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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘kiruv’

Southern Hospitality

Friday, August 17th, 2012

One of the most popular tourist destinations in the American South, Savannah, Georgia is a world of exciting history and activity. Rich with landmarks from over 275 years, the city boasts unique architecture, Civil War commemorative tours, and a long list of beautiful squares and parks. In addition, Savannah’s Tybee Island provides a beach atmosphere for those who want to relax on and off-shore. Interestingly, Savannah also hosts a small but thriving Jewish community. The Savannah Jewish Federation offers family services and community resources, and there are a number of places to find kosher food. The city has three shuls: one for Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform congregations, respectively. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak with Rabbi Avigdor and Rebbetzin Rochel Slatus of the Bnai Brith Jacob Synagogue.

KG: How did you come to Savannah?

Rabbi Slatus: I was in the Mirrer Yeshiva, and I had a friend who was pursuing the rabbi position in Savannah at the time. He went down and recognized a great void in the community there. He wanted to introduce a kollel and asked me to submit a resume for the position of rosh kollel. I wasn’t really interested, but I sent in the resume anyway. In the end, my friend who originally looked into the position couldn’t fulfill the requirements needed, and because they had my resume, they ended up calling me. We weren’t looking to leave New York at the time. My wife had a job teaching in Prospect Park Yeshiva, but we thought we’d go down and see. We were very impressed with sincerity and genuine desire for spiritual growth in the community. Maybe it was bashert. There were other candidates, but we were eventually offered the position. We originally thought it’d be for a short time, maybe a couple of years, but we’ve been here for 31 years now.

How big was the community when you first arrived, and how has it changed since then?

The community started out with about 70 people in shul on Shabbos (men and women) and the day school had 29 children. There was not a lot of Torah education. They had had rabbis before, but it was at a point where nobody was there. We did our best, and started giving classes to try to give the people a flavor of the beauty and insights of Torah. We both give classes on many topics. Now the day school has somewhere between 120 and 140 children, and about 200 people in shul on Shabbos, with a minyan every day. We have our own camps and activities on Shabbos, including outreach and youth programs, covering all levels.

How does each of you see your role in the community?

Rabbi Slatus: Primarily as educators. We are trying to bridge the gap of lack of education and appreciation by tearing down the walls that divide people from their magnificent heritage. If we can reach them with warmth and friendship, we can penetrate the barriers that the human mind creates. We obviously must take care of our routine responsibilities, but try to break down the walls and present the beautiful way the Torah is supposed to be presented. Never underestimate the greatness of the Jewish soul. A person may not be able to read Hebrew, but can be touched just by hearing the words.

Rebbetzin Slatus: There are many aspects to the rebbetzin’s role. Making a Kiddush Hashem in how the rebbetzin conducts herself, speaks, how her family behaves and interacts; it’s all a reflection on yiddishkeit to the congregation, and it should be as positive as possible.

What have been your major accomplishments for the Savannah community?

Rabbi Slatus: We started a full time kollel 18 years ago. It was put together to satisfy the needs of the community. We have such wonderful people here, and the men learn every night. I enjoy the fact that people are learning on this level, and can also reach out and inspire others.

Rebbetzin Slatus: I helped build an assisted living facility for elderly people who still wanted to keep kosher and Shabbos. It was so convenient for people because it is glatt kosher and right next to shul. After the facility was built, a group of doctors happened to hear one of my classes on the topic of mipnei sayvah takum and they wanted me to help with a kosher retirement community. Nobody else really wanted to do it, so I took it on single-handedly. I also give my classes there and transliterate the prayers for the residents. There are people who knew nothing about Judaism their whole lives and are now keeping kosher for the first time.

The Alternate World Of Jewish Education

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

A major sociological characteristic and consequence of modernity is the tendency for people to join together in associations that express a common goal or interest or a shared experience. The United States has been a nation of joiners from day one and perhaps even before independence was declared. Alexis de Tocqueville described this tendency in Democracy in America, the epic prophetic work published a century and three-quarters ago.

