The Non-Yeshiva Bachur, Yeshiva Bachur
The Midrashiya, one of Acheinu’s most potent tools in introducing young men to Yiddishkeit, is a non-judgmental local meeting place or clubhouse where classes are held on Judaism. When he started truly listening and absorbing, Ofir–initially a bit skeptical–finally started getting what his neshamah had been so craving. It began with his listening and progressed to asking questions from Yossi and getting into deep meaningful discussions. Over the course of the year, Ofir came to the conclusion that he wanted to go to yeshiva. There was a tremendous problem standing in his way. Throughout the year, Ofir’s mother tolerated her son going to the Midrashiya once a week and even deemed it to be a character building experience. When it came to his education, however, she was adamant that he must complete his education in the upper-class private school that he attended.
As per the instructions of its previous Nasi, HaGaon HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, zt”l, and ybl”ch, HaGaon HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shlita, Acheinu seeks whenever possible to minimize confrontation within the families of its charges. Yossi understood how badly Ofir wanted to go to yeshiva, but he did not want to alienate Ofir’s mother. He wanted her to revel in her son’s spiritual accomplishments, not battle them. He therefore consulted Rav Shteinman who recommended that at this juncture, Ofir should complete his studies in his present school while simultaneously making every effort to fill up his discretionary time with limud haTorah and ruchniyus.
So how does Ofir’s day currently look? He wakes up very early every morning to go to selichos and davening. Then he goes to school. In Israel, schools end at 1:00 PM. By second seder Ofir is ensconced in a yeshiva kedoshah learning both second seder and night seder. He is shteiging tremendously while peace and harmony reign in his home.
That is the story of one of Acheinu’s charges that is not yet in Yeshiva.
The Torani Division More Active than Ever
This Elul alone Acheinu placed 1,500 bachurim in yeshivos kedoshos throughout Eretz Yisrael – the largest number of placements that Acheinu has made since its establishment 20 years ago! Rabbi Chaim Goldberg, one of the most active leaders of Acheinu, says, “I think 1,500 new bachurim in yeshivos is the best 20th birthday present that we could have given to Acheinu!”
Acheinu was also extremely successful in placing children from traditional homes who attended Torani schools into yeshivos kedoshos. Children in Torani schools usually live outside of the main cities and are sent to those schools because their parents, who are somewhat traditional, want them to have a modicum of Jewish knowledge. The vast majority of parents, however, do not want them to continue learning in yeshivos.
This is where Acheinu comes in. Acheinu has an entire division devoted to reaching out to eighth grade boys in Torani schools. They work with the schools as well as with numerous yeshivos to find the right yeshiva for each boy. They then follow up with him while he is in yeshiva, smoothing the inevitable wrinkles that crop up with parents and make sure that he is adapting properly.
The “˜Hot’ Hotline: Making the Yeshiva/Bachur Connection
Another very important component in Acheinu’s efforts is its “Yeshiva Hotline”. Acheinu came to realize that one of the most difficult tasks is finding the right yeshiva; the yeshiva that is fitting for each bachur. This task of finding the right yeshiva, Acheinu soon came to realize, is not limited to finding Yeshivos for baalei teshuvah. Many “˜frum-from-birth’ bochurim and their families also need assistance with finding the Yeshiva with the right fit. Acheinu’s hotline is manned by Avreichim who are intimately familiar and connected with hundreds of yeshivos. They direct each person to the yeshiva most appropriate for him. In the past few months, more than 2000 people have turned to the Acheinu Yeshiva Hotline for assistance. There is a tremendous need for such a service in Eretz Yisrael and the Acheinu Yeshiva Hotline is filling that need in a remarkable fashion.
Take for example the recent story of two teens from Mexico who came to Israel on a birthright trip. They were very moved by a trip to the Kosel and by being in close contact with their heritage. They decided they would like to stay longer and learn about Judaism in a yeshiva. Their sister, a baalas teshuvah, turned to her Rav for assistance. The Rav immediately called Acheinu’s Yeshiva Hotline and explained the situation. Today, those boys are learning in an Acheinu-affiliated yeshiva in Givat Zev.
From the iPhone to the Gemara!
Another extremely successful program related to Acheinu’s Midrashiya program is the Thursday night “mishmar“ program. Hundreds of kids from state schools gather in several locations throughout the country every Thursday night for Torah learning and hashkafa discussions. It is on these Thursday nights that they first come into contact with Gemara learning. Unbelievably, in today’s day – the age of iPhones, instant communication and over stimulation – these boys find Gemara a source of intellectual stimulation, a mesikus haTorah that they don’t find anywhere else in their lives.
Acheinu activist Yossi explains, “They have tried everything. They realize that all of the enticements that outwardly look so tempting are fleeting. They are interested in something that is truly lasting, something eternal and they are finding that in the Gemara!
Yossi relates the story of Nir. Nir was the “king” of his class; the most popular boy in his class. His cell phone never stopped ringing. Everyone sought his company, everyone sought to party with him and, after attending Acheinu’s summer program this year he decided to go to yeshiva. “Baruch Hashem, Nir loves learning,” says Yossi. “But he is still struggling. His friends keep on calling, asking, “What happened to you?” They invite him to hang out at night clubs, but thus far he is resisting. The learning is keeping him in check, but he is still conflicted and needs much siyatta d’shmaya. We, at Acheinu try to give him all the moral support that he needs to overcome his nisyonos. That is what Acheinu follow-up is all about!”
Indeed, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman recently told a group of Acheinu activists, “Just as in Mitzrayim, the Torah tells us that “so much as they were oppressed, so did they increase and spread out,” so too, as much as the Torah community is under fire with those seeking to curb their lifestyle, so are increasing and spreading out!”
If proof to Rav Shteinman’s words are needed, just look at Acheinu’s 1,500 new enrollees!