A delegation led by Philadelphia Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Shmuel
Kamenetsky toured through Eretz Yisroel during the past
summer and had a firsthand glimpse at some of the numerous
activities being coordinated by P'eylim/Lev L'Achim. Their
tour and series of briefings began the moment they entered
the vehicle that was to transport them to Lev L'Achim centers
throughout the country. This report gives us a chance to
summarize and update some of the achievements that we have
reported on throughout the past year.
Inside Look at Teens at Risk
The delegation left Yerushalayim for Bnei Brak at 7:30 A.M.
During the hour-long car ride its members, including Rabbi
Yaakov Reisman, rav of Agudas Yisroel of Far
Rockaway/Lawrence, and Rav Elya Kanarek, rosh yeshivas
Ohr Hameir of Peekskill New York, heard an in-depth
report on the teenage dropout situation in Eretz Yisroel.
Rabbi Avrohom Zeiwald, a senior member of Lev L'Achim's
hanholo, outlined the Lev Shomea program, which
contends with this problem on a national scale.
A fascinating discussion ensued between the distinguished
passengers of the van about whether the teenage dropout
problem, which unfortunately is becoming a growing problem in
both Israel and the United States, stems from a common cause
in the two communities.
Lev L'Achim representatives opined that the disparate
cultural milieu of the Israeli and American Torah communities
rules out a comparison between the dropout tendencies of the
two countries. One example cited to support this view is the
vast difference in the standards of living prevalent in both
countries; the potential pitfalls of material wealth that
American teenagers must contend with daily are virtually
unknown in Israel. The American rabbonim countered this
argument by listing the numerous external threats spearheaded
by anti-religious parties against which the Israeli Torah
community must struggle and which are virtually unknown in
"The whole world is a single entity," HaRav Kamenetsky
explained, "and the dangers are the same everywhere."
Rabbi Reisman cited an oft-quoted statement ascribed to the
Skverer Rebbe in support of this idea: "The yetzer hora,"
said the Skverer Rebbe, "does not need a passport to get
around. It knows no borders."
Rabbi Tzvi Greenbaum, director of Lev Shomea, Lev L'Achim's
dropout prevention division, presented an even more in-depth
report on this crucial issue. The American rabbonim listened
with great interest to Rabbi Greenbaum's description of
Hillel, an anti-religious organization run by apikorsim
dedicated to luring religious youths away from the path
of Torah. Its volunteers stalk the main religious centers in
search of religious runaways, offering them free room and
board on non-religious kibbutzim. Members of Lev Shomea work
day and night to frustrate this organization's wicked
"Zeh leumas zeh," said HaRav Kamenetsky of Hillel. "It
should come as no surprise, in this imperfect world of ours,
all good is counterweighted by a commensurate measure of
To underscore the difficulty of the task entrusted to Lev
Shomea, Rabbi Greenbaum related a dialogue that recently took
place between himself and HaRav Nissim Karelitz. Rabbi
Greenbaum went to ask the noted Bnei Brak poseik for
guidance regarding a particularly delicate problem involving
a certain bochur.
HaRav Karelitz responded, "But surely you've encountered this
"Actually," Rabbi Greenbaum answered, "we have not, we do not
have a mesora in this sugya."
HaRav Karelitz retorted, "Your experience is my
Rabbi Greenbaum cited some shocking statistics to illustrate
the scope of the dropout problem in Israel: 1,000 calls
received on his division's crisis hotline; 16 employees and
150 volunteers. But there are also many positive signs
indicating that the Torah community is responding to the
growing problem: last week over 100 mashgichim from
the best yeshivos in Israel attended a yom iyun on
this topic organized by Lev Shomea.
In Bnei Brak the delegation visited Lev L'Achim's hostel for
battered women, which provides emergency assistance for
Jewish women who intermarried with Arabs and subsequently
suffered the physical and emotional abuse that is so
prevalent in those situations. Rabbi Ze'ev Shtiglitz, head of
Lev L'Achim's Intermarriage Prevention Program, outlined some
of his division's responsibilities.