The impulse to join is dynamic, meaning that the instinct feeds on itself, so that the number of organizations continues to grow. This instinct is further fed by the extraordinary complexity of our society and the expanded involvement by government into nearly all aspects of contemporary life. More government means more organizations that attempt to influence what governments do. By now, we have hundreds of thousands of organizations, nearly all of them identified as nonprofit, a description that doubtlessly defines their status under the tax code but often does not appropriately describe how these entities function, as in many instances well-paid officials with matching benefits and expense accounts go about their self-important work.

We Jews have known for a long while that what happens outside of our four cubits in the societies where we dwell powerfully affects how we conduct our lives, the upshot being that we are no slouches at organization building. To the contrary, we seem to outdo everyone else, so that there may be more Jewish organizations in the U.S. than there are for any combination of several or more other major ethnic groups.

Years ago I posited that while there are fewer Jews on American soil when the sun goes down each day than there were when the sun rose, each day when the sun sets there are more Jewish organizations than there were when the day began.

The situation hasn’t improved, although it is my impression that the severe recession we have experienced since 2008 has put a damper on organization building. In fact, some nonprofits have closed their doors. Even so, it’s a good bet that the long list of American Jewish organizations includes more than a few nonprofits that have come into being during the past half-decade.

Many of our organizations focus on chesed activities, helping the poor or those who are otherwise needy. They rely mainly or entirely on voluntary work and they deserve our gratitude and support. These organizations are in sharp contrast to the mountain of organizations with high-salaried executives who have a remarkable penchant for travel, conferencing and sundry activities that invariably take place in luxurious settings and do not strike me as being invested with much altruism. They are, for sure, invested with strong doses of public relations.

I shall continue to speak out against this phenomenon as long as God grants me the ability to do so, although I recognize that the winds continue to blow strongly in the other direction and that our chosen people will continue to choose to create additional organizations. They are our false gods.

* * * * *

There are, inevitably, organizations whose mission involves Jewish education. Whatever we may think of their particular orientation, as, for example, whether they promote a diluted brand of what they generously refer to as Jewish education, a case can be made that they are functional. They have work to do, a role to play in curriculum development and the training and recruitment of faculty, as well as much else that directly relates to what occurs inside schools and classrooms.

Just the same, all organizations tend to have a life of their own and even with a legitimate sense of mission there are always the seeds of self-promotion and self-aggrandizement. As time goes on, often the primary mission of a group is relegated to the background. Keeping the organization in business, including marketing and fundraising, becomes the activity that receives the greatest attention and a large share of the available resources. This is a slow process that may reach maturity before the organization or people associated with it recognize what has happened. By then it is too late.

From my observation point, the Jewish day school world long avoided this tendency, perhaps because day schools have not been much favored in our community and funding was scarcely available for schools and certainly not for organizational activities. There were just a handful of Jewish educational organizations, apart from the boards of education attached to local Federations, and the organizations that existed had plenty on their plate as they attempted to assist the schools with which they were associated. This was evident in the important work of the National Society of Hebrew Day Schools – Torah Umesorah, by far the largest day school organization.

Hashgachah Pratis – Guidance From Above

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Lashon hakodesh, the holy tongue, is different from all other languages. Every word is definitive.

For example, when you say in English “it happened,” the connotation is a random happening, but the same word in lashon hakodesh, “mikreh,” places a totally different twist on the concept. The deeper meaning behind the word mikreh is “kara mei Hashem,” it happened from G-d,” meaning the world is not run by random forces but that G-d’s guiding Hand is constantly with us. This is not only detected in world events but in our own personal lives as well.

Even if we do not see Hashem’s Hand, it is there. Every morning when we thank the Almighty for His many bounties, we recite the berachah “We thank the Almighty who firms men’s footsteps…” We need only allow ourselves to see and hear G-d’s messages.

