Despite the many obstacles outreach workers have faced in recent years, Elul Zman brought impressive growth figures for the number of students from secular homes enrolled in Torah-based schools and the number of newly religious youths entering yeshivas.
Following a successful enrollment drive, Lev L'Achim workers and volunteers are now hard at work guiding thousands of children, teenagers and parents through the Yomim Noraim, Succos and Simchas Torah holidays.
"One of the places where the enrollment rate was unprecedented is in the city of Or Yehuda, where 25 percent of all first-graders enrolled in the Torah-based school, in addition to the Chinuch Atzmai institutions at the Michtav L'Eliyahu school," noted Chairman Rav Eliezer Sorotzkin, saying that this growth in both the girls' and boys' wings will compel city authorities to provide a permanent building.
"This great success was despite obstacles in the enrollment drive and incitement by the media against the chareidi public. A large number of parents enrolled their children at Torah-based schools and then were dismayed by the wave of incitement. Our workers had to invest extensive efforts into rebuffing this incitement and coping with it.
"Of course during the current period much activity is being focused on follow-up contact and stabilizing the students' entry. There are families that heard the shofar for the first time this year and will hold daled minim for the first time during Succos. The preparations and follow-up with the parents are very intensive. There are many young men who have taken their places in the beis medrash and are now going home to parents who unfortunately are still very far from religious observance, and so they have to be guided in what to do and what not to do. During the initial period the children must be closely accompanied at school and in their dealings with their parents."
This year Arachim, which operates wide-ranging programs around the world, has begun focusing considerable attention outside of Eretz Yisroel — through joint programs with Eternal Jewish Family — on efforts to prevent assimilation through seminars for Israelis that speak out against intermarriage and reinforce Jewish identity. Maran HaRav Eliashiv recently instructed Arachim Director Rav Yosef Wallis to make special efforts in these areas.
In the area of school registration Arachim often directs the children of seminar participants who did teshuvoh to Lev L'Achim activists who encourage them to enroll in Torah-based schools and yeshivas.
This year Arachim also managed to bring lecturers into large, well-known high schools to deliver lecture series on Judaism and to teach students about prayer. These programs encourage many students to enroll in Torah-based institutions and even led dozens of high-school teachers to sign up for the organization's weekend seminars.
HaRav Yerachmiel Kram, who heads Acheinu, told Yated Ne'eman that this year his organization focused heavily on teens, youths and the newly religious. He says HaRav Eliashiv instructed him to place an emphasis on gemora study with young men.
"Of over 500 young men from 40 Torah-based schools around the country that entered yeshivas through the Toronto Project, which provides eight-grade students and their parents guidance throughout the school year — and another 49 who decided to study in a holy yeshiva after getting a taste of yeshiva study and yeshiva life in a program held over the summer break — only three students did not enter yeshivas and efforts are still under way to keep them in Torah-based frameworks," said HaRav Kram.
Acheinu workers continue to provide close guidance and support after the students enter yeshiva to ensure the placement is right for them, and if not, to arrange a suitable alternative.
During the course of 5769 Acheinu placed a total of 1,423 students in Torah-based schools and holy yeshivas.