All this is due to Acheinu and Assaf’s own Acheinu mentor, Rabbi Chaim Goldberg. Rav Goldberg first met Assaf when he was in the 8th grade of a Chinuch Atzmai Torani school. He befriended Assaf who comes from a traditional home. Their relationship blossomed, with Reb Chaim becoming akin to Assaf’s big brother as they became closer. In addition, Reb Chaim forged a close bond with Assaf’s parents. By working together with the entire family unit, he was eventually able to convince Assaf and his parents that if he would pursue his sports career in Mexico, he would lose his Yiddishkeit.
Today, Assaf sits in the bais medrash for hours, brow furrowed over knotty sugyos. Reb Chaim maintains constant contact with him. Acheinu also has a mentor for Assaf in the yeshiva where he learns. This kind of follow-up, accompaniment and chizuk is one of the things that makes Acheinu so special”¦ and so successful.
The Three Step Recipe for Success
Assaf is not the only young person to benefit from Acheinu’s special attention. This year at the beginning of the school year, there were some 1,300 new talmidim and talmidos who, instead of being lost in the Israeli irreligious and anti-religious melting pot, are embarking on Torah lives.
Acheinu activists had reason to feel accomplished. This was by far their highest enrollment to date and is a tribute to Acheinu’s kiruv rechokim philosophy that continues bearing fruit.
Acheinu’s three step approach has ensured that over 90% of their charges develop into true bnei Torah. The first step is mentoring. Acheinu assigns a kiruv worker who effectively adopts a child. That child always has access to his kiruv worker who offers unlimited emotional and even monetary support while imbuing the child with the ideal of joining a yeshiva or Torah school.
Step two is enrollment. As a result of the close relationship between kiruv activists and they eventually succeed in enrolling them in yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs.
The third, perhaps most important step, is Acheinu’s aggressive follow-up program. A child’s enrollment in a yeshiva or Bais Yaakov does not necessarily mean that the kiruv rechokim effort is complete. In fact, it has just begun. Ensuring that this child will develop into a true ben Torah or bas Yisrael is perhaps the most crucial juncture in kiruv rechokim. Acheinu maintains contact with both the young teenager and the yeshiva/school faculty to smooth out small issues before they develop into big issues that can derail the entire kiruv process.
Through Acheinu’s follow up we are assured that these 1,300 new worlds will eventually establish Torah families and future generations. And therein lies the beauty – each of those 1,300 worlds will multiply and continue to multiply many times over.
Building on Success: Kiruv Kerovim
Acheinu has succeeded in enrolling boys in yeshivos, girls in Bais Yaakovs and has also been instrumental in a kiruv kerovim program wherein bachurim from Charedi families who have not been accepted into yeshivos, for one reason or another, have now been placed in yeshivos across Eretz Yisrael.
How does Acheinu do it? Over the years, Acheinu developed close bonds with the hanhalos of tens of yeshivos throughout the country. Based on their insider’s knowledge of each yeshiva and the trust they have built with the varied hanhalos, Acheinu has been able to approach yeshivos appropriate for each bachur not yet enrolled. The hanhalos, working on their trust in Acheinu’s acumen, have accepted them. This kiruv kerovim effort has grown and flourished with the opening this year of Acheinu’s new “Yeshiva Hotline,” where parents or students can call for free advice regarding varied chinuch issues with which they are grappling, as well as advice as to which yeshiva would be most fitting for their child. Acheinu has had amazing success in stabilizing bachurim in crisis and at risk and either repatriating them to their present yeshiva or finding them a new yeshiva that is better suited.
Undoubtedly, the most successful of Acheinu’s enrollment programs and the project that has filled Acheinu activists with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment is their enrollment of 8th graders in yeshivos ketanos (high school age yeshivos kedoshos). Some 400 8th graders have been enrolled this year in yeshivos, and, with Acheinu’s over 90% success rate, they will virtually all go on to build Torah lives and raise Torah families.
In Eretz Yisroel, the eighth grade year in Torani schools “”Torah observant schools serving the traditional, not necessarily fully observant public””constitutes a watershed in the lives of the graduates. Will the graduate continue his learning in a yeshiva kedosha where he can develop into a ben Torah or attend a government high school where his spiritual future will be far bleaker?
Just as they did with Assaf, Acheinu’s activists cultivate personal relationships with every eighth grader. As the relationships flourish, the Acheinu avreichim draw their charges closer to a Torah lifestyle thereby influencing their decision. The tremendous efforts invested by Acheinu activists in creating close personal relationships with 8th graders and their parents has proven even more successful than anticipated by the always optimistic Acheinu hanhala.
Acheinu’s two yeshivos in Yerushalayim and Kiryat Sefer are burgeoning. According to Rav Avigdor Berenstein, a senior member of Acheinu’s leadership, “They are so full that you cannot even fit a needle in either one. This,” he said, “is a testament to the important role these yeshivos are filling in absorbing children from the Torani school networks of Chinuch Atzmai and Shas. In addition, because of the tremendous demand for more yeshivos, Acheinu activists recently assisted in opening two more yeshivos kedoshos in Be’er Sheva and Herzalia.”
From Pop Culture to Torah Life
During this year’s summer vacation, Acheinu continued its ambitious program started last year designed to provide a yeshiva type learning setting for boys attending non-religious schools. These boys, who at the outset of the summer were irreligious, joined a special yeshiva established to afford them their first foray into Torah learning.
Acheinu’s rebbeim invested their kochos to ignite the hearts and souls of these irreligious youth with the beauty and fire of Torah. Acheinu activists relate how they are constantly awestruck by the unique power of Torah study to completely transform a youth from being immersed just weeks earlier in pop culture to becoming totally immersed in the world of Abaye and Rava!
“We don’t teach them deep philosophical exegesis about the existence of G-d. We just open a Gemara”¦ the very purity of Torah learning does the rest,” said one veteran Acheinu activist. As a result of the summer program, countless boys drastically changed their lifestyles. Acheinu has enrolled them in schools and yeshivos befitting each individual and his level of learning and observance.
Creating the Bnos Yisrael of Tomorrow
Another important division that grew by leaps and bounds this past year is the girls’ seminary division. A whole cadre of dedicated Kollel wives on the Acheinu staff have done wonderful work reaching out to girls from traditional families who would otherwise have attended State public schools and lost their connection to Yiddishkeit. A large group of girls were enrolled in seminaries this year. Through the constant care and follow-up of Acheinu’s women’s division, these girls are on the path to becoming exemplary bnos Yisrael who will one day be the backbone and akeres habayis of Torah homes.
Acheinu’s unique system of enrollment and follow-up has repeatedly proven itself. When this writer tried contacting one of Acheinu’s activists, the activist could only speak for a few minutes. Apologizing profusely what he said encapsulates the devotion of all Acheinu activists, “You know it’s the beginning of the zeman! I must follow up with the yeshiva hanhalos to make sure that my bachurim are doing well!”