By Rabbi Yair Hoffman, copyright 2005
Dean, Tiferet High School for Girls (formerly Gamla High School)
Reprinted with permission
Recently, a number of us have viewed Aish HaTorah’s eye-opening production entitled “Inspired.” The video is a masterful work which touches the neshama. It awakens us to the myriad opportunities that lie before us in the area of Kiruv Rechokim. We chuckled when we saw the opening scenes- filmed in Boro Park, where interviewee after interviewee states that Kiruv Rechokim is important, yet respond that they personally do nothing about it.
Read moreOur first reaction to seeing the video in its entirety, and it is a good and proper reaction, is to re-examine what we are doing and try to figure out how we can incorporate this beautiful concept into our personal lives. Who can we invite to our Shabbos table? Who can we share the beginning Torah shiurim offered in our shul with.
This article is not meant to take anything away from this very important area of Avodas Hashem. There is another area, however, that needs to be addressed. Less glamorous perhaps, but an area that nonetheless must be addressed. It could perhaps best be termed as Inreach or “Kiruv Kerovim.”
Imagine for a moment, a company that does not serve or develop it’s customer base. The company’s sole focus is to get new customers, ignoring the customers that it has already created. Every businessman knows that this is not the model for success. The best business is repeat business. The company who ignores its customer base will soon fall apart.
We must take a good look at ourselves and genuinely ask ourselves if we are doing our job effectively in retaining our past customers. The main element that is missing is that our “Ahavas Yisroel” has to be tapped, and channeled once again to the Kerovim too. Indeed, a colleague of mine recently suggested that someone ought to make a video on just this subject -- Inreach or Kiruv Kerovim.
The content of such a video should focus on two things: The first would be to figure out a means to develop and nurture our own sense of Ahavas Yisroel. How many of us have been turned off by the idea that deep down a past Rebbe, Yeshiva or school didn’t really give two hoots about us? Or better yet, how many of us have been inspired by the care and attention that a good and unsung hero Rebbe or Morah have given us? The focus must be to develop our own Ahavas Yisroel toward others and to make sure that it is genuine. (When false Ahavas Yisroel is demonstrated or shown -- it kind of causes a knee-jerking sense of disgust- “How phony of you!”). Just like we work on our dieting and exercising and our daf yomi and or lashon harah groups, we must also actively work on how to go about improving and developing our ahavas yisroel. Ahavas Yisroel involves caring about others like we would want for ourselves. It is also about caring for their entirety -- their spiritual well-being as well as their financial well-being. (See Rambam, Hilchos Dayos 6:3). This means worrying as to how they are going to make a living as well.
The second thing that such a video should focus on is the areas in which we can apply our new efforts toward inreach. The Krovim come in many shapes and sizes. Just off the cuff, however, here are a few areas:
Kids in our children’s schools
Our Local Schools
Let’s spend a paragraph or two on each of these different venues.
I don’t have exact numbers, but in our community alone there are close to a thousand singles who may perhaps feel that the rest of us are a bit too busy with own lives and don’t have the time or the requisite Ahavas Yisroel to address issues that affect their particular situation. Here is a possible solution that could effectively address the issue head-on. Most of our mosdos have alumnus that are still single. Why can’t we volunteer to do the following three step plan?
1. Let’s go back to our school or shul (or block president -- it isn’t just for meals for kimpatorins) and volunteer to be the single Alumnus coordinator.
2. Compile a list of single alumni in need of shidduchim
3. Get together with two or three others and make sure that each alumnus gets at least one phone call per month.
There is a new book out by Ruki Renov that fabulously details how to go about getting our kids married off, let’s try to develop an institutional version of this same book. Whoever reads Mrs. Renov’s book would certainly conclude that this mother truly cares about her kids and would marvel at the extent and effort of the hishtadlus to marry off one’s child. If we were to re-create this on an institutional level, imagine the impact we would have.
Kid’s In Our Children’s Schools
There are kids in our children’s classes in our Yeshivos that are falling behind in their Hebrew Kriah skills and or math skills. There are kids in our children’s grade who are being raised in a single parent home. Falling behind is probably the number one risk factor in losing our “old customers.” It is these kids that may be in most need of “Inreach.” Why can’t we ask our menahel if there is anyone in our kid’s classes that needs tutoring or catching up? Let’s be proactive and screen for it ahead of time. If we don’t have the time to do it ourselves - we can offer to pay for it. Sometimes it’s not just money but organization. Example: A kid in class needs tutoring. What if one class mother, without mentioning the kid’s name called ten other families to subsidize ¾ of an hour of tutoring per week for the next six months of school? The kid would receive 7 ½ hours of tutoring per week. The cost would be from $15 to $25 per week per family. The whole class would benefit, and the kid could very well have just been saved -- Ledorei Doros. This is something that can be done without serious money, but with very serious results. (by the way, I would make sure that the parent pays something – even if it is just a few dollars per hour, so that the parent will value it.)
I know a dental supplies businessman in Queens that funded a modest after-school tutoring program for local kids to address this very need. It did not cost that much. The point is that one does not need to be a Baron Rothschild or Edgar Bronfman to address these needs. We can do it too.
Our Local Schools
Our Rebbeim and teachers are the ones that are showing our children the love and attention that is necessary to thrive in Yiddishkeit. Isn’t it embarrassing that we are underpaying them to the point that a growing percentage of them are on Medicare and Medicaid? Will helping the Rebbeim and Moros of our local schools help stem the tide of Kerovim slipping through the cracks? No question.
It is a sad reality that Walmart and McDonalds offer its employees health benefits while Yeshivos and Bais Yaakov’s do not. (Walmart offers three options; McDonald’s offers four options -- including 50% off on orthodontia). Boruch Hashem we do not see Rebbeim moonlighting at the Golden Arches for the orthodontia benefits, but the point is that an investment in our local Yeshiva staff is a good investment. It is an investment in our children too.
These are just a few examples of Inreach programming that can be pursued either individually or on a community level. We should never under-estimate the capacity that one person can achieve. There is a Gemorah in Yuma (35b) that talks about how poor Hillel was, and that his actions obligates all the other poor in study. Achievement is not limited to the politically well-connected, highly educated, or the very wealthy. One can successfully pursue Kiruv Kerovim even without all this. But one must try.
Teddy Roosevelt, the first president to appoint a Jew to his cabinet, has a very inspiring quote. The quote can readily be applied to any efforts we may be contemplating regarding Inreach programming:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Rabbi Yair Hoffman is the dean of Tiferet High School for Girls in Lawrence, New York. He can be reached either at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Tiferet at 516 239-4775.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005