Acheinu Yeshiva Litzeirim: Serving as Father and Mother to Budding Bnei Torah

Their ticket to join our yeshiva is the fact that, at this juncture in their lives, there is no other yeshiva suitable for them in the entire country. When a bachur in our yeshiva is matzliach, he learns, he blooms, he blossoms, he becomes suffused with yiras shomayim””you can be sure that he would not have made these colossal achievements anywhere else!”
These heartfelt words of Harav Michoel Berlin, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Acheinu Yeshiva L’tzeirim in Kiryat Sefer, were made at an absolutely remarkable, inspiring event this past Chanuka where Acheinu Yeshiva L’tzeirim’s highly specialized staff had the opportunity to meet with Acheinu’s senior leadership as well as its founder, Rav Dovid Hofstedter.

The event featured opening remarks from Rav Berlin, the Rosh Yeshiva, a comprehensive address by Rav Dovid Hofstedter followed by what was perhaps the most extraordinary part of the program – a lively, interactive question and answer session wherein the staff of Rebbeim and chavrusos of the yeshiva posed questions to Rav Dovid and the senior leadership of Acheinu.

The nature of the questions; the sometimes complex, difficult issues that do not lend themselves to quickie solutions attested to both the unique character of the Acheinu Yeshiva L’tzeirim as well as the seriousness and devotion exhibited by every staff member.

The Challenge: From Torani To Yeshiva Kedosha

Acheinu Yeshiva L’tzeirim, as Rav Berlin said, is an absolutely distinctive makom Torah that has no comparison in the entire Eretz Yisroel.

In order to understand why the Yeshiva is unique and what it accomplishes, a little background is necessary. In Eretz Yisroel, one of the chinuch systems is classified as “Torani”. The Torani system, primarily comprised of Chinuch Atzmai and Shas affiliated school systems, is made up mainly of children from traditional, non chareidi homes. The schools generally serve as the main conduit of spiritual values for their students as the majority of homes, although respectful of tradition, are not completely observant.

The crucial crossroads in life approaches with the advent of eighth grade. Where will the student further his education? In a Yeshiva, where he will continue on the path of Torah, and almost certainly end up leading a life of Torah and dikduk b’mitzvos? Or in a high school that does not reflect those values?

One of the crucial functions performed by Acheinu, the Kiruv organization founded by Rav Dovid Hofstedter, is the sending of their avreichim, talmidei chachamim who are well-trained, caring kiruv activists to some 45 schools across the country. These avreichim develop close relationships with the 8th graders and their families and try directing them to appropriate yeshivos to ensure that they and their future generations will become bnei Torah, deeply committed Torah Jews who will be devoted to Hashem and His Torah.

Affiliated with tens of Yeshivos across the country, Acheinu directs each talmid to the Yeshiva that is best suited for him. Acheinu then remains connected with the talmid and the hanhala of the yeshiva to make sure that he is acclimating properly.

There are times, however, when a boy simply does not fit into any existing yeshiva. His background may not be sufficiently strong; perhaps he simply does not want to attend a yeshiva whose standards seem too exacting for him; perhaps there are family issues preventing him from going to yeshiva”¦ Where should such a boy go?

Can we jeopardize 8 years of elementary school chinuch by letting a child go to a high school that does not reflect the authentic Torah values that his teachers have strived to inculcate during his elementary school years?

Acheinu’s answer was a resounding “No”!

The only eitzah was to establish a Yeshiva, a holy yeshiva with the hashkafos and values that characterize the authentic Torah community while simultaneously being cognizant of the often difficult circumstances and compromised spiritual backgrounds of some of these children.

Thus was born the Acheinu Yeshiva L’tzeirim.

No Fallout; 100% Success

Acheinu Yeshiva L’tzerim is a regular yeshiva with a typical yeshiva schedule – the boys learn approximately ten blatt per month and are tested on what they learn. What makes the yeshiva such a special makom Torah and makom kiruv is the special ability of each of the many staff members to understand the background or lack thereof of their talmidim and to become the family support system that so many of the bachurim do not have.

In addition to the extremely high staff/student ratio, tens of local avreichim come daily to the yeshiva to learn with the bachurim and ensure that they are progressing in their studies.

At the Chanuka event, all of the numerous staff members had the opportunity to ask the senior staff and Rav Dovid many questions that they encountered. For example, what happens when a bachur confides in a Rebbi or avreich who is his chavrusa, things that he does which are against yeshiva rules – on the one hand the trust developed is so pivotal, on the other hand, the yeshiva has firm rules that must be obeyed? What should a yungerman do? This is just a sample of the daily complexities that arise.

The fact that not one bachur has dropped out of Acheiun Yeshiva L’tzerim “” reflecting a 100% success rate – is a result of the staff’s tremendous devotion and the hashkafa of kiruv transmitted by its senior leadership.

Indeed, the yeshiva’s staff members literally serve as the surrogate father and mother to the bachurim.

As Rav Dovid Hofstedter explained in his heartfelt remarks, “A fundamental aspect of chinuch is to connect a bachur with his true roots. Frequently, Bachurim who come here without familial Torah backgrounds do not feel connected to their roots. Our task is to imbue them with the understanding that they are not just simple bachurim; to enable them to understand from where they come. We have to make them feel that Hashem is their loving Father and that we too, are like their fathers. Our task is to make them feel, really feel, that they are the children of Hashem”¦”

Rabbi Avigdor Berenstein, a member of Acheinu’s senior staff, said it most succinctly, “If you want to understand the success of Acheinu one must understand that when the school year started not one of the bachurim really wanted to come here. Just a few months later, at the Pesach bein hazemanim and then the summer bein hazemanim, they chose, of their own volition, to stay in yeshiva for an extra week! They feel that the yeshiva is their home. Now that’s success!”