There was electricity in the air last Thursday night when
eight men exited the meeting room in Lev L'Achim's Netanya
headquarters. They had just received their marching orders,
and they were still trying to come to terms with them. One
man smiled and shook his head in disbelief. Another grumbled,
"Impossible, it can't be done," under his breath, and a third
resignedly fired up his cell phone and began to round up his
I've watched this scene replay itself every year around this
time. The eight men, Lev L'Achim regional supervisors, are
called into the office of the organization's international
director, Rabbi Eliezer Sorotzkin, and are told how many non-
religious children they will have to register into Torah
schools in each section of Eretz Yisroel. And every year,
their initial reaction is the same: incredulity bordering on
Yet seven months later, there they are, all smiles and
flushed faces at the organization's traditional end-of-
enrollment-season celebration dinner, with their quotas met
and 9,000 additional Yiddishe children learning in Torah
schools all over the country.
But victory doesn't come easy.
Rabbi Tuvia Levenstein is supervisor of Lev L'Achim
activities in the south of Eretz Yisroel, from Beit Shemesh
"I'm sitting here thinking, `Ribono shel Olam, how do
I start?'" says Rabbi Levenstein. "Where are we going to get
so many kids from? We have already dug and scratched
everywhere. In the past four years we registered some 28,000
non- religious children into Torah schools. Sometimes I
wonder, `Are there any more out there?'"
I smile at Rabbi Levenstein, but recall that he said roughly
the same thing last year. Yet he managed to register 1,800
children into Torah schools by the end of the summer.
"You know what it is?" Rabbi Levenstein continues, sounding
more positive than when I first stepped into his office,
"It's the Israeli Education Ministry. It is doing most of the
work for us. The non-religious public schools are such a
disaster that we don't have to even explain the problem to
non-religious parents. You start talking about school
violence in non-religious schools and they cut you off and
tell you horror stories that happened to their own children
that make your hair stand on end.
"The main thing we do is show non-religious parents that
there is a better alternative," he says. "It never crosses
their minds that they could register their child into a Torah
school. They just don't think of religious schools as 'meant
for them.' Our job is to convince them that Torah schools
will actually provide their child with a better all-around
education and make a mentsch out of their child.
"When my registration workers hear my voice on the phone at
the end of January," Rabbi Levenstein says, "they know what I
am going to ask of them: to drop out of life for the next few
months and devote their every waking hour to one goal, and
one goal only -- registering non-religious children into
Torah schools. No more family life, no more evenings at home,
no more peace of mind. Until September 1st, when the new
school year starts, it's go, go, go for them the whole
"So it sounds like you are pretty positive about meeting your
quota this year," I comment to Rabbi Levenstein.
"Two thousand children," he muses. "Ten percent more than my
people registered last year. It's going to be really crazy
around here for the next few months. Yes, I guess I am
positive. It's just that as soon as I start thinking of how
much work is involved, I feel my knees buckling."
Rabbi Levenstein starts ticking off some of the items on his
to-do list. Getting Eilat in motion is near the top of his
This desert town is one of Lev L'Achim's success stories. The
organization sent registration workers there four years ago
on what can only be described as a search-and-create mission.
They literally went house-to- house. Everyone except Rabbi
Sorotzkin and Rabbi Levenstein thought the plan was doomed to
But it didn't. As increasing numbers of children were
registered in Eilat, the local religious school grew,
necessitating the hiring of additional staff members who
moved to Eilat from their homes in Yerushalayim and Bnei
Brak. A fledgling religious community was formed, which in
turn helped accelerate the registration drive. Today there
are over 30 yeshiva families living in Eilat, as well as a
kollel, and the school is bursting at the seams.
