By Yosef Sosnow
On the outside, it looks like a regular house in the town of Givat Ze’ev, located just a couple of miles northwest of Yerushalayim. Upon entering the front door, however, one is struck by the difference; one’s ears are overwhelmed by a thunderous sound, the back-and-forth of a spirited Torah discussion, young faces aflame with passion as they debate the fine points of the Gemara.
The sound is reminiscent of the kol Torah heard in the Lakewood, Mir, or Ponevezh yeshivos, but a quick look inside the nondescript house, which sits above a gorgeous panoramic view of the hills surrounding Yerushalayim, provides an unexpected picture. It is a room filled with young people wearing shirts of different colors, sporting yarmulkes of different sizes and fabrics, and learning together with chareidi avreichim. They clearly seem to love every minute. Their passion and enthusiasm are almost contagious. “Welcome to Acheinu’s Yeshiva Dover Tov,” says Rabbi Chaim Goldberg, Acheinu’s director of yeshivos.
Rabbi Goldberg continues, “Yes, if you look behind the outer trappings it seems like the regular kol Torah that you would hear in any yeshiva; the bachurim here seem to be learning like regular yeshiva bachurim. What is most remarkable is that this is the middle of their summer vacation! These are teenagers who, just several months ago, knew nothing about Torah and had posters of the leading soccer players or pop stars adorning the walls around their beds. Now the only thing on their minds is the machlokes between Abaye and Rava on the sugya that they are learning. This is the power of Acheinu’s Yeshiva Dover Tov!”
Yeshiva Dover Tov was opened about a year ago in Givat Ze’ev by its rosh yeshiva, Rav Dov Sloschitz, shlita. Rav Sloschitz is a close talmid of the well-known gaon and ba’al machshavah Rav Moshe Shapiro, shlita. Rav Shapiro, who understood Rav Sloschitz’s prodigious talents in kiruv rechokim and his love and deep concern for every Jew, saw Rav Sloschitz as the ideal rosh yeshiva for a kiruv yeshiva seeking to produce not just ba’alei teshuvah but talmidei chachamim as well.
Rav Sloschitz, a son-in-law of the unforgettable Rav Dov Ber Schwartzman, zt’l, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Bais HaTalmud of Yerushalayim, named Yeshiva Dover (“Dov Ber”) Tov in memory of his illustrious father-in-law.
“The main thing,” says Rav Sloschitz, “is that we learn Torah with them. The light of the Torah is the greatest kiruv tool available. We have seen that, more than discussions about lofty hashkafah subjects, the actual Gemara’s discussions about Arba avos nezikin purifies their minds and brings them close to Hashem. Just setting up a chavrusa partnership with a yungerman is all they need, and they begin to shine, to love Torah, and to even want to give up their summer vacation in order to stay in yeshiva!”
Unfortunately, the yeshiva’s sojourn in Givat Ze’ev has not been a bed of roses. Rav Meir Weinberger, one of Acheinu’s devoted activists, relates, “When the yeshiva opened in a non-religious neighborhood in Givat Ze’ev, some neighbors, and others who sought to inflame sectarian discord, tried to do everything possible to close the yeshiva. We did our best to try calming things, but it has not been easy. I am confident, however, that the kedushas haTorah that is suffusing this neighborhood simply from the Torah being learned in it will eventually transform our biggest detractors into our most loyal patrons.”
When asked how avreichim raised in a sheltered environment can find a common language with their charges, he explains, “At the first Acheinu kiruv conference, Rav Matisyahu Salomon, shlita, told over a profound thought that really encapsulates Acheinu’s chinuch philosophy. A climax of the Yamim Noraim davening is the beautiful piyut beginning, ‘Veye’esayu kol l’avdecha.’ The piyut describes the exalted time during yemos haMashiach when all the nations will serve Hashem and recognize His sovereignty over the world. The piyut eloquently describes how the nations will abandon their idols and offer sacrifices to Hashem. It culminates triumphantly, ‘Veyitnu lecha keser meluchah—they will give You the crown of sovereignty.’ Those words are immediately preceded by ‘Veyishmu rechokim veyavo’u—Those from afar will hear and will come.’ Those words contain the foundation of our approach to kiruv rechokim.”
“The purpose,” said the mashgiach, “behind rechokim hearing about Hashem is veyavo’u—they should come to us. Kiruv rechokim means drawing rechokim close to us, not bringing ourselves down to their level. Kiruv rechokim must be the outgrowth of a feeling emanating from within a ben Torah, a feeling of, ‘My burning love for Hashem and His Torah is so powerful, how can I not try to share it with my fellow Jews?’”
Yeshiva Dover Tov is the latest of Acheinu’s yeshivos, joining its three other yeshivos that cater to talmidim at different levels of the kiruv chain.
Another milestone was reached this summer as Acheinu broke all previous yeshiva enrollment records. In addition to Acheinu’s own yeshivos, they work with hundreds of yeshivos across Eretz Yisrael finding just the right fit for each of its charges. This Elul, Acheinu enrolled more than 1,500 new talmidim in yeshivos. “It is because of Acheinu’s tremendous devotion to follow up that we have had such success not only enrolling boys into yeshivos, but keeping them in yeshivos until they become true bnei Torah,” said Rabbi Shlomo Rozenstein, Acheinu’s director of public affairs.
That brings us to another vital service that Acheinu has been providing to the general community. “Follow-up” is perhaps the most important word in the Acheinu dictionary. That is why they have a whopping 93% success rate in retaining the young people whom they are mekarev. They place their charges in mainstream yeshivos tailor-made to each boy. Acheinu yungeleit have a comprehensive, intimate knowledge of hundreds of yeshivos throughout the country. This expertise has been remarkably effective as a kiruv kerovim tool as well. When bachurim are having difficulty picking an appropriate yeshiva or getting accepted to a yeshiva, the first number their parents call is Acheinu. With Acheinu’s knowledge of yeshivos and ongoing relationships with roshei yeshiva who truly trust them, they have been successful in placing hundreds of bachurim from chareidi homes into yeshivos that suit them.
After all, as its name implies, Acheniu’s mission is to care for and be mekarev all of our brothers, and bring them “me’afeilah l’or gadol.” v