On Motza’ei Shabbos, March 7, community members gathered at the home of Lew and Beth Gray in Kew Gardens Hills to hear Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, well-known speaker and author, deliver an uplifting shiur on behalf of Our Jewish Children. The shiur was to commemorate the yahrzeit of Mr. Gray’s father, Shalom Shachnar ben Yaakov.
Rabbi Avraham Dovid Garber, Founder and Director of Our Jewish Children and rav of Yeshiva Kesser Torah, the yeshivah founded by Rabbi Rosenblatt zt”l, led T’hilim. After this, Rabbi Ilan Meirov, Director of Chazaq, shared a story to illustrate the importance of the Our Jewish Children organization. He explained how Chazaq is working so hard and passionately to help transfer students from public school to yeshivah. Sadly, Queens has the highest number of Jewish students attending public school, and Chazaq is changing that. They have helped transfer almost 1,000 students to yeshivah.
Chazaq is doing tremendous work with their after-school programs for public school students and working nonstop to convince parents to send their children to yeshivah. However, Chazaq is not involved in helping with tuition, and often tuition can be the last thing blocking parents from sending their children to yeshivah. Our Jewish Children becomes the makeh b’patish (the final hammer blow) that helps parents decide to move their children to yeshivah. “We are looking to reach 1,000 kids,” Rabbi Ilan stressed. We hope Hashem gives us continuous strength to accomplish this.”
He pointed out that when you donate to Our Jewish Children, you will have so many descendants, all those children who will be able to receive a Jewish education and who then, b’ezras Hashem, build Jewish homes and influence their families, etc. It creates a beautiful ripple effect.
Next, Rabbi Garber shared a d’var Torah from Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l that explains the symbolism of the kohen’s garments. The Torah tells us that the Ephod cannot be severed from the Choshen. The Ephod atones for idolatry, and the Choshen atones for crooked judgments. Idolatry is theology and it’s something that comes from the brain, while crooked judgments come from midos. So, we see that the intellectual is important but it cannot be removed from midos. Children in public school do not learn Jewish values. They don’t learn about good midos. “In today’s times, with a moral climate that is antithetical to Torah values, it is crucial to move our Jewish children out of this negative environment and bring them to yeshivos. When Our Jewish Children offers $500 or $1,000 to help to pay for tuition, this is often enough to convince parents to transfer their children to yeshivah. We have seen how one child attending yeshivah can influence an entire family.”
This organization began over a decade ago, when a woman who newly immigrated to the United States told Rabbi Garber and this writer that she wanted to send her children to yeshivah but she and her husband didn’t have the financial capability to do so. We didn’t have an organization then, but we had the z’chus to help the children to attend Bais Yaakovs and yeshivos. The sister of this woman then also expressed a desire to send her sons to yeshivah. Baruch Hashem, we were able to help them, as well. Soon we were helping a few children, and Rabbi Lonner at the Yeshiva of Central Queens suggested we make an organization, and so Our Jewish Children was born. Then came the wonderful, explosive Chazaq campaign of no Jewish child left behind, and now, baruch Hashem, with donations, we are helping 270 children in 37 yeshivos. Other organizations have sent children to us, as well. Many are in New York, but we are also helping students in many other states, as well. We have seen nachas already with the girls from the original family we helped, who are married with families of their own, building beautiful Jewish homes, and their cousins, one of whom is learning full time in kollel.
Rabbi Goldwasser in his inimitable way shared, “What a tremendous simchah it is to be here tonight.” He noted that Rabbi Yisrael Salanter taught that if there isn’t enough money to send a child to yeshivah, then we must sell a sefer Torah in order for that child to attend. He imparted that klal Yisrael is facing a challenge right now. One thing we can do as an antidote for all that is going on is a gathering like this, which is bringing protection to klal Yisrael.
He shared how a 14-year-old girl brings him various questions because she is trying to keep mitzvos in a home where her family is not observant. He asked her why she isn’t able to go to the local Bais Yaakov, and she explained that her parents won’t allow her to go. Rabbi Goldwasser said that if they had help from an organization like Our Jewish Children that could possibly be the factor that would convince them to let her attend.
He shared how recently he saw a little boy standing in a big yard of a public school and that little boy was wearing a kipah. Rabbi Goldwasser approached him and asked him his name. The boy thought for a minute and then said Moshe. He was probably used to using his English name. It was painful to see this little Jewish boy in this school.
“The ability we have to make a difference in a child’s life will be forever, not just one year in school.”
He added, “We are talking about children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.”
Rabbi Goldwasser then shared some examples from the Purim story that emphasize the importance of helping children get a Jewish education. In the Megillah, when Haman is looking for Mordechai, he finds him in the yeshivah teaching children. Mordechai is interested in the chinuch of the children. If he is involved in raising a generation to be on fire about Judaism, then Haman will have no chance to win.
Rabbi Goldwasser asked, “What gives power to B’nei Yisrael? It’s the children.”
The end of S’lichos states, “Do it for our children.”
He taught, “The children save klal Yisrael at time of tzaar or simchah.” He taught that children have the greatest z’chus, and it is because of the children that we merited the Torah. “We have to understand the responsibility we have towards children.”
Rabbi Goldwasser imparted, “These children are all begging us to help give them a yeshivah education.” He pointed out how Yosef went to each brother begging for mercy and no one had mercy and he was sold into slavery. The children are here begging us to have mercy.
He shared that one girl told him that she felt bad that her friends went to Bais Yaakov of Queens and she couldn’t go, so in the morning she would walk to the Bais Yaakov of Queens bus stop with her knapsack. That was as far as she could go.
Rabbi Goldwasser concluded, “We all have a great z’chus. It’s a time to bring out the koach of tz’dakah. Be instrumental in changing lives. There is no greater thing a person can do.” To donate to Our Jewish Children, you can go to the website www.ourjewischildren.com or send a check made out to Our Jewish Children to 147-37 70th Avenue, Flushing, NY 11367. All donations go directly to help students to attend yeshivah. There are no administrative expenses.
By Susie Garber