Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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8 Sivan 5761 - May 30, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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"Askonus, a Holy Venture" Declares Novominsker Rebbe at 79th Agudath Israel Dinner
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Speaking to a capacity crowd in the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton at the 79th Anniversary Dinner of Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe and Rosh Agudath Israel, issued a call to young and older members of the community alike to join and strengthen the "holy work" of Agudath Israel.

Rabbi Perlow opened his address by characterizing Agudath Israel as a knessia lesheim Shomayim, about which the Mishna states, "Sofo lehiskayeim" -- its goals are sure to be realized. The phenomenal success Agudath Israel has enjoyed throughout its many years of existence, said Rabbi Perlow, is a sure sign of its standing as a knessia lesheim Shomayim whose only objectives are to enhance the honor of Hashem in the world, to elevate the word of Torah and to serve the needs of the tzibbur. These objectives can only be accomplished, the Rebbe averred, when every segment of the community comes together as an agudah achas, to do the will of Hashem beleivov sholeim, with a fully dedicated heart.

Rabbi Perlow then extended a special welcome to Agudath Israel's new Young Leadership Division, a group of young askonim who have joined with the "older generation" of Agudah activists in promoting the organization's goals and ideals. Calling askonus a "holy venture for the purpose of elevating kvod Shomayim and keren haTorah," Rabbi Perlow urged kollel yungerleit as well as those who have recently left the kollel to pursue livelihoods, to establish a tzorchei tzibbur partnership with veteran askonim, similar to the biblical partnership of Yissochor and Zevulun. The entire Torah community in America stands to benefit from such a sacred collaboration, the Rebbe declared.

Turning to the perilous situation in Eretz Yisroel, Rabbi Perlow expressed anguish over the eis tzorah in which our Jewish brethren find themselves today. Despite our pain, he avowed, we must extract a chizuk be'emunah from the current state of affairs, recognizing that, as the Novi says in the haftorah on Shabbos Shuva: "Our orphaned generation will not find mercy among the nations." Our deliverance, the Rebbe affirmed, will come only from Hashem, and it is to Him we must constantly turn in prayer. And prayer for Jews in Eretz Yisroel was indeed the first order of the evening, as Rabbi Hillel David led the assemblage in reciting a kapital Tehillim on their behalf.

Alluding to the dedication of Agudath Israel's new Rabbi Moshe Sherer National Headquarters, a much-anticipated feature of the dinner, Rabbi Perlow called on the assembled guests to renew their commitment to carrying on the life's work of the beloved, late Agudah leader. The "spiritual binyan" Rabbi Sherer, zt"l, built for Agudath Israel and Klal Yisroel will remain a siman brochoh and a ner zikoron forever, Rabbi Perlow proclaimed.

Citing a gemara in Shabbos, the Rebbe defined a ben olam haboh as one who, in the words of the novi Yeshayah, will hear "words after" him "saying: this is the path; follow it." Rashi explains that "after" means "after death." The gemora, said Rabbi Perlow, is apt to describe Rabbi Sherer, about whom Agudah staff -- and so many others -- are constantly saying, "This is the path he took; let us follow it." He concerned himself with matters "to the right and left," as the posuk continues, but he always followed the path marked by Reb Aharon Kotler, zt"l, and other gedolei Yisroel.

In congratulating all the evening's honorees, Rabbi Perlow made special mention of the recipient of the Rabbi Moshe Sherer Memorial Award, Rabbi Chaskel Besser. Describing the revered Agudah askon as an "old world" Jew who has a tremendous impact on the contemporary world, Rabbi Perlow expressed the gathering's gratitude for Rabbi Besser's lifelong devotion to the klal and wished him the strength to continue his efforts on its behalf.

The Rebbe closed with a brochoh that the work of the "holy knessia lesheim Shomayim that is known as Agudath Israel" will help bring the Geulah, speedily in our day.

Rabbi Perlow's remarks set the stage for the presentation of the Rabbi Moshe Sherer Memorial Award to Rabbi Besser, whose association with Agudath Israel spans more than half a century. After the war, Rabbi Besser moved from Eretz Yisroel to the United States and became active in Agudath Israel, serving first as the organization's vice president and later as a member of its presidium -- a position he holds to this day. One of Rabbi Sherer's most trusted confidants and cherished friends, Rabbi Besser worked closely with the organization's late president, contributing great spiritual and physical energy to the task of building Agudath Israel into a dynamic national Torah movement. In the early 1950s, he became founding chairman of Agudath Israel's Daf Yomi Commission, which provides a multitude of services aimed at promoting daily Talmud study across the country.

But Rabbi Besser's tireless efforts on behalf of the Jewish community extend well beyond the reaches of Agudath Israel. A leading pioneer in the rescue and preservation of Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe, Rabbi Besser is a member of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad. He also serves as the American president of Bikur Cholim Hospital of Jerusalem, and chairman for Eastern Europe for the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, to name but a few of his many distinguished titles.

Making the presentation to Rabbi Besser was Rabbi Shimshon Sherer, son of the late Agudah leader and a respected rov in Flatbush. Three of the evening's other awards were presented by Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, Agudath Israel's executive vice president, to: Elly Kleinman, who received the HaGaon Rav Aharon Kotler Memorial Award for distinguished service to Torah; Yossi Rakower, who received the Reb Elimelech Tress Award for preservation of the legacy of the Shearis HaPleitoh; and Mendel Zilberberg, who received the Moreinu Yaakov Rosenheim Memorial Award for distinguished service to Agudath Israel.

Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin, Agudath Israel's Vice President for Finance and Administration, presented the organization's respected Avodas Hakodesh Awards to individuals from a variety of communities, in recognition of their efforts and accomplishments. The honorees were Aharon Akselrud, Rabbi Yaakov Hoenig, Dr. Maurice (Moshe) Katz, Joseph Lomner, Abe Newman and Israel Werdyger. Mordechai Biser, ESQ. was presented with the Wolf Friedman Young Leadership Award.

Earlier in the program, the gathering was addressed by the evening's special guest, chairman of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad, the Honorable Michael Lewan. A true friend of the Jewish people and specifically of Agudath Israel, Mr. Lewan has through his many years of distinguished public service played an indispensable role in the protection and preservation of Jewish cemeteries in Europe. In the process, he has been instrumental in impressing on government officials the sanctity of those cemeteries to the Jewish people and their inviolability.

In his remarks, Mr. Lewan recalled his warm personal relationship with Rabbi Sherer and spoke of his deeply cherished association with the man who would later that evening be presented with the award bearing the late Agudah leader's name -- Rabbi Besser. He described Rabbi Besser as the "definition of decency and dignity," the individual "most responsible for the success achieved in the preservation and protection of Jewish cemeteries throughout Eastern Europe," and as a man whose goodness is recognized and whose word is respected by "presidents, princes and popes."

Said dinner chairman, Jordan Most, "It was quite evident from listening to all the wonderful speeches that Agudath Israel of America is involved in every aspect of Jewish life -- in this country and around the world."


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