P’eylim Lev L’Achim has a longstanding relationship with the Queens community in their mission of bringing the families of Israel closer to Torah. As the largest kiruv organization in Eretz Yisrael, their work on saving the next generation of klal Yisrael is known worldwide. Their last Kew Gardens Hills fundraiser, at the home of Dr. Elie and Golda Fried, was held just as COVID was beginning to take shape in the last week of February 2020. At that event, Rav Aharon Walkin z”l took the podium for one of his final public appearances. The momentum from that evening held Queens strong during the past two years until we gathered again this past Wednesday evening, February 16, for an event that will long be remembered.
Dr. Marc and Karen Silverman continued their tradition of hosting the transformational event as they do every other year, for nearly a quarter century now. After the event, Dr. Silverman commented, “I have been privileged to see the work of Lev L’Achim firsthand and can attest to their phenomenal successes. There was a terrific response from the community for the parlor meeting and the kavod HaTorah was simply tremendous.”
The 23-member rabbinic sponsorship committee lent a dominating presence to the program. Rav Yakov Bergman, Rav Davis, Rav Yaakov Yitzchok Friedman, Rav Akiva Grunblatt, Rav Doniel Lander, Rav Shmuel Marcus, Rav Yaniv Meirov, Rav Shlomo Nisanov, Rav Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Rav Peretz Steinberg, and Rav Herschel Welcher were just some of the communal rabbinic authorities present to lend their support.
Maran HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlita, senior member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah and pioneering Rosh HaYeshiva of the Philadelphia Yeshiva, has a deep connection to the work of Lev L’Achim. According to Dr. Silverman, Rav Shmuel personally took part in almost every fundraiser at his home over the course of the years. On the evening of this year’s event, already in New York to attend a chasunah, the elderly Rosh HaYeshiva began to feel unwell and phoned in to express his deep regret at not being able to attend, but fervently encouraged all to donate to the remarkable work of Lev L’Achim.
Yanky Aren, a Board Member of Lev L’Achim, noted that about five years ago when Rav Shmuel was 92, he flew to Eretz Yisrael for a mere 12 hours to keynote the annual National Convention of Lev L’Achim. “At that time Rav Shmuel explained how he could undertake such a grueling trip,” stated Yanky. “For Lev L’Achim you have to go anywhere in the world.”
Yanky added that the beautiful video shown took the large crowd on a journey of the various divisions within the organization. An air of amazement was evident as people took in the astounding numbers and saw with their own eyes the miracles unfolding before their eyes.
Rabbi Nachum Barnetsky, the Executive Vice President for Lev L’Achim, operates as one of their leading fundraisers. “The crowd in Queens was very warm, and the turnout was a huge kiddush Hashem,” explained the rav. “The Israeli government is trying its hardest to destroy Yiddishkeit in Eretz Yisrael, but on the ground there is a grassroots feeling of people who yearn to follow Hashem’s way.” In a striking anecdote, Rav Barnetsky explained, “Lev L’Achim is there for someone who is drowning; their neshamah is crying and wanting to be pulled back to Hashem.”
At the event, Rav Paysach J. Krohn, noted mohel, author, and orator, delivered an eyewitness account of his experiences with Lev L’Achim and intertwined with Torah thoughts how 140 batei midrash in Israel close after Maariv and reopen for Lev L’Achim programming. In one story, Rabbi Krohn spoke of a recognized soccer player enjoying his learning with Lev L’Achim more than the excitement depicted in a video showing him score a winning goal.
Later, Rabbi Krohn explained that Lev L’Achim deploys men to interact with unaffiliated visitors to the Kosel and to get the contact info. “Out of 18,000 numbers collected, 8,000 were paired with chavrusos due to the work of Lev L’Achim in a single year.” Rabbi Krohn explained that of course the core of Lev L’Achim’s work is to get the children connected to Torah and learning in a yeshivah.
In another account, Rabbi Krohn spoke of Matt Shtegel, a mainstay of Lev L’Achim’s Lev HaKotel program, who encountered a young boy at the Kosel just last week. The boy saw the pen and notebook in his hand and asked if he could have a piece of paper to write a kvittel to place in the sacred wall. The boy returned half the paper to Shtigel thinking it was the unused portion of the paper. In fact, the fellow had mistakenly returned the written paper to Shtegel instead of the blank one he had inserted into the wall. On his request note the boy wrote, “Hashem, do you know Jewish teachers? Can You help me get to them?” Shtegel began talking to the boy and soon had him set up with someone who will learn with him and help him set out on what is sure to be a remarkable journey. The maggid’s impact was so vast and powerful that many donors approached the organizers and doubled their donations following the lecture.
Lev L’Achim recently moved their offices to Lakewood, New Jersey, where Rabbi Yosef Karmel leads as National Director. It is his efforts that keep much of the work of the organization afloat. Donations can be made at www.levlachim.org.
By Shabsie Saphirstein