Most people have difficulty discerning His call since His messages are usually hidden behind many veils. On occasion however, hashgachah pratis – Divine providence – is so clear and obvious that even a blind man has to see it, a deaf man has to hear it.

I’ll share with you a spectacular story that illustrates hashgachah pratis.

Meet 8-year-old Yedidya, a bright, sweet yeshiva boy. He carries his name proudly – Yedid-Ya, which literally translated means “friend of the Almighty.” From the day of his birth his parents imbued him with the awesome responsibility of that title, but in certain situations he prefers that his English name, Jed, be used, and such was the case when he made his first visit to the orthodontist. He was with his beautiful mom, Shannon, and, as in all doctors’ offices, a form had to be filled out.

As Shannon started to write, Yedidya whispered, “Mommy, write down my English name, Jed.” When Shannon questioned him, he explained that he wanted to avoid all the fuss his Jewish name evoked. Following the session with the orthodontist, Shannon hailed a cab for their return home. As they settled in the taxi, Shannon looked at the little box that indicated the driver’s name. What she saw there left her nonplussed.

She looked again; perhaps she read it wrong. Was she making a mistake? No – amazingly, there it was in big, bold letters: Yedidya.

“How did you get the name Yedidya?” she asked the driver.

“My parents gave it to me,” he explained. “I always loved it and I was always so proud of it, but in Russia we were not permitted to use our Jewish names, so when I came to America, I made myself a promise that in this country, where everyone can live by his faith, I would proudly proclaim that my name is Yedidya and that I am a Jew.”

Shannon couldn’t believe her ears. What were the chances of finding a Jewish taxi driver in Manhattan named Yedidya? Shannon was awed as she absorbed this enormous hashgachah pratis. More importantly, her son, who just an hour before had been uncomfortable with the name Yedidya, was given a lesson that no school, parent or rabbi could have given. From that moment on, he never again wanted to be called Jed.

Some might attribute this encounter to random events that no intelligent person could seriously consider as being foreordained. I invite such skeptics to read chapter two of the story.

Yedidya has a twin brother, Yaakov, and the day after the story with Yedidya unfolded, Shannon once again found herself hailing a taxi. Even as she did so, the story with Yedidya kept replaying in her mind. As she settled into the cab, she once again looked at the little box identifying the cabby, never expecting any message, any new wisdom from Heaven. Incidents like this cannot be repeated, but lo and behold the little box identifying the taxi driver once again blew her away. There it was in bold letters – the name of the driver was Yaakov – not Jacob but Yaakov – the name of Yedidya’s twin brother!

These incidents of hashgachah pratis, occurring twice, one right after the other, cannot simply be dismissed, even by the most cynical.

I now invite you to read chapter three.

Should you wonder how Shannon and her amazing husband, Andrew, were zocheh to merit such an awesome experience, it goes back to another taxi ride, one that happened some years ago in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

The story starts with Shannon who, when she came to Hineni for the very first time, discovered the majestic world of Torah and asked to study more. Her thirst for Torah was unquenchable, so I put her in touch with my children who are the Hineni rabbis and rebbetzins – Torah teachers.

Then one day Andrew, a young man with a winning smile and keen bright mind, came along for his first Hineni experience. Something told me Andrew and Shannon would make a perfect shidduch so I suggested they date. On their dates Shannon inspired Andrew to join her in Torah study with our family.

Place Of Honor

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

I have a girlfriend I’ll call Esti who works for a kiruv organization. During the summer semester, this organization offered an experiential history program. They taught a subject for a week, and then the next week toured the places they discussed in order to experience history firsthand. If they studied the First Temple era, for example, they would then visit the City of David.

My friend chose to join the students on the tour that focused on the kabbalists in 16th century Tzfat. There, they visited the synagogue of Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the Beit Yosef – later abridged to become the Shulchan Aruch.

“The holiness there was so powerful,” said Esti. “It was a very emotional experience.”

While the guide started his talk in the synagogue, Esti stood outside speaking with a student. When she entered, she took a seat on an empty bench in the back.

“What’s your name?” asked the tour guide.

