Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Adar 5762 - February 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Secular Students Inspired by Shabbos in Bnei Brak
by Moshe Schapiro

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 guidance."

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 exist.

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 internalize it."

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 down.

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.


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