Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Tishrei 5760 - October 11, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
The Right Mix: Creativity, Determination and Emunas Chachomim Help Lev L'Achim Enroll Thousands of Children Into Religious Schools
By Moshe Schapiro

Everyone knows Lev L'Achim is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to enroll children in religious schools. But when residents of Yerushalayim's secular Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood heard that local workers had approached Ahmad Jabr to register his children in a Jewish school, they thought the organization may have gone just a bit too far.

Does this mean the organization's next goal is to establish a Torah school in Um El Fachem, an Israeli Arab town? How about the Beka Valley in South Lebanon?

Not quite.

Ahmad was the secret weapon Lev L'Achim used to foil an attempt by Dor Shalem -- a Meretz mutant -- to dissuade a group of 40 parents who were thinking of transferring their children out of the public kindergarten in their area to one in the process of being established by Lev L'Achim. And they almost succeeded until Ahmad came to the rescue.

The scheme worked like a charm. Dor Shalem was holding a meeting of parents who had shown an interest in backtracking from their commitment to join the Lev L'Achim kindergarten and sending their children to a Dor Shalem kindergarten-in- the-making instead. Everyone was just starting to get comfortable, when in walked Ahmad.

"Shalom!" he said to the stunned group of parents and Dor Shalem officials. "I'm interested in sending my children to this kindergarten. Is that okay with you?"

Parents surreptitiously exchanged worried looks. Most were middle to low income working folks who probably voted for Netanyahu in the last elections. They were certainly not aficionados of Dor Shalem's extremely liberal views, and they were only there because Dor Shalem was offering them a cheaper deal.

But the reaction of the Dor Shalem officials running the meeting was completely different.

"Of course you may enroll your children in our kindergarten!" they chorused, thinking of the sensation this would make back at the main office in Tel Aviv.

"We believe in peace and equal rights for all," one of the officials declared self-righteously. "Don't we?" he asked the appalled parents encouragingly. They nodded dumbly.

Ahmad was very pleased to hear this. He then recited the next lines in his script.

"This really is a swell kindergarten! You know, I have a whole bunch of brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and friends who would like to send their children here as well. Would that be all right with you?"

"Absolutely!" the head Dor Shalem official said. "Bring them all. This kindergarten will become a model of coexistence and tolerance. All of us would be very proud to have our children play, eat and sleep with yours."

Ahmad filled out the form with a flourish, signed up his child, and then announced that he would be right back with the rest of his clan. He got into the car Lev L'Achim had provided him with, and away he went.

Less than one minute after his departure, all the parents except one stampeded out the door.

"Hey!" the Dor Shalem people said, "where is everybody going?"

And that, as they say, was the end of that.

* * *

Creativity. Determination. Emunas Chachomim.

These are the three elements that have made it possible for Lev L'Achim to achieve the impossible - - some 15,000 secular children have been enrolled in Torah schools in its three consecutive annual enrollment campaigns.

Without creativity, the organization would never have come up with the brilliant idea of utilizing "pirate" religious radio stations to spread the enrollment message better, faster and at a lower cost than any of the traditional methods. Nor would they have thought of recruiting former Shas leader Arye Deri, who has become a national symbol, to spearhead the effort along with Rabbi Uri Zohar. Or of sending Ahmad to register his children in the Dor Shalem kindergarten.

Without a sense of determination, the organization would have folded when local municipal officials did -- and are still doing -- their very best to make life impossible for all new religious schools in general, and those established by Lev L'Achim in particular.

That was the case in Nahariya, where on the opening day of school two police officers showed up with a demolition order and a bulldozer in tow and announced that the teachers and students had exactly 10 minutes to evacuate the premises before the schoolhouse was torn down.

The crime: due to the huge number of students enrolled by Lev L'Achim, Keren Nesivos Moshe had been forced to add two classrooms to the existing school, a development that a leftist neighbor was not happy about one bit. Lev L'Achim is now battling the charges in court.

And without belief in the wisdom of the Torah leaders of Eretz Yisroel, who urged Lev L'Achim to embark on this multi- year effort to enroll Jewish children throughout Eretz Yisroel in Torah schools, the organization would never have had the guts to send avreichim to staunchly secular cities such as Carmiel, Tzoran, Kfar Havradim and Mitzpe Kalanit -- and enroll over a dozen children in each.

As far as results are concerned, they are nothing short of staggering. Consider the following:

Last year the Ohr Chadash school in Rechasim had some 126 students, but this year, thanks to Lev L'Achim's enrollment drive, its student body has jumped to 226. Similarly, Acco's religious school had 70 students last year, but with the 80 new ones it received as a result of Lev L'Achim's efforts, the number has climbed to 150 this year.

The list goes on and on: Haifa, from 60 students to 160; Afula, from 40 to 80; Lod, from 20 to 60.

In the north of the country alone some 1,300 children were enrolled, forcing schools to open new classrooms in the following cities: two in Chadera; two in Afula; one in Nazareth; five in Nahariya; and seven in the suburbs of Haifa.

To what does Lev L'Achim ascribe this amazing feat? It depends who you ask.

Ephraim Paktor, Lev L'Achim's supervisor in the Tel Aviv area, says it is all a result of hard work.

"All of my enrollment workers are now at the schools," he says over his cellular phone. "They're performing what we call a body count -- checking which children arrived and which didn't arrive. Those who didn't show up on the first day of school get a phone call at home.

"We try to find out what the problem is. Usually it's a technical thing, such as the school bus failing to pick up the child, or an oversight by the school, such as neglecting to inform the child's parents at what hour he should show up at school. We try to find a quick solution to the problem, because for every minute of school the child misses, it becomes that much harder for him to adjust to his new classroom situation."

Moshe Zeivald, Lev L'Achim's man in the north, ascribes the organization's success to something else entirely.

"Over the last three years," he explains, "we've developed a system, and every year it works better and it gets more fine- tuned. This year everything worked like a well-oiled machine. The radio program, the toll-free number, the switchboard, the computers, the volunteers, the enrollment workers -- everything just clicked."

Zeivald says this explains why the number of children enrolled in his region increased by close to 50 percent despite the fact that he employed only about half the number of enrollment workers as last year.

But Lev L'Achim's southern supervisor, Tuvia Levinstein, thinks it has to do more with the fact that the schools Lev L'Achim helped establish in previous years are now reaping the fruits of their sterling reputation.

"Lots of parents are calling us before we even approach them," Levinstein says. "They see what's going on in the secular schools -- the violence, the drugs, the low level of education -- and then they look at the new religious schools, and the choice becomes academic."

Whatever the reason is, one thing is clear -- at this rate it won't be long until the majority of children in Eretz Yisroel learn in Torah schools.


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