In Lev L'Achim's first year in Eilat, 20 children were
registered in the local Torah school. In the second year, 60;
in the third, 100; today, there are close to 300. "And this
year, Rabbi Sorotzkin wants the number to reach 500," says
Rabbi Levenstein, a little nervousness creeping back into his
And Eilat is just one city. There are 12 more under Rabbi
In addition, Rabbi Levenstein is just one regional
supervisor. There are 6 more in Lev L'Achim: Rabbi Moshe
Zeivald, in charge of the north; Rabbi Avraham Saada, in
charge of the Sharon (greater Netanya region); Rabbi Ephraim
Paktor, in charge of Gush Dan (metropolitan Tel Aviv area);
Rabbi Shmuel Yashar, in charge of the Rechovot area; and
Rabbi Betzalel Spiegel, in charge of Yerushalayim.
"How will we do it?" Rabbi Levenstein says. "The answer is
that there is no logical explanation; there is no way to
understand this phenomenon. We see clearly how the Ribono
shel Olam is running the show. When Lev L'Achim embarked
on its first registration drive four years ago, no one
believed 5,000 children was attainable. Yet we did it. It's
Hakodosh Boruch Hu pulling the strings. He wants His
children back. And they are going to come back. We are merely
* * *
Having said this, Rabbi Levenstein looked at his watch and
said, "Quick, the meeting is about to start!" I hustled after
him into his car and we sped off to what he described as "the
grand registration campaign opening ceremony," but which
turned out to be a high- energy pep talk for the hundreds of
Lev L'Achim registration workers who will be participating in
this year's campaign.
Rabbi Eliezer Sorotzkin opened the proceedings with a high-
energy speech. "We have come together here for one cause
which unites us all, a cause that the gedolei Yisroel
have declared as the single most important cause for the
Torah community: to bring Yiddishe kinder tachas kanfei
haShechina. Boruch Hashem, we are all one chabura.
All of us are united together today to fulfill the words
of the gedolim."
Rabbi Sorotzkin demanded results from every single enrollment
worker: "There can be no excuses. You cannot come to me on
the opening day of school in September and say, `I didn't
fulfill my quota because I didn't receive enough names.' No
excuses! If you see that you are not getting enough names
from headquarters, use a different system. You have to assume
personal responsibility for the job, as if you were running
your own private business. If you weren't getting enough
clients, you'd advertise, you'd cold-call, you'd turn the
world upside down to increase business."
Rabbi Sorotzkin unveiled several new "marketing tools"
developed by Lev L'Achim for the 2002 registration campaign,
including-mini CDs containing a video targeted at potential
parents; information kits to be distributed to 50,000 members
of Israel's Torah community, who will then distribute the
cards and pamphlets to non-religious people with whom they
come into contact in the course of their day; and oversized
business cards for distribution in mail boxes.
Rabbi Sorotzkin also warned the enrollment workers about
mounting secular opposition to Lev L'Achim's school
registration program, citing a series of articles in
Ha'aretz that disclosed the impact the organization's
drives have had on the religious school system, and the
damage it has had on secular schools.
"This is why we will not advertise in the main radio and
newspapers," Rabbi Sorotzkin said. "If we would do so, we
would instigate even more opposition, and we certainly do not
need more of that. We need to keep working quietly, just
under the level of public outcry."
Rabbi Uri Zohar, whose radio talk show on chinuch has
played an integral role in the registration program's
success, said that today people are more open than ever to
religion. They don't need to be convinced anymore, Rabbi
Zohar said, you just have to contact them and show them that
there is an alternative. "The change happens right away," he
said. "As soon as the child starts learning Torah, the whole
family begins to change."
Rabbi Zohar urged the enrollment workers to say a short
tefilloh before every phone call and every home visit.
"We are doing work that is completely from Hashem
yisborach. It's the greatest spiritual revolution in
Klal Yisroel. In 3,400 years of Jewish history, never
has such a thing happened. Never have 28,000 Jewish children
been brought back to a Torah way of life in such a short
"Remember what we are doing here!" Rabbi Zohar demanded.
"Remember what we are doing here!"