This past weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity to chaperone four of our seniors to the national Bais Yaakov Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. I want to focus on a number of important takeaways that the girls and I were able to gain from the convention:
At times, living in a small town can be lonely. It can be hard to connect the dots and perceive how our small community is part of something much greater. Attending a convention as one of 700 girls from 75 schools in 22 states is an uplifting experience. The theme of the convention focused on establishing a connection to Hashem despite peer pressure that may pull us in the wrong direction. Throughout the convention, the girls attended panel sessions, viewed performances, and enjoyed the artistic creativity displayed in the halls and the main meeting room.
I grew up in small-town Cleveland. The community got its start in the 1940s with the opening of the Telshe Yeshiva. Shortly thereafter, Rabbi Nachum Zev Dessler z”tl was appointed Dean of the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, a position now held by his son Rabbi Simcha Dessler. The Roshei Yeshiva and principals knocked on doors to invite non-religious families to join and grow the school. By the time I attended Hebrew Academy beginning in 1960, it had shown some growth, but was still the only Orthodox school in town. Many of my classmates’ families were not Shomrei Shabbos. How the community has grown! Many of Telshe’s graduates moved into Cleveland, and today, Cleveland is booming, with 12 Kollelim and three Orthodox Jewish schools. My alma mater now has over 1200 students on three different campuses. It is running a capital campaign to raise 40 million dollars for the expansion of a sprawling campus. On the street where the convention was held, there are four large schools/shuls and a Kollel. In fact, over 10% of the administrators present at the convention were alumni of Hebrew Academy.
The power of community has allowed not only for communal growth, but also for increased communal services, such as heightened security in all of the mosdos and shuls. The Telz Roshei Yeshiva arrived in the early 1940’s to a community that was desolate of Torah; the growth we see in Cleveland today is directly attributable to their hard work. As we look at growing our community in Providence, we must realize that growth in smaller communities is most often predicated on a partnership between the local Yeshiva, Kollel, and school working toward a common goal of increased adult and child learning activities. We are fortunate to have the foundation in place for this growth. As I write this letter, I can envision the future growth in our own small community.
Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro gave the Keynote address at the convention’s closing banquet. He focused on the convention theme, explaining that we live in a generation of so much affluence—most of us are not on bread lines—and the realities of secular society have seeped into our value system. He explained the verse in Megillas Rus that describes Rus and her quest to find wheat to feed herself and her starving mother-in-law. When Rus arrived at the fields, she saw that the other collectors there were either not dressed appropriately or their speech was inappropriate. Twice she left the field, even though this meant she would have no food. By the time she returned for the third time, the quality of the leftover wheat was sub-par. Still, in the merit of her refined character she experienced a miracle: Boaz, owner of the field, arrived precisely at that time and noticed Rus. We know the rest: the outcome is that Rus receives the title “Aim Hamalchus – the mother of kings,” future mother of Malchus Bais Dovid and Mashiach. Our value system is different than that of the world, Rabbi Shapiro emphasized. We need to create a lifestyle that focuses on increased observance of Torah and Mitzvos. And if we do, we should not underestimate the reward and Divine intervention we receive.
We all look forward to the continued growth of our community and our families.
Growth also requires us and the community to sustain our local mosdos. This week is the last week to support the school’s auction. Please purchase your auction tickets at www.phdsauction.com. See the newsletter for more information about the auction. Thank you to Mrs. Rachel Lewin for her efforts on our behalf.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman, Dean