It is rare for a gadol hador of Hagaon Harav Aharon Leib Shteinman Shlita’s stature to call an individual into his home and ask him to open a Yeshiva. It is equally rare for Rav Shteinman to pen a warm letter himself expressing his joy upon the opening of a Yeshiva. But that is exactly what was done this Rosh Chodesh Elul in honor of the founding of two new Acheinu Yeshivos.
Both days of this past Rosh Chodesh Elul marked momentous events that may one day be recognized as historical turning points in the development of the Kiruv Rechokim movement.
Founded by Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Acheinu, the well known Kiruv arm of Dirshu the international movement for harbotzas Torah – made history on those days with the opening of two new yeshivos.
Each of the two yeshivos will cater to a targeted segment of the Kiruv population. The common denominator between the two is that both will feature the trademark Acheinu personal attention to detail and follow up, to ensure that each and every talmid will be able to blossom, flourish and eventually become a well integrated and essential part of the Torah community.
The Opening of an Aron Kodesh
On the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, Acheinu celebrated the opening of the first of its two Yeshivos, Yeshivas Acheinu on Rechov Shaulson in the Har Nof section of Yerushalyim. Yeshivas Acheinu is a product of the phenomenal success of Acheinu’s Kiruv mold.
It is an outgrowth of Acheinu’s innovative Batei Chizuk concept that has been making waves across Eretz Yisrael. Batei Chizuk, offer after-school Torah enrichment programs in a non-threatening atmosphere for high school aged teenagers.
Located in numerous cities, Batei Chizuk afford teens the opportunity to come after public school to centers where they are introduced to Torah in a way that speaks to them and their world. It is unadulterated Torah transmitted by idealistic, devoted avreichim who understand the world and mindset of their charges and the needs of their neshamos.
These Batei Chizuk have been so successful that many of the boys, who were recently non-religious public school students have progressed so extraordinarily in their Yiddishkeit that they desire to continue their education in a Yeshiva.
When the hanhala of Acheinu realized the success of the Batei Chizuk, they were determined to open a Yeshiva that would be run in accordance with the underlying formula that has made Acheinu so successful. That formula is represented by an iron-clad commitment to accompany its charges from their first hesitant spiritual baby steps right through the kiruv process, yeshiva education, and eventually marriage and beyond.
The pesicha, the opening of Yeshivas Acheinu, was a wonderfully joyous event tinged with emotion. Parents of the teens, most of which are not (yet) observant Jews, sat in the audience with their children. They looked nervous, but confident that their children would be in good hands, guided by people who had proven that they really cared.
Rav Avigdor Berenstein, one of Acheinu’s most devoted activists set the tone by citing a beautiful thought in the name of the Ponovezher Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman. The Ponovezher Rav explained the custom of reciting special teffilos when the Aron Kodesh is open prior to reading the Torah. He said that it is a great segulah for tefillos to be answered when recited before the open Aron Kodesh because it is then, when we open the Aron Kodesh and declare our desire to read from Hashem’s Torah and follow its commandments, that Hashem’s mercy is aroused on behalf of his Nation.
When a new Yeshiva where bochurim who until now were estranged from their Father in Heaven opens, when a new zeman begins offering these boys the opportunity to take their first steps in learning Hashem’s Torah and truly understanding what it means to live as a Jew whose entire lifestyle is permeated by Torah, can there be a greater, more auspicious time in Heaven for the answering of our teffilos? What great rachamim must be aroused in Heaven at this moment?!
Rav Nosson Rottman, a RM at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Kiryat Brachfeld, also addressed the gathering. He eloquently explained what it means to be a ben yeshiva and how living such a life provides each bachur with a deep-seated happiness, not only in the next world, but in this world too. There are no youth as happy or as content today in Eretz Yisrael, like the true bnei Torah are!
One of the highlights of the opening ceremonies was the enthusiastic outburst of song, as the Yeshiva’s staff, soon followed by all the parents and children began to sing the nigun Achas Shaalti. The emotion reached a crescendo as it was sung, over and over, permeating the room with an intense atmosphere of spiritual longing.
Yeshivas Acheinu For Torani Graduates: An Idea Whose Time Has Come
Several months ago when Rav Dovid Hofstedter, founder of Acheinu, was in Eretz Yisroel he met with Hagaon Harav Aharon Leib Shteinman in the Rosh Yeshiva’s house on Rechov Chazon Ish in Bnei Brak. Rav Shteinman asked Rav Hofstedter to open a Yeshiva that would cater to boys coming out of the Torani educational system by ensuring that their unique needs would be provided.
The Torani network of schools caters to many children from traditional, but not necessarily observant homes. After finishing elementary school, many are at a crossroads. Do they continue their education in a state-run public high school, where much of the spiritual progress that they made in elementary school will be severely jeopardized or do they go to Yeshiva? The effort to get them into Yeshiva is an intense one, but often, even those who choose to attend Yeshiva do not have a smooth transition into the intense and sometimes unfamiliar atmosphere of the Yeshiva.
Rav Shteinman, who worries about every Jewish child, wanted a Yeshiva that would accompany the boys and fully support them both academically and emotionally in their struggles, triumphs, trials and tribulations along their path to becoming true bnei Torah.
With great alacrity and vision, Rav Dovid and Acheinu set out to fulfill the Rosh Yeshiva’s wishes. This new Yeshiva would be headed by Rav Yeshaya Kravitz, a well known RM who previously served at the Tifrach Yeshiva Ketana, along with the Mashgiach, Rav Yaakov Horowitz.
On the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul the second new Acheinu Yeshiva for graduates of the Torani system opened on Rechov Hakablan in Yerushalayim.
In each of Acheinu’s new Yeshivos, every one of its 35 bochurim will have an avreich who will learn with them daily and who will be in charge of ensuring that their spiritual development continues along the right path.
Acheinu recognizes that the only way to ensure a bochur’s smooth entry into the Torah world is by placing a bachur in an atmosphere where he will have constant support of older experienced avreichim that will accompany him on that journey. Acheinu has undertaken to fill that void.
Acheinu is aware that in order to prevent fall-out from the system, difficulties and issues must be dealt with when they are still small, before they can grow into serious issues that may, chalila, result in the bochur leaving Yeshiva.
This golden rule of constant follow up is surely what precipitated Rav Shteinman’s request of Rav Dovid to open the Yeshiva and is what prompted the Rosh Yeshiva to write an inspirational letter that was read aloud at the Chanukas Habayis this past Wednesday.
One day, when the history of Kiruv is being recounted; and the history of successful kiruv yeshivos will be written, the two days of Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5767, will be recorded as a historical turning point. It will show that siyata dishmaya, innovative ideas combined with a deep sense of caring and responsibility for Acheinu Bnei Yisrael, brought new types of Yeshivos that changed the face of Kiruv in Eretz Yisroel. Amen, ken yehi ratzon.