Acheinu doesn’t just bring a bachur to yeshiva and leave him there. Acheinu, recognizing a bochur’s need for constant support and chizuk, invests in an entire staff of avreichim to serve as mentors. They learn with and advise the boys, are there for them throughout their yeshiva years and beyond, until they become true bnei Torah, marry and establish Torah homes.” Rav Michel Yehuda concluded that bringing young people back to lives of Torah has the power to bring Moshiach closer!
A true watershed in the history of kiruv rechokim in Eretz Yisrael transpired when Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz agreed to serve as Nasi of Acheinu, the kiruv arm of Dirshu. With a unique system of follow up and accountability, Acheinu has succeeded in enrolling more than 93% of its charges to yeshivos kedoshos. Undoubtedly, much of that siyatta DiShmaya was a result of the constant guidance offered by Rav Michel Yehuda concerning the most difficult, complex questions. The door to Rav Michel Yehuda’s humble abode on Rechov Vilkomir was always open to Acheinu avreichim, who availed themselves of the opportunity to ask the venerated Rosh Yeshiva, Kiruv She’eilos, on an almost weekly basis.
It was Rav Michel Yehuda who insisted that all Acheinu avreichim involved in kiruv must be engaged in at least one full daily seder of learning Torah. He felt that an integral component in their influence was the fact that they themselves were constantly engaged in limud haTorah at the highest levels.
In a powerful letter written by Rav Michel Yehuda just before Rosh Hashanah, 2009, Rav Michel Yehuda writes, “The organization Acheinu that was established and is run by yedidi, yedid Elyon, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, is known here as an organization that has brought forth blessing and for years has been engaged in spiritual hatzolas nefashos”¦.We have seen much success in their work and they have transformed many of their charges into true bnei Torah.”
There are so many incidents when Acheinu activists would bring their charges – boys embarking on their first tenuous steps in Yiddishkeit or boys already in yeshivos coming to be tested or to seek advice. Rav Michel Yehuda, despite his tremendous workload, always had time for them. He embraced them, exuding such love, a love that penetrated their hearts and their souls.
The following story illustrates Rav Lefkowitz’s close bond with Acheinu and its charges.
Yaakov, a bochur from an irreligious, somewhat traditional family, was a boy with exemplary middos and yiras shamayim. Unfortunately, he was academically very weak and found learning difficult. This problem was exacerbated by lack of support from his parents and siblings. Betzalel, his Acheinu mentor told him, “Yaakov, whenever you go home for Shabbos, I will give you money to buy challos at the Vizhnitzer Bakery. You will see what a difference it will make to your parents’ traditional Shabbos meal.” Betzalel also advised him to steadily write letters to his parents. Ultimately, those two things, the letters and the challos, revitalized his familial relationship. His family began to appreciate his being a yeshiva bochur. Learning however, remained difficult. Betzalel, wanting to be mechazek him, took him to visit the venerated Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, shlita. Yaakov told Rav Michel Yehuda about his difficulty learning, “I try but I simply can’t understand.” Rav Michel Yehuda asked about his father’s occupation. “He is a carpenter.”
“Is he shomer Torah u’mitzvos?”
“Are any siblings in yeshiva?”
“Are your sisters in frum schools?”
Rav Michel Yehuda then asked, “Do you know what kind of responsibility rests on your shoulders? You are only one “” you must carry the entire family.”
Yaakov replied brokenheartedly, “But I just can’t learn! I try, but it is so very hard!”
The nonagenarian Rav Michel Yehuda became very emotional and began to cry. Seeing the tears coursing down the Rosh Yeshiva’s face, Yaakov also began to cry. Rav Michel Yehuda finally composed himself and, lovingly told Yaakov, “I want to tell you “” I am Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh Yeshiva Ketana for many decades. In all my years, experience has shown me that it is not the brilliant boys who succeed – it is the masmidim who keep at it. My advice is that you learn during the yeshiva’s sedarim. Don’t learn late at night, don’t skip meals. Sleep during sleeping times, eat during eating times and learn during learning times. Just keep at it and you will see – the gates of learning will suddenly open and you will understand, you will see such success, such great light that you will forget the darkness which currently clouds your existence.”
Rav Michel Yehuda concluded, “Anytime it is hard for you, and you feel discouraged please come back to me and we will talk. I am always here, available and wanting to speak to you!”