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?
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
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
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
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
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.