"Twenty years have passed since the first annual assembly of Lev L'Achim which took place in 5757. This, then, is the twentieth conference called by HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman. Preceding each conference, each time, when we met in his home seeking his permission, blessing and guidance in anticipation of the yearly gathering, he reacted in the same way: `This is the major gathering of our generation.' I never heard him apply this testimonial to any other subject or undertaking, and this year, he reiterated the same statement."
These were the moving and emphatic words of the director of Lev L'Achim and general administrator of Chinuch Atzmai, HaRav Eliezer Sorotzkin, before the upcoming twentieth annual conference of Lev L'Achim.
"Each year," says HaRav Sorotzkin, "we would seek the permission of the Rosh Yeshiva in general, and ask who we should ask to address the conference. We never did anything on our own but rather sought to be his emissaries to take on this mission. This year, as before, HaRav Boruch Shapira, member of the Lev L'Achim administration, has served as the long arm of HaRav Shteinman to invite in his name all of the roshei yeshiva to the conference, a move with definite clout.
"It is obvious to all Torah centers and significant kollelim and their heads, and to every one else as well, that this endeavor is the pillar of the sustenance of Klal Yisrael. It is superfluous to explain how important it is to all roshei yeshiva, and foremost to HaRav Shteinman, who bears upon his heart and shoulders the very Torah world and who hoisted the revolution of kollelim in this present generation. Notwithstanding, the Rosh Yeshiva chose to declare this Lev L'Achim gathering as a `Knessiah gedola'.
"Possibly, this is because just as the very purpose of the actual original Knessiah Gedola was to disseminate Yiddishkeit throughout the European continent, so, in like manner, the mission of Lev L'Achim is to spread Torah in every single settlement in Eretz Yisrael. HaRav Shteinman sees it fitting to empower us as his proxies to invite the roshei yeshivos in his name, including the roshei yeshivos from abroad, which is no simple matter. This is a substantial call for unity to all of Jewry where our Torah leadership regards the holy work of Lev L'Achim as pivotal in reaching out to all our brethren.
"Lev L'Achim is not merely the focus and subject here but a manifesto and a message," he adds. "The major undertaking and goal of Lev L'Achim is for every Jewish child to know that there is a Creator and that every youth have the opportunity to enter the halls of a Torah institution. The very reality of this assembly, where all of the elders of the generation and over one hundred roshei yeshiva take the trouble to come and attend this yearly conference, should convey to the public the immense obligation of being involved in the sublime subject of outreach. Each one in his own individual manner and in the best way that he can help and be active, must make the effort to overcome whatever difficulty he has in sharing the heavy burden of responsibility."
How do you deal with the huge wave of immigration from France and Europe and work to preserve Torah education?
"We are, indeed, faced with a huge influx of immigration of French Jewry fleeing from the frightening escalation of Moslem anti-Semitism. Who knows if this terrorism will not spread throughout Europe? We are dealing with the problems of absorption with the purpose of bringing the immigrant children to Chinuch Atzmai schools and the Torah education which is their due, despite various impediments here. And this is a prodigious project.
"On the other hand, we are limited by funds and do not have the resources to reach them all. The gasoline tank, so to speak, prevents us from reaching yet another family, and to our deep regret, even the present rate of activity stands in danger. This is a severe outcry!"