They include: raising public awareness of this problem
through lectures, media releases and publication of brochures
and handbooks; sponsoring an emergency intake hotline for
battered women; counselling family members; launching
clandestine missions to rescue Jewish women and children
trapped in Arab villages; providing emergency housing, food,
transportation, clothing, school supplies and other
necessities for victims of domestic violence and their
children; and providing women and children with psychological
treatment and counselling to help them reintegrate into
mainstream society and make a fresh start. In time many of
these women, who generally have no inkling of the basics of
what it means to be a Jew, become fully observant.
The hostel is run as a chessed and hatzolah
institution, and no religious indoctrination, as it were,
is forced upon these unfortunate women. Yet, after witnessing
the mesiras nefesh of the Lev L'Achim staff, they
generally embrace their heritage as if discovering a long
lost treasure. Rabbi Shtiglitz related to the visibly shocked
American rabbonim, that two years ago Lev L'Achim officials
asked HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv whether the organization
should continue shouldering the heavy financial burden of
maintaining the emergency hostel, which amounts to $500,000
yearly. HaRav Eliashiv's answer: Absolutely, even if not one
of the women will become observant.
New Schools, New Battlegrounds
From Bnei Brak the delegation headed to Tzoran and Kadima,
where it visited a day camp for the students of the local
Torah school established last year, which has been under
constant attack by leftist parties ever since its opening
last September. In 1998 the new, beleaguered school had 20
students; this coming September it will have 70!
Members of the delegation were visibly stirred by the sight
of so many children from obviously non-religious backgrounds,
gathered together under one roof for the purpose of learning
"It's one thing to read about Tzoran and the tenacity of the
children and their parents in the face of so much adversity,"
said Rav Reisman, "but to actually see these children
flourishing in their Torah studies is quite another."
HaRav Kamenetsky, in response to the teachers' request, said
some warm divrei brocho to the children. "May you,"
said a visibly moved HaRav Kamenetsky to the children,
"become the spiritual leaders and teachers of the next
generation." The children responded with a resounding
On the way out of the building HaRav Kamenetsky said to Rabbi
Eliezer Sorotzkin, Director General of Lev L'Achim: "I mamesh
can't believe what is going on over here. We are witnessing
New Chadera Torah Center
From Tzoran the delegation headed to Chadera, where Lev
L'Achim recently celebrated the chanukas habayis of a
new home for the highly successful regional branch located in
that city. Rabbi Yaakov Burshtein, director of Lev L'Achim of
Chadera, told the rabbonim of how Maran HaRav Shach urged him
twenty years ago -- a yungerman from Yerushalayim --
to move to Chadera and spread Yiddishkeit.
In those days the city lacked even the most basic necessities
of a Jewish life, such as mikvo'os and Torah schools.
Nevertheless Rabbi Burshtein disseminated the message of
Torah among thousands of local residents through sheer
persistence and siyata diShmaya.
Over the years, as ever-increasing numbers of individuals
became fully observant in Chadera, a semblance of religious
communal life gradually formed. Today Chadera's sizable
religious community comprises a large portion of the city's
population. The Lev L'Achim branch offers a wide range of
projects: outreach activities, intensive Torah education
programs attended by more than 800 participants per week,
counselling and guidance services for the newly-observant,
and the enrollment of children in religious schools. The
facility is located in downtown Chadera. It also serves as a
regional headquarters for kiruv activities in the
neighboring communities of Givat Olga, Sdot Yam, Gan Shmuel,
and Talmei Elazar.
A Beis Medrash in Afula
One of the most poignant developments of the nationwide
enrollment drive of 1998 was the initiation of a Torah school
in Afula. During the first decades of settlement and
migration in the State of Israel, the forces of the Left --
Ma'arach, Shomer Hatzair and the Kibbutz movement --
exercised complete control in this region. A dejected Rav
Kirshtein, a pioneering rov who valiantly tried to rekindle
the spark of Yiddishkeit, lamented over the plight of this
section of Eretz Yisroel to the Ponevezher Rav zt'l.