She thought he was addressing someone else, so she did not answer.

“No, no, I want your name,” he said.

“Esti.”

“Okay, now everyone look where Esti’s sitting,” he said, pointing at the bench in the back of the room. “This is a very special bench. Whoever sits on that bench is blessed with a boy within the year.”

It was the 25th of Av.

At that time, Esti was 43. She had her last child five years earlier, and had already started giving away baby clothes. Exactly a year later, on the 25th of Av, the family celebrated the Bar Mitzvah of one of her sons. They also celebrated the Shalom Zachar of her new baby boy and the naming of his twin sister.

“No one told me it was a two-for-one special,” said Esti.

The pregnancy was high risk and she had to be on bed rest. At one point, she was in serious danger of losing the babies. The doctor was incredulous when her condition stabilized. He went to check with the ultrasound technician to be sure.

The secular doctor asked, “Did you pray at a tzaddik’s grave?”

Well, not exactly. But I guess it was the next best thing.

The synagogue of the tzaddik, Rabbi Yosef Caro, is located in the old city of Tzfat.

Be sure to take a back seat!

Torah Live’s Mezuzah Presentation – A New Approach To An Ancient Mitzvah

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Nowadays, Jewish parents and educators must ask themselves how they can present Torah and mitzvot in a way that speaks to this generation. To many youth today, Judaism’s rich heritage seems outdated, irrelevant and boring.

Together with a team of talented graphic designers and programmers, Torah Live – a unique, multimedia educational organization – has set out to translate the Torah into today’s language. Torah Live’s most recent DVD, “Mezuzah: The Ultimate Connector,” has proved that what may have seemed like an obsolete and uninteresting mitzvah is really an essential tool for teaching the most profound messages of Judaism.

Torah Live's Rabbi Dan Roth presenting to Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu’s conference in Munich.

“The mitzvah of mezuzah affects us every time we walk through the door,” Rabbi Dan Roth, founder and director of Torah Live, said. “It is one of the most powerful reminders we have of our purpose in this world.” This 90 minute interactive state-of-the-art presentation has adults and students from across the Jewish world on the edge of their seats from beginning to end.

“Today, people are used to absorbing information in a whole new way,” Rabbi Roth explained. “Technology has changed the way people learn. We need to teach Torah in today’s language so that people can relate to it and show them that it’s of immediate benefit to their lives.” Following in the words of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Torah Live’s goal is to show that “authentic Judaism . . . does not belong to an antiquated past but to a living, pulsating present…”

Using cutting-edge special effects, coupled with humor and passion, “Mezuzah: The Ultimate Connector” is a comprehensive look at the laws of mezuzah presented through 3-D diagrams, fast-paced videos, and entertaining stories. The presentation begins by discussing the reasons for the mitzvah and then goes all the way from the Biblical source to practical applications, such as how to write a mezuzah, who to buy from, where to place it, and what types of doors are obligated. During the course of the presentation, students travel on the Torah Live “jumbo jet” to a castle in Scotland and to a Jerusalem neighborhood to work out challenging mezuzahquestions using real-life simulations. In addition to the basic version, a pro version for educators is also available, complete with lesson plans, speaker notes, source sheets, a 3-D interactive wall with dozens of real life scenarios, and two versions of the presentation.

“Sukkot: The Ultimate Shelter” DVD includes a step-by-step guide to the laws of the arba minim.

“The commentaries explain that the mezuzah is meant to remind us that the only thing eternal is G-d,” Rabbi Roth explains. “Imagine if every time we walked past the doorway we took a moment to ask ourselves where we are going and what we are hoping to accomplish there? Our lives would look completely different. When a person thinks about what life is all about he’s jolted back into place.”

“[Torah Live’s] productions are professionally done and present complex halachic issues in a beautiful way,” Rabbi Yisroel Reisman of Flatbush said. “They leave people with clear halachic rulings in a manner which is easy-to-remember.” Commenting on a mezuzah presentation in his shul, he added that “the biggest complaint people had was that it wasn’t long enough.”

