SUMMER 2019 The Summer of Torah, Hesed, and Charity

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By: Machla Abramovitz

“Lo hayah velo tihyeh – “There never was such a thing, and there never will be!”

This is what Rabbi Shmuel Choueka said about the “Shabbat of Hinuch” on July 4thweekend on the JerseyShore, as he described the experience to Rabbi Tzvi Lang of Torah Umesorah (TU), on whose behalf the special event was held.

The expectations going into the weekend were very high – and the event far exceeded each and every one.

Deal residents were privileged to host and to receive blessings and learn from some of our generation’s most renowned Torah sages, who spoke to them on the vital subject of hinuch – education. This event marked the first time the Sephardic community hosted the TU organization, offering a long-overdue opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding work that TU has done for our children, and for Sephardic communities throughout the U.S., for over 45 years.

Maintaining the Sacred Connection

The weekend was also a time of reunion.

As soon as Rav Elya Brudny, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva, saw Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, one of the most prominent Rosheh Yeshiva in Jerusalem, they warmly embraced. Their acquaintance goes back half-a-century, to the time when Rav Brudny studied in