The Rav responded with an unforgettable prediction;
"There will come the day when Torah will flourish in Afula
and there will be a beis medrash in Ein Charod (the
notoriously secular kibbutz located nearby)".
Rabbi David Malka, menahel of the new Afula Torah
School, greeted the delegation. He was joined by Rabbi
Menachem Gold, an American yungerman who has
coordinated with Lev L'Achim an entire host of programs
geared at bringing the beauty of Torah life to this city on
the slope of Givat Hamoreh. They have a lot to accomplish in
the months and years to come but in Ein Charod there is now a
minyan for tefilla daily; a once impossible
dream has come true.
The building which houses the Torah school, was formerly a
Shomer Hatzair club. Here, in years gone by, after being
coaxed by a kibbutz loudspeaker truck to attend Shabbos
afternoon gatherings, the children of Afula were once
indoctrinated with the empty ideology of the Left.
"Our biggest problem in Afula", said Rav Sorotzkin to the
delegation, "is the fact that there are no kollel
families living in this area who can act as the ready
volunteers in the follow-up work that is necessary to help
the people of Afula on their path to teshuvah. The few
professionals we have here are the sole link to authentic
Yiddishkeit for hundreds of families."
Enrollment Drive 1999
Perhaps the best example of the amazing effect Lev L'Achim is
having on the people of Eretz Yisroel, is the story of the
new Torah school opened by Rabbis Tanami and Melamed in
Rechasim, on the outskirts of the Girls Town campus. In the
early days of the 1998 drive, shortly after Maran HaRav
Steinman issued the historic call for 5000 children to be
registered in Torah schools, Rav Yehuda Melamed approached
Lev L'Achim with a remarkable offer. "You fellows concentrate
on registering as many kids as you can in this area, and I'll
make a school especially for them."
The process of campaigning nationwide for people to register
their children in Torah schools is a delicate balancing act.
On the one hand, every effort must be made to reach every
possible child. On the other hand, it is no use enrolling a
child if there is no school that can accommodate him. Even
where a school exists, it may be overcrowded or simply unable
to handle an influx of students from non-religious homes in
such massive proportions. Thus, Rabbi Melamed's offer was
greeted with great joy.
In an amazing feat of rapid construction, the new three-story
Rechasim Torah school -- replete with a computer room and all
the amenities of a modern school -- was built from foundation
to finishing touches in less than six months. On the first
day of school in September, Lev L'Achim personnel wept
unabashedly as Rav Melamed led his 150 new pupils in reciting
Krias Shema prior to entering the building. At this
time, registration for 1999-2000 already stands at 300 and is
growing daily! In the surrounding Krayot region, six new
ganim have been opened which will feed the new
Rechasim School on a steady basis in the years to come.
As parents entered to make final arrangements for their
children's registration the delegation of American rabbonim
looked on in amazement. HaRav Kamenetsky spoke with parents
who, although not yet observant themselves, had decided to
take this first step for their children. "We saw for
ourselves just who is being registered," the Rosh Hayeshiva
later wrote in a letter to his talmidim. "We saw who
is bringing these people in and we realized that it is here
that the potential lies to transform Eretz Yisroel!"
The visit of the rabbonim coincided with the annual tour of
American yeshiva representatives. Each summer during bein
hazmanim, a bus load of bochurim from the many
yeshivos who go out on Purim and other times in America to
raise funds for P'eylim/Lev L'Achim, spend a few days seeing
firsthand just what it is that their roshei yeshiva
have been urging them to help. HaRav Kamenetsky addressed
the bochurim under the shade of a magnificent tree on
the Rechasim campus. His words were heard against a backdrop
of miraculous achievement, which instilled a renewed sense of
commitment in the entire group.