To date, Torah Live has presented over 180 lectures in 50 cities worldwide to the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy – day schools, yeshivas, corporate workplaces, youth groups, kiruv organizations, and educational conferences, including two Torah U’Mesorah Conventions – in what attendants describe as an interactive, entertaining, and lively way. The organization has also begun licensing its materials to yeshivas, schools, and kiruv organizations in the U.S., England, South Africa, and Israel, allowing educators with the training and materials to run the presentations on their own. In addition to mezuzah, Torah Live’s topics include the laws of yichud and Sukkot, as well as achieving happiness, and conquering anger.

The Sukkot DVD – “Sukkot: The Ultimate Shelter” – includes a step-by-step guide to the laws of the arba minim. The DVD is ideal for those who have found choosing a kosher set of lulav and etrog to be difficult. In addition to providing a detailed and clear multi-media guide to the laws of Sukkot, you will also gain a profound insight into the beauty and depth of the message of the holiday. “I’ve gone through several books and guides to the laws of Sukkot in my lifetime,” one viewer said. “This set of videos is by far the most concise and complete guide about the four species that I’ve ever encountered. It made my Sukkot more meaningful than ever imagined!”

Just Two Words

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Many moons ago, when I established Hineni, kiruv – outreach – was a foreign concept. The Orthodox world looked askance at the idea. “You’re wasting your time,” I was told. “Maybe they will become observant for a day, or even a few weeks, but then they will go back to their former life style.”

But I was determined to charge ahead. Encouraged by my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, and my beloved husband, HaRav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, I consulted the Torah giants of our generation, from Reb Moshe, zt”l, to the Satmar Rebbe, zt”l, and, fortified with their berachos, Hineni became a reality. We proved all the naysayers wrong, and today, Baruch Hashem, kiruv has become a powerful reality of Jewish life.

Not once or twice but countless times I have met rebbeim, rebbetzins, Torah teachers, etc., who tell me their parents and grandparents experienced their very first awakening at a Hineni program, or from a column of mine in The Jewish Press, or at Madison Square Garden where I launched my very first Torah happening. So, Baruch Hashem, not only have ba’alei teshuvah passed Torah on to future generations, they have also taken on leadership positions.

But as much as outreach has become popular and accepted, there still remain challenges that have to be overcome, one of them being that kiruv work is an endeavor limited to professionals since most people do not regard it as a personal obligation. The Torah, however, mandates differently. Just a few weeks ago, the parshah reminded us of the awesome mitzvah of returning a lost item. This obligation pertains not only to every object that may have been lost but – as our sages teach – to all Yiddishe neshamahs that may have been lost as well.

If we consider the pain of our Heavenly Father who has lost His children, who among us can feel that he or she is not responsible to bring them home? Still, many will argue that since they have no training as kiruv professionals, they cannot undertake such a task. But even as one does not require schooling to return a lost item, one need not be trained to return a lost Yiddishe neshamah. The only credentials required are hearts that are filled with love and feel the suffering of our Father who is waiting for His children to return.

But can it really be done? Allow me to share an experience I had which demonstrates that no specific knowledge is required.

I live in a neighborhood in which ninety-nine percent of the residents are shomer Shabbos. I moved there shortly after my beloved husband passed away. I decided to make that change since two of my children reside there and thus,Baruch Hashem, I am able to be with them on Shabbos.

To be candid, I do not really know my neighbors. My speaking engagements take me all over the world so I do not have time to socialize and I do not have small children, which would give me the opportunity to interact with other parents.

A few weeks ago, walking home after the Shabbos seudah at my daughter’s house, I saw a man working in his garden – an unusual sight in my community. I paused to wish him a good Shabbosand he looked at me with bewilderment, his expression indicating he was not accustomed to such a greeting. Most passersby would just ignore him. I moved on, but he hastened to catch up with me.

“How do you know I am a Jew?” he asked.

