Pick up an apple seed. Observe it carefully. It's very small
and can easily slip out of your hand if you don't hold it
carefully. Yet despite its very miniature size, the seed has
the ability to grow into a huge apple tree! One little
seedling has the capability of producing so much when it is
put into the ground and properly nurtured.
Torah U'Mesorah's Project SEED has been planting seeds of
Torah in communities across America every summer for the
last twenty-five years. It ran programs in four cities the
first year; last summer more than 300 bnei yeshiva
from 30 yeshivos and kollelim took part in
programs in 60 cities across the US and Canada, including
four in South America. Their mission was to plant a seed of
unadulterated Torah learning for a couple of weeks in the
The outgrowth of these tiny seeds over the years has been
remarkable. Today SEED is considered a major force in
preparing communities to raise the level of Yiddishkeit
permanently in the town with full time yeshivos,
kollelim and mini-kollelim, while
simultaneously preparing bnei Torah to become
rabbonim and mechanchim.
Project SEED was started in 1974 by Rabbi Gavriel Ginsberg --
currently rosh yeshiva of Ner Yisroel in Toronto -- and Mr.
Avi Shulman of Torah U'Mesorah. Their objective was to take
an authentic beis medrash ruach and transplant it to
out-of-town communities during the summer.
A couple of avreichim would head a group that
consisted of 8-12 bochurim for a couple of weeks in
various cities across the US and Canada. The townspeople
learned one-on-one with the bochurim, heard classes
from them, talked to them, and played ball with them. The
wives of the avreichim gave classes to the women.
This gave the communities a chance to taste for themselves
what yeshiva learning is all about.
"Our goal in mind was that these little `seeds' planted
during the summer would infuse the community members with a
greater sense of appreciation for Yiddishkeit in
general, and Torah learning in particular," says Mr.
Shulman, who directed the program for twenty years. "They
would thus be more receptive to furthering their own
commitment to Yiddishkeit and raising the bar in the
community by bringing in a kollel permanently. The
success we've seen over the years from these summer
`seedlings' has gone way beyond any original
Indeed, many kollelim that opened in recent years in
cities such as Boston, Phoenix, and Cincinnati, are a direct
result of SEED programs in those communities. A yeshiva
opened in South Bend, Indiana as an outgrowth of the
successful SEED program that took place there.
Most of the communities that host SEED programs are thereby
exposed for the first time to bona-fide bnei Torah.
Unfortunately, many Jews have a jaundiced view of
bnei Yeshiva. "SEED goes a long way toward dispelling
the myths," says Rabbi Yehoshua Bernstein, who was SEED
Director from 1995-2000. "They see the boys as they are:
nice, good, normal people who are very knowledgeable in
Jewish teachings and who take their religion seriously."
Those "in the field" know that in order to influence people,
showing genuine concern for them is very important. The
communities have the opportunity to observe how Torah
elevates a person's character. A participant from Los
Angeles wrote, "We had a loving example, all day long of
what it's like to be frum and yet normal. I learnt
what a bas Yisroel is supposed to act like. It wasn't
just about knowledge but about a complete Torah
Another participant from Buffalo added, "They were real
mentchen. They always listened to all my questions
and they really cared."
Typical SEED Schedule
The typical SEED schedule varies from city to city,
depending on the situation in that particular town, but most
follow the main outline.
The yeshivaleit learn a regular seder in the
morning amongst themselves, as in yeshiva. Some townspeople
come in on their way to work and during their lunch break to
take in the atmosphere and join in the milchamta shel
Torah. Some bochurim go to offices in the city
and give a class during the lunch hour. (This idea, called
"Lunch and Learn," is very popular across the country
throughout the year as well.)
The afternoons are spent in relaxation: going swimming,
taking trips in the area and playing ball. A couple of
afternoons are reserved for a barbecue with the community in
a local park and a baseball game in which the townspeople
play against the "scholars." "It's amazing how much these
types of informal gatherings go in creating a real bond
between everyone!" says Rabbi Bernstein.
The bnei yeshiva also run children's programs with
stories and games to entertain the youngsters while exposing
them to a Torah lifestyle. Indeed, many boys and girls from
these communities go to yeshivos and Bais Yaakov's because
of such summer experiences.
At night, the bochurim learn with the townsfolk. Most
learn one-on-one with a person, while others learn with a
larger group. They learn what they have learnt that morning
in-depth, giving the balabatim an taste of authentic
Torah learning. The seder usually lasts between one
and two hours. Some nights a shiur is given on
halacha and aggada by someone in the group or by a guest
Shabbos is a special time for interaction and inspiration,
for people are off and want to experience the uniqueness of
Shabbos. The bnei yeshiva make their own seudos
to which they invite families from the town. The
spirited zemiros and the thought-provoking
discussions brought about by these seudos leave an
indelible impression on the attendees. A festive melave
malka caps off the Shabbos atmosphere.
Developing New Leaders
The "seeds" aren't only planted in the communities; they are
planted in the bochurim and yungerleit
themselves to help them plant their own "trees of
"When we started SEED we only focused on how SEED would
benefit the community. We didn't anticipate, though, the
enormously positive effect the program would have on the
bochurim and avreichim who participated," said
Mr. Shulman. "They come home with an enthusiasm and an
awareness of what really goes on in an out-of-town
community. They have met dedicated Jews who were willing to
grow and learn Torah when they were provided with the
opportunity. They have encountered people who remain loyal
to Yiddishkeit and Torah beliefs in spite of enormous
difficulties and lack of resources that are taken for
granted in large communities such as thriving shuls,
schools and kosher food stores.
"They also come to recognize the opportunity these
communities offer for their own personal growth. They see
how a person can literally impact an entire community. This
awareness inspires them to look deeper into themselves and
see how much they can accomplish in life, more than they
originally expected. Many of those who went on SEED
eventually went into chinuch and rabbonus as a direct
result of their SEED experiences."
"With SEED you're not just teaching. You're also learning,"
said a SEED leader from Richmond,VA.
Rabbi Avigdor Slatus was an avreich in Mirrer
Yeshiva, Brooklyn, when he headed a SEED program to Panama
City, Panama 25 years ago. That summer experience inspired
him to change his plans of eventually going into his family
business. He became a rov in a synagogue in Savannah,
Georgia, where he has been instrumental in raising the
standard of Yiddishkeit in the community. He brings
in a SEED program into Savannah many summers to help him in
his avodas hakodesh in the community.
SEED Itself Branches Out
The SEED program itself has blossomed into its own large
tree. What started as a summer program has now grown into
full-fledged programs of year-round activities such as
sister-cities programs, which pairs established Jewish
communities with developing ones. Professional SEED utilizes
the talents of yeshiva graduates who have pursued careers in
business and other professions, who volunteer to visit SEED
communities for Torah study and interaction.
Rabbi Yisroel Einhorn, the current SEED director, is busy
now putting the finishing touches on this year's programs.
"We hope to plant as many `seeds' this year as we planted
last year, if not more," he says.