It’s way past normal working hours but the crew at Agra d’Pirka headquarters are oblivious to the time. For the past several weeks, as the Agra d’Pirka Decade Dinner event steadily approaches, they’ve been working weekends and evenings, and doing lots of overtime. But they are not resentful or annoyed. In fact, they are invariably cheerful and enthusiastic. That’s because they are working on a project that’s meaningful, inspiring, and dear to their hearts. And they know that they’re part of something big.
Agra d’Pirka is an organized morning kollel program geared towards local professionals, business owners, college students, retirees, or anyone who wishes to increase his morning limud haTorah. The program, founded by R’Ezra Klein of Brooklyn, runs from 9:30 to 11:30 AM Monday through Thursday in nine different communities with outstanding Maggidei Shiur at each location. The upcoming Decade Dinner will celebrate ten outstanding years of Agra d’Pirka Torah learning and is scheduled for Sunday, November 24th.
Organizing and arranging a dinner of this magnitude is a huge undertaking. It all started at Agra d’Pirka headquarters about six months ago, when it was decided that a decade of incredible growth in Torah learning is a milestone that cannot be overlooked. Once the decision was made, there was no turning back.
R’Ezra and his dedicated staff hit the ground running. “Finding honorees was first on the agenda,” says R’Ezra, “and that times time and energy.” Yet instead of having to coax would-be candidates into accepting awards, he was pleasantly surprised to discover that they were delighted to come on board. “The people who accepted,” said R’Ezra, “are extremely enthusiastic.”
Then came the million and one details involved in running a successful mega-event such as the mailings, the phone calls, the awards, the catering, the journal, the speakers, the seating, the video and photography, and the travel arrangements.
Yes, travel arrangements. As it became clear that Agra d’Pirka members from all locations are eager to attend, bussing is being arranged from Baltimore, Monsey, and Queens. Likewise, flights are being booked for those coming from Miami. Agra d’Pirka is determined to ensure that nobody will be excluded from the Decade Dinner simply because they couldn’t get there.
R’Chaim Fuhrer is coordinating the Decade Dinner event and says, “We are putting all our kochos into this.” He adds that an outstanding program is planned, featuring Rabbi Paysach Krohn as Guest Speaker and Shuly Klein as Dinner Chairman. Divrei Bracha will be delivered by Rav Aharon Kahn, spiritual advisor to Agra d’Pirka.
Most organizational dinners serve the purpose of being effective fundraisers. And while Agra d’Pirka certainly needs community support to continue growing, R’Chaim says that the Decade Dinner isn’t about the money. “This event isn’t being planned as a fundaiser,” he explains. “It’s planned for pirsum which it’s already accomplishing. The word is getting out that Agra d’Pirka exists and that there is a need for this in many more communities. We get calls all the time from around the country with people asking, ‘Why not do this in our community?’”
R’Chaim says that Agra d’Pirka is happy to assist other communities who wish to open similar programs in their area. “Torah is not proprietary” he says. “It’s not exclusively ours.”
The event will serve as a tribute to the almost one hundred Agra d’Pirka maggidei shiur, most of whom plan to attend. “They are the heart and soul of the program,” says R’Ezra.
It will also serve to create a momentum with groups from all locations meeting and recognizing that they are united in a common goal, that they are all part of something big.
The Decade Dinner will also create an opportunity for Agra d’Pirka wives to meet. “Most of the women feel that this program is having a very positive effect on their husbands and on their relationship,” R’ Chaim says. “This event will give them an opportunity to connect.”
Meanwhile, staffers are so busy they can barely come up for air. “Sunday is usually my day off,” says Malkie, a member of the team. “But here I am anyway because there’s so much to accomplish.” Malkie is currently working on a detailed twenty seven page list of participants, calling and emailing each of them individually about the Decade Dinner. Most of them are responding with enthusiasm.
The job is so big that a crew of extra temporary staffers has been hired to help. “We’re running on adrenaline,” says Malkie. “There’s a huge energy here at the office because we all believe that we’re part of something special. It’s not a tircha. We do it with a full heart because we believe in it.”
Shoshana is another staffer who’s been working overtime. “This is going on for weeks already,”she says. “We’re working nights and weekends, almost around the clock. You need a tremendous amount of time and energy and staff to make this happen.”
That staff is largely inspired by their leader, R’Ezra, whose enthusiasm for the program is clearly contagious. “He has a passion for Torah and yiddishkeit,” Shoshana says. “And that becomes a passion for all of us. It’s a pure pleasure to do this. Everybody wants to be a part of it.”
That passion is shared by the participants themselves. “I’m shocked,” says Shoshana, “when I see the responses that come in.” Emails and phone calls are generally upbeat and often express appreciation to the staff for making Agra d’Pirka happen. “There’s a tremendous recognition of who we are and what we are doing. We are on the map.”
Shoshana will never forget the person who told her, “You saved my father’s life” after his father joined Agra d’Pirka. “He had recently retired and started getting depressed. Agra d’Pirka gave him chiyus.”
As the number of days until the dinner dwindles, the Agra d’Pirka staff knows that the late nights will only get later. But they wouldn’t have it any other way.
They’re buoyed by the unbridled enthusiasm of the participants, who are the backbone of the organization. Just last week one participant from Monsey called with an unusual request. “We are coming in on the bus that you provided,” he said. “Is it possible to arrange for a shiur to be held on the bus as we are travelling?”
Calls like this are what make it all worthwhile.