“Our sages teach that eyes are the windows of the soul – your neshamah spoke to me.” I told him.

Now he was really taken aback.

“What is your Jewish name?” I asked.

“Yitzchok ben Dovid HaKohen” came his answer.

“What a magnificent name!” I replied. “Yitzchok, who ascended the altar and was prepared to offer his life! Yitzchok, who taught us the meaning of sacrifice and lived by a higher calling. And Dovid, the king of Israel who wrote psalms and opened our hearts to G-d! Dovid, who enabled our people to sing songs to G-d and who touched not only every Jew but all of mankind.

“And more – you are a kohen, a descendant of the glorious priestly family of Aaron who was chosen to minister before Hashem and represent the Jewish people. So how could I not recognize your Yiddishe neshamah?”

His eyes became moist and I repeated, “Have a good Shabbos!”

Two little words that can awaken a dormant neshamah two little words that can ignite a spark, bring tears to the eyes and launch a Jew on his journey back to Sinai.

So the next time you pass your brother or your sister, say those two magic words: “Good Shabbos!”

My best wishes to all our readers and Klal Yisrael for a kesivah v’chasimah tovah – a blessed New Year.

Mother Knows Best

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

I am just a small-town girl whose aspirations never included the notion of traveling to exotic places. I dreamed of getting married, raising a family, and living near my parents and in-laws.

Well, as the popular Yiddish saying goes, man plans and Hashem laughs. As a young married woman, my husband and I lived in England during his tour of duty as an Air Force chaplain. Not an exotic location to be sure, and the dialects were similar. However, I spent a lot of time writing letters to loved ones (no faxes or e-mails in those days). I needed to connect with those near and dear to me. The loneliness was acute.

Upon our return to civilian life, we settled in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, where I had the privilege of raising our children in the neighborhood of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Chabad is synonymous with kiruv, reaching out to unaffiliated Jews. I love that concept. We believe that regardless of one’s religious background, it is our Yiddishe neshamah that unites all Jews.

As the children grew, so did their wonder at where they would go on shlichus (outreach) once they finished Beis Medrash or Seminary.

Personally, I was too enthralled with the miracle of being blessed with children to even think about the day that my children would leave the nest to venture to some far- off place. Frankly, I firmly pushed the possibility out of my mind.

The years passed, and my son, Chaim Ozer, decided to become a shaliach (emissary). It was hard for me to accept the reality that he would leave for a far-off destination. I expressed my feelings to him for the whole year preceding his assignment.

At that time, my mother was quite ill. I was visiting her in the hospital when we received a call from our son. He instructed us to call a particular rabbi to find out where he was being sent on shlichus. I should have realized at the time that it was strange that he could not divulge his assignment to us, but I was too concerned about my mother’s condition to think clearly.

The rabbi was very excited to inform me that Chaim Ozer was going to be sent to a certain country, one I had expressly forbidden. I was adamant. He would not go! I knew that the Rebbe would not agree to any assignment if the parents did not give their consent.

I informed the rosh hayeshiva that I had every confidence that he would find a more suitable destination for Chaim Ozer.

A few days later we learned that he would be going to Hungary. That was fine with me.

Chaim Ozer’s year of shlichus was very successful and he was asked to return the following year. He was only 20 years old at the time, but he had made a good impression on the young rabbi and rebbetzin there.

In fact, although it was too early for our son to consider marriage, they were convinced that Chaim Ozer was the perfect match for the young rebbetzin’s sister.

We knew nothing about this scenario, as it was put on the back burner for several years until the appropriate time.

It turned out to be a wonderful idea.

For the past few years, Chaim Ozer and Racheli have been on shlichus in Las Vegas, Nevada, raising a lovely family that includes little Raizy, who is named for my beloved mother.

It would seem that Hashem concurred that “mother knows best” after all!

Religious Zionist Outreach Takes Israel By Storm

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Something different is happening in Israel. It’s been going on for a few years already. Now it’s just about everywhere: The presence of Dati Leumi kiruv movements.

