Finally — A First Response to the Crisis in Eretz Yisrael

New, Brilliant Adopt-a-Kollel Program Making Waves

Tragically, in the last few months there has been no item more prominently featured in Hamodia’s Israel news coverage then the drastic, draconian, and biased budget cuts enacted by the current Israeli government.

Perhaps more importantly, there has been no single issue occupying the hearts and minds of Gedolei Yisrael, representing the entire cross-section of Torah Jewry, than the budget cuts, clearly a targeted attack on the way of life of chareidi Jewry.

We have all heard how families that were already surviving on ultra-shoestring budgets have had those same budgets cut by more than half, and sometimes by as much as two-thirds!

Our hearts go out to them. In the Yom Kippur edition of Hamodia, Rabbi Shmuel Bloom in his column eloquently gave a firsthand depiction of the situation. He explained to readers how these people, our brethren, are now forced to give up not luxuries but necessities. We are talking about families now being forced to ration their milk, their eggs… Families that have until now only eaten chicken on Shabbos, having to make do even without that!

The Dilemma: “How Can We — Here in America — Help?”

We have heard the reports, we have davened for them, we have expressed our pain over their pain… and yet so many of us wondered during the days of Elul and the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, “What can we do to help our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael? They are suffering so much, they are sustaining blow after blow. People in the highest echelons of the government want to force them to change their lifestyle by starving them, no more and no less.”

“What can we — here in far-off America — do to be nosei b’ol im chaveiro, to share their burden and try to alleviate their plight?”

This question particularly plagues those people who are not of great means and affluence. What can I do to help Yidden in Eretz Yisrael in their time of dire need?!

A Brilliant Initiative: A Step Towards a Solution

An innovative, realistic and amazing new initiative, supported by Gedolei Yisrael from across the spectrum, has been created. In the few weeks since its inception, it has engendered a tremendous outpouring of goodwill. The program, called Adopt-a-Kollel, is breathtaking in both its scope and simplicity.

The program’s coordinator, Rabbi Yaakov Bernfeld, explains: The idea behind Adopt-a-Kollel is to pair every kollel in Eretz Yisrael with a shul in the Diaspora that will adopt that kollel as its own.

Rabbi Bernfeld explains, “Until now, most kollelim were able to sustain themselves with a combination of government support supplemented by fundraising. Today, that template can no longer work. Beleaguered Roshei Kollel must somehow raise a shortfall that is simply beyond their capacities. The affluent “Zevuluns” who have until now helped these kollelim survive can no longer do it alone.

Partners in ‘Battle’

In a war, when there is a crisis, the only way to prevail is by bringing in the reserves to pick up the slack. A motivated group of concerned Rabbinic and lay leaders conceived the idea of matching up a kehillah with a like-minded kollel, thereby personalizing the relationship. Reb Yossi Tress, one of the prominent askanim involved, related, “There are flourishing and vibrant kehillos all across North America, blessed with effective Rabbanim and committed baalei batim who really want to help.

“Here’s how: each kehillah is partnered with a kollel in Eretz Yisrael. The Adopt-a-Kollel office — a non-profit office which is independently funded so that every penny given goes directly to the kollelim — will work with each individual Rav to match him up to a kollel that fits his kehillah. The kollel would have a Rosh Kollel whose personality and worldview fits, whose skills they can appreciate.”

Adopt-a-Kollel, although still a nascent organization, has succeeded by word of mouth alone in winning the hearts and minds of some 20 Rabbanim and their shuls in a mere few weeks.

Harav Michel Handelsman, shlita, Rav of the Shaarei Tefillah  shul in Lakewood, heard about the idea just before Rosh Hashanah and spontaneously decided to devote a Rosh Hashanah drashah solely to this issue. The members of his shul were so enamored of the idea that almost all of them pledged to join. Most signed up for $18 a month, some for more and others for as little as $10 per month — this, coming from bnei Torah of modest means, and before they even knew which kollel was their match!

Mr. Tress explains: “The reserve unit of the army may not as be as highly trained as the professional soldiers, but by the sheer force of their numbers, they possess the ability to turn the tide of the battle. This can mean the entire difference between winning and losing. Similarly, although our reserves in the battle for the soul of Torah in Eretz Yisrael might not be able to give large sums equivalent to the donations of well-known individuals or small groups of philanthropists, but by virtue of their sheer numbers and their motivation to help — they can make the difference.”

Branching Out — From a Fledgling Initiative to a National Effort

“Thus far,” Rabbi Bernfeld relates, “shuls have signed up from — among other communities — Monsey, Brooklyn, Lakewood and Montreal. The organization is still in its early stages and in the next few weeks will be making a national effort to reach out to shul Rabbanim and baalei batim and pair them with Roshei Kollel.”

Yossi Tress concludes, “This is not just a matter of giving tzedakah, of helping poor families that have fallen on hard times, which is certainly a vital component; it is much more than that. We are out to save Torah in Eretz Yisrael. The government has clearly shown that their ultimate aspiration is to rid themselves of the lion’s share of lomdei Torah. This is an unprecedented attack on Torah and specifically on Toras Eretz Yisrael.

“Our response must be to mobilize all of our forces to ensure that the most vital national treasure that we possess will continue to illuminate Klal Yisrael. Only with achdus and full mobilization can we succeed, and that is what Adopt-a-Kollel seeks, with the help of Hashem, to do! Hashem promised us that the Torah will not be forgotten, and we will overcome the challenges so that Torah will continue to thrive in Eretz Yisrael.”

For further information on Adopt-a-Kollel or to bring Adopt-a-Kollel to your shul, please call 866-953-2735 or e-mail info@adoptakollel.org