By Boruch Shubert
The 91st annual convention of Agudath Israel of America in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, was a smashing success, partially because of the fascinating Thursday night and Motzaei Shabbos sessions.
Chanoch La’naar: Nurturing Our Children, Ensuring Our Future. In his introduction to the Thursday night session, Convention Co-Chairman Avrumi Hirsch noted that the secret to Klal Yisrael’s unique ability to endure as a thriving nation has been its unwavering commitment to the mesorah.
Rabbi Elya Brudny, rosh yeshiva, Mirrer Yeshiva, Brooklyn, explained that modern technology has broken down long-established boundaries of behavior for today’s youth, causing parents to become rightly concerned about the direction their growing families will take. Quoting the pesukim in Tehillim (112), Rabbi Brudny stated, “If parents themselves have yiras Shamayim and great desire to perform mitzvos, that will ensure the success of the next generation.”
Rabbi Yaakov Bender, rosh yeshiva, Yeshiva Darchei Torah, declared that parents have to believe they can succeed in properly raising their children in spite of today’s many obstacles. Quoting the legendary builder of Torah, Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, Rabbi Bender declared, “The greatest sheker (falsehood) is to say that something can’t be done!”
He also noted that “Every parent is a nasi whose actions are being watched by their children. Parents should not be afraid to say ‘no’ to their children—as long as they do it with love.”
Finally, Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon, mashgiach ruchani, Beth Medrash Govoha, advised parents to clearly describe the power of self-control to their offspring, as well as instill in them a thorough belief in the concept of Olam Haba. “Parents must be firm and deny their children’s excessive desires . . . And similarly, we as adults must control ourselves, to ensure our status as role models of chinuch for our children.”
Rabbi Shmuel Berkovics, rav of Khal Yereim in Passaic; Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, rav of Agudath Israel of Flatbush; Rabbi Doniel Parnes, rosh mesivta Yeshivas Novominsk; and Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, menahel of Ohr Naava, also addressed the issue of chinuch in our times at other sessions at the convention.
The Motzaei Shabbos Session. Opening the Motzaei Shabbos session, Convention Chairman Hashi Herzka paid tribute to a number of recently departed activists in the Torah world. These included Reb Moshe Reichmann, Reb Yissocher Hasenfeld, Reb Yoel Klugmann, Reb Eli Hirsch, and Reb Yosef Friedenson, zichronom livracha.
Mr. Herzka then introduced Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah member Rabbi Yosef Harari Raful, rosh hayeshiva, Yeshivat Ateret Torah. Rabbi Raful provided an in-depth appreciation of the life of the venerated sage Chacham HaRav Ovadia Yosef, zt’l. Rabbi Raful enumerated Rav Yosef’s many outstanding traits, including his photographic memory, phenomenally rapid comprehension of sefarim, and profound love of Torah study, which were coupled with a strong desire to teach Torah to his fellow Jews. The rosh hayeshiva recalled how Rav Yosef publicly expressed his appreciation to Agudath Israel for the Chinuch Atzmai system of Torah schools, the Bais Yaakov system of schools for girls, and the establishment of regular shiurim for ba’alei batim.
In a surprise presentation, Rabbi Noach Muroff, a young Connecticut mechanech who had gone out of his way to return $98,000 he had discovered hidden inside a desk he had purchased from its unsuspecting gentile owner, appeared in person to proclaim the great value of honesty and the need to consistently sanctify G-d’s name in this world with one’s actions.
A video highlighted the impressive achievements of Agudath Israel’s new Lefkowitz Leadership Initiative. Passionately urging the younger generation to become more actively involved in the organization’s activities for the klal, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, insisted, “Agudath Israel needs you—and you need us.”
Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, rosh yeshiva, Mirrer Yeshiva of Yerushalayim, passionately declared, “The world only continues to endure through the power of Torah . . . Despite the dangers from the surrounding Arabs and the government’s financial persecutions, the Torah community in Eretz Yisrael has continued to flourish . . . We have no doubt that the Torah will be victorious over its opposing forces.” Rabbi Finkel then conveyed a message from Maran HaGaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky, “We are currently in the ikvesa d’meshicha (immediate time of Moshiach’s arrival). Whoever assists Torah study will enter the redemption first!” Rabbi Finkel concluded with an appeal to support Torah institutions and the gedolim who guide them.
In a riveting address, Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, rosh yeshiva, Yeshiva Me’or Yitzchok in Monsey, explained that the fervently Orthodox world has remained stubbornly loyal to its Torah ideals, and that it will never relinquish them despite the Israeli government’s misguided effort to “reeducate” the charedim. Rabbi Wachsman urged the American community to support those in Israel, “We must tell the Torah community there, ‘You are the crown of creation, and we are with you!’ We must be sure to come out on the right side of Jewish history.”
Chavrei Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe; Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, rosh yeshiva, Beth Medrash Govoha; Rabbi Yosef Frankel, Vyelepoler Rebbe; and Rabbi Avraham Yosef Leizerson, director of Chinuch Atzmai also delved into this topic.
The evening undoubtedly succeeded as a manifestation of Kiddush Shem Shomayim b’rabim. v