Israelis are used to seeing Chabad of course, and some attend lectures by Arachim and Aish HaTorah. But this is new. For the first time, you can find Jewish outreach stands manned by individuals wearing kippot serugot at shopping malls, bus stations and major intersections throughout the country.

“Our goal is to make the depth of Jewish learning and Jewish living accessible to the common Israeli, preferably through a learning relationship, a chavrusah,” says Avichay Boaron, general manager of the Ma’aynei Hayeshua kiruv movement in Jerusalem.

“We don tefillin and distribute Shabbat candles to people passing by, of course, but what we really want is to nurture this brief initial encounter with Judaism into a deeper, steady acquaintance.” Advertisement

But what makes these kiruv movements different from the ones we’re used to?

First of all, Israelis are more likely to share their spiritual needs with those who went to elementary school with them, served with them in the Israel Defense Forces, and work side by side with them at the office. In other words, with those religious Jews who are familiar faces in the secular Israeli world.

Second, the ideological foundation for Dati Leumi kiruv stems from Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook’s philosophy concerning the very roots of Jewish secularism, Zionism and post-Zionism.

Rav Kook, zt”l, explained that our brethren left a Torah lifestyle en masse about 150 years ago because they demanded depth in their day-to-day Jewish routine and no one provided them with it. This convinced them that Torah lacked real depth, chas v’shalom. Our job is to learn together about the intrinsic connection between lofty Jewish ideals and routine Torah living, whether it’s about keeping Shabbos and Taharas Hamishpacha, or the Torah’s outlook on Medinat Yisrael and Tzahal. These encounters are friendly, non-condescending, and very exciting.

Ma’aynei Hayeshua is one of the more veteran Dati Leumi kiruv movements. Founded in 2000 by a group of dedicated Hesder yeshiva graduates and volunteers with proactive backing from prominent rabbis such as Rav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l, Rav Yaakov Ariel and Rav Shlomo Aviner, they began by circulating informative fliers and divrei Torah about Dati Leumi kiruv. Once the idea caught on in the community, they quickly began building a nationwide network of volunteers.

“We feel it’s about time the Religious Zionist community had its own grassroots movement,” says Boaron. “If we’re going to have an impact on the Israeli scene – a real, tangible impact on the Israeli mentality – we must reach out with a widespread movement to infuse Jewish meaning in the individual and national Israeli orientation, and we must present a significant Jewish cultural alternative as well.”

And “Jewish meaning” is certainly on his agenda. Boaron’s Ma’aynei Hayeshua runs 100 manned Jewish outreach stands throughout Israel every week; 500 activists implementing weekly kiruv activities; 2,000 annual chavrusah matches with 50 new requests for chavrusahs every week; a year-round Outreach Training Course with 300 graduates; distribution of 10,000 Jewish outreach publications; production and distribution of Jewish books, booklets, and a widely acclaimed music disc; two 24/7 Religious-Zionist outreach centers of Jewish activity; an all-day bet midrash for ba’alei teshuvah; and a popular 16-page weekly magazine circulated every Friday among 70,000 religious and non-religious Jews throughout Israel.

“You wouldn’t believe how many stories we get from the volunteers,” says Yehoyada Nizri, director of activities at Ma’aynei Hayeshua.

“One was about an activist from an antireligious organization who approached one of our outreach stands. The polite and learned person behind the counter spoke to him at length, and the prospect even agreed to a chavrusah – and the chavrusah he got happened to be the rosh yeshiva of the Ma’alot Hesder Yeshiva, Rav Yehoshua Weizman. Today, this person is a happy, fully committed, frum Jew.”

In the past year alone, Nizri adds, the number of chavrusahs has doubled from one thousand to two thousand pairs. The outreach stands too are twice as active as they were last summer.

“Israeli society is changing, coming closer to Yiddishkeit,” says Nizri. “You can feel it in the air.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/religious-zionist-outreach-takes-israel-by-storm/2011/03/30/

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