified frum mentors build close relationships with youth under the organization’s wings, and help lead them towards healthy, viable Torah lives for the long term “” through their Yeshiva years, marriage and child rearing.
One huge component in reaching the number 1,400 has been “Project Toronto,” an innovative program targeted towards children from secular or weaker religious backgrounds who attend Chinuch Atzmai or other religious elementary schools that do not continue into high school. Project Toronto reaches out to these students during their upper elementary years and helps acquaint them with life in a Yeshiva high school through short visits to Yeshivos as well as weekend stays, among other methods.
Approximately 400 of the latest neshamos saved by Acheinu are elementary school graduates who are now blossoming in the walls of mainstream Yeshivos due to Project Toronto’s efforts.
Yet another major catalyst for Acheinu’s increased reach, says Rabbi Goldberg, is its cutting edge use of modern day technology to spread the word of Hashem. Acheinu’s website offers youth in Eretz Yisroel a dazzling treasure trove of information regarding their questions and struggles with yiddishkeit, and a convenient medium through which to connect with Acheinu’s kiruv resources.
Book of Life
While trying to absorb the latest statistic, the words of Rav Zev Hofstedter, son of Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, founder of Acheinu and Dirshu, during my recent visit to his Yeshiva continue to ring in my ears. You can write a book about every one of them.
Though I had to rush out of the Yeshiva to make it back in time for Shabbos, Rav Hofstedter did manage to give a small taste of some of the stories behind the young, radiant bnei Torah around us, who appeared just like their peers in mainstream Yeshivos and were on track to move on to the most prestigious Yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel.
Every one of them was a living tale of struggle and triumph. They struggled vigorously to abandon the freewheeling surroundings they were raised in and had to deal with parents who fought them at every step. The mother of one of the boys showed her son a bottle of prescription drugs and promised to overdose if he goes to Yeshiva. Upon consultation with gedolim, the boy went to Yeshiva; his mother is alive and well. One boy came to the Yeshiva, but later chose to leave its uplifting surroundings. His father, who had vehemently fought his enrollment in Yeshiva just a few months earlier, came pleading to the hanhala to try to get him back in. He realized what a positive impact the Yeshiva had. And so on.
Multiply these precious neshamos and their offspring for generations by the thousands -1,400 for 5773 alone. May Hashem inscribe all of his returning children, their guides “” indeed all of klal Yisroel– in the Book of Life.
The upcoming Acheinu Lakewood Parlor Meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 8:30 pm. The event is being hosted by Reb Binyomin Heinemann at his home, located at 327 Carey Street. HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, shlita, the Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe, Mesivta D’Lakewood, will be the guest speaker. A delicious hot buffet will be served as well. 100% of proceeds from the event will go directly to Israel to help an Acheinu child.
For dedication opportunities and more information related to the Acheinu Lakewood Parlor Meeting, please contact Acheinu’s Executive Director Rabbi Moshe Simcha Levine at 718-412-3540 or visit www.Acheinu.org.