By Yosef Sosnow
When one sees the bulk of Klal Yisrael being lost to Yiddishkeit, there should be a burning cry exploding from within, a cry of, “I must do something!” That is the theme of the Acheinu organization: Acheinu Bnei Yisrael are being lost to Yiddishkeit forever. We cannot sit with our hands folded!
Those were the passionate words of Rav Yisroel Belsky, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas at the fourth annual Acheinu parlor meeting in Flatbush earlier this month.
Acheinu, the kiruv movement to develop bnei Torah, is the sister organization of Dirshu and brings the same dedication, accountability, and drive to kiruv as Dirshu does in its limud haTorah programs.
A Recipe for Success
The event, held for the fourth year at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Simcha Applegrad, attracted a crowd of dedicated, caring members of the Flatbush community who identify with Acheinu’s work, goals, and amazing success rate. Acheinu’s remarkable 93% success rate and its desire to bring accountability to kiruv comes as a result of its three-step program: mentoring, enrollment, and follow-up.
Mentoring. Acheinu assigns a kiruv worker who effectively adopts a child. That child always has access to his kiruv worker who offers unlimited emotional support as the child is imbued with the ideal of joining a yeshiva or Torah school. Mentoring often includes collaborating with the parents of the child and ironing out misunderstandings.
Enrollment. As a result of the close relationship, eventually the kiruv activists succeed in enrolling their protégés in yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs.
Follow-up. A teen’s enrollment in a yeshiva or Bais Yaakov does not mean that the kiruv rechokim effort is complete. In fact, it has just begun! Ensuring that this boy or girl will develop into a true ben Torah or bas Yisrael is perhaps the most crucial juncture in kiruv rechokim. Acheinu maintains contact with the teenagers, their parents, and the faculty of the school to smooth out minor issues before they develop into major issues capable of derailing the entire kiruv process.
Reb Simcha, the evening’s host, related, “I visited many of Acheinu’s institutions in Eretz Yisrael. Just walking into their batei chizuk and their yeshivos and seeing how they reach out to these kids with love and a sense of mission inspired me to no end.”
Care: A Prerequisite
Rav Belsky, shlita, in his remarks, alluded to the accountability that Acheinu brings to kiruv, but he primarily focused on the ingredient that is a prerequisite to kiruv—caring about our brethren so much that one feels compelled to do something.
With his classic eloquence, Rav Belsky drew on the parsha of that week where we learned that Yaakov Avinu was very upset with his two sons, Shimon and Levi, for eliminating the town of Shechem. Rav Belsky pointed out that Yaakov Avinu expressed his anger both in Parashas Vayechi and in Parashas V’zos Haberachah where he curses their anger. He also meted out severe punishment to them by taking away their nachalah, their portion in Eretz Yisrael. “If you look at a map of the nachalos,” Rav Belsky said, “you will see no portion for either Shimon or Levi.”
Despite all the anger and punishment, we find a puzzling thing. We find that there are so many berachos associated with Shevet Levi. Those in Shevet Levi become Hashem’s servants, performing the avodah in the Beis HaMikdash. They taught the avodah; they were dayanim.
We learn that Shimon, too, became the melamdei tinokos, the teachers of Jewish children throughout the ages. They became the primary transmitters of Torah to the generations.
‘Such People Must Become The Mechanchim!’
Rav Belsky then raised the obvious question in the name of Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, zt’l. It is clear from Yaakov Avinu’s words that both of them were—as judged in accordance with their great madregah—deficient in middos. They displayed uncontrollable anger. Yet all of the chinuch in Klal Yisrael comes from Shimon and Levi! How is it possible that they became the primary transmitters of Torah and avodah throughout the ages?
“The answer,” Rav Belsky explained, “lies in the four words they said to their father when Yaakov confronted them and asked, ‘How could you do this? You have put us in danger! You may have destroyed my future!’ Their four-word answer, ‘Ha’kezonah ya’aseh es achoseinu,’ could we allow our sister to be treated thus?”
Rav Yaakov explained that all the other shevatim showed restraint. Only Shimon and Levi actually rose up. Why? They rose up because they felt a burning sense of responsibility for Dinah. They were effectively declaring that there is no way in the world they could sit idly by. We must do something. She is our sister! We will not let her be humiliated and destroyed!
“It is such people,” Rav Belsky exclaimed, “who must become the melamdim, the mechanchim, for Klal Yisrael. They are the ultimate ba’alei achrayus.”
Of Acheinu: Responsibility
For Our Brethren
In what was a deeply poignant segment of his derashah, Rav Belsky related personal stories from his own life. “My family has been in America for a long time. They came right after the Civil War. Other relatives came here even before that. What happened to the overwhelming majority of them? I have a picture of my own first-grade class in Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. Most of my classmates left Yiddishkeit, they abandoned observance! The bulk of Jews who came to America before the war were lost to a spiritual holocaust. Who was saved? Only those who had the ultimate sense of achrayus were saved. Everyone else said, “You can’t be frum in America.” Those great people who persevered did so because they had a visceral reaction to leaving Yiddishkeit. “We can’t and we won’t, regardless of what everyone else is doing.”
“This,” Rav Belsky concluded, “is the very foundation of Acheinu. The fact that so many are lost to Yiddishkeit is something that the founder of Acheinu and their activists cannot live with! How can we abandon Klal Yisrael? How can we abandon our brothers? These are the Shimons and Levis of our time who will never rest until every Jewish child is given his birthright and is taught Torah. They are the ultimate mechanchim and the supreme ba’alei achrayus.”
“Ashrei chelkam, fortunate are they and fortunate are those who support an organization such as Acheinu. With your support of Acheinu, you are declaring, We will not sit by idly when Jews can be saved and brought back. We cannot and we won’t!”
The chairman of the evening was Rav Dovid Morgenstern, who welcomed the crowd and asked Rav Shlomo Cynamon, rav of K’hal B’nei Torah and rosh kollel of Kollel Dirshu of Flatbush, to deliver introductory remarks.
Rav Cynamon related that he was recently in Krakow for Shabbos with barely a minyan of Jews. “It was almost depressing. I was thinking, ‘Where are the hundreds of thousands of Krakow Jews, the talmidei chachamim, the chassidim?’ But then I realized that Krakow has come back. Perhaps not in its present geographic location; rather, it has moved to the Torah centers of Eretz Yisrael and America.”
Indeed, Acheinu is bringing back all of those who are being lost in the spiritual holocaust. They have come back; they are becoming bnei Torah, leading Torah lives and establishing families. All because of the Shimons and Levis of our time who declare, We cannot abandon our brothers!
By Yosef Sosnow