For each of the last four years, Lev L'Achim has enrolled
thousands of secular children in Torah schools. But that,
says enrollment worker Rabbi Shraga Elfer, is the easy part.
Getting them to stay there -- and to become religious Jews --
is a difficult, multistep process.
"People think you just put a child into a Torah school, and
presto, he becomes religious," says Rabbi Elfer. "But it
doesn't work that way. The enrollment worker needs to be
there for him and his family, and give them chizuk and
That includes everything from helping the child to do his
homework, to teaching his family the basics of
Yiddishkeit, to acting as a go-between when the child
and family progress at a different pace.
In secular strongholds, such as Rishon Letzion where Rabbi
Elfer works, enrollment staff needs to do something else --
they need to provide the newly enrolled children with role
models. They also need to show them that Jews everywhere are
keeping the mitzvos, and that vibrant Torah communities do
Says Rabbi Elfer, "You can tell the children about frum
communities like Bnei Brak or Meah Shearim over and over
again, but they really need to see it for themselves to
That's why Rabbi Elfer recently took 16 fourth- and fifth-
graders from Rishon Letzion whom he enrolled within the last
two years, on Shabbaton to Bnei Brak.
The students have worked diligently to catch up to their
peers who come from religious families. Several have already
reached the level where they can attend regular yeshivos, and
almost all have parents who are on the road to teshuva
thanks to their children's enthusiasm, and guidance from
Lev L'Achim's enrollment workers.
The trip began on Friday night with a visit to the Ponevezh
Yeshiva, where the students learned with avreichim.
"The children loved learning with the avreichim," says
Rabbi Elfer. "Many of them told me that it was an experience
they'll never forget. They didn't want to leave."
After their Shabbos meal, the students attended the
Vishnitzer Rebbe's tisch. They had never seen a
tisch before, and they sat with their eyes wide with
wonder, watching the throngs of chassidim coming to
see the Rebbe and to hear his words of Torah.
The next afternoon, right after mincha, the students
met one of the gedolim whom they had heard so much about in
school: HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, who gave each student an
individual brochoh. The students were beaming when
they left his home.
On motzei Shabbos they met HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman. They
presented him with a special plaque, thanking him for
spearheading Lev L'Achim's enrollment drive, which led to
their own enrollment in Torah schools.
Two of the students, who come from homes where their parents
are divorced, told Rav Shteinman that while their mothers
sent them to a religious school, their fathers were part of
an anti-religious movement to try to close the school
The group then proceeded to the home of HaRav Michel Yehuda
Lefkowitz, who asked them if he could test them in gemara.
The students readily agreed.
After testing the students and seeing how far the students
had come in just two years, HaRav Lefkowitz remarked, "It's
amazing." The nachas was visible on his face.
The inspiring evening ended with a visit to the Ovos Ubonim
learning program in Bnei Brak. According to Rabbi Elfer, the
students were astounded to see so many children learning with
their fathers, and felt a tinge of longing for a world where
they could learn with their fathers, too.
"And all of them agreed that when they returned to school on
Sunday, their kochos for learning would be greater
than ever," he says.
For Rabbi Elfer and his fellow enrollment workers, there is
no greater chizuk than this.