“Leadership. Yourself. Your Family. Your Community.” The theme of the 93rd annual Agudath Israel of America convention — leadership — was straightforward and applicable to every individual in our community. Held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut, the menu of food for thought was rich.
The convention opened with three concurrent sessions discussing the definition of leadership, and the many misperceptions regarding it; the burning issue of how the Supreme court’s legalization of immorality affects our community at the grassroots level, and the shortage of housing in major frum communities, especially in Brooklyn, which is a well-known challenge and has reached a crisis level.
The Thursday evening keynote session was a major highlight of the convention, where leading Gedolei Yisrael articulate their vision on contemporary issues to the American Jewish community. Harav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlita, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshiva Gedolah of Philadelphia, and member of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America, elaborated upon the need to recognize the truth of the Torah and the words of Torah leaders.
Harav Elya Brudny, shlita, Rosh Yeshivah at Mirrer Yeshivah of Brooklyn, delivered divrei pesichah, explaining what it is to be “an Agudah Yid.” With visible emotion, Rav Brudny explained how a Yid with a proper hashkafah doesn’t fall prey to the pitfalls of this world, such as sinas chinam, machlokes and pursuit of luxuries.
A special guest speaker, Dayan Yonason Abraham of the London Beis Din, delivered a powerful address, clarifying the Torah view of a leader.
The final speaker of the keynote session was Rabbi Ephraim Eliyahu Shapiro, Rav of Congregation Shaaray Tefilah of North Miami Beach, who expounded upon leadership in his trademark resounding, practical manner.
Following a beautiful, uplifting Shabbos, the main hotel ballroom was once again full for the Motzoei Shabbos Keynote Session. The Novominsker Rebbe, shlita, Rosh Agudas Yisroel and member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America, exclaimed, “These are the chevlei Moshiach. We must think and breathe emunah; think and breathe ahavas Torah and yiras Shamayim and think and breathe tzedakah v’chessed.” The Rebbe, in Eretz Yisrael for the wedding of a grandchild, spoke via video transmission.
The Sadigura Rebbe, shlita, began by giving his impressions of the Shabbos he spent at the convention, noting the amazing achdus between so many different factions of Klal Yisrael. Rabbi Dovid Ozeri, Rav of Congregation Yad Yosef, followed, noting the significance that a Sephardic leader has been invited for such a significant role at the convention. He zeroed in on a chinuch issue that is often overlooked: the pay that rebbeim receive.
The final speaker of the session, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel, spoke with emotion about the dictum of Rabbi Moshe Sherer’s description of Agudath Israel as “the keepers of a sacred trust.”
The keynote session was followed by a beautiful melaveh malkah, with Rabbi Baruch Levine and Simcha Leiner — an uplifting end to a remarkable evening.
Full coverage of the 93rd Agudath Israel Convention will be found in the weekly edition of Hamodia on November 18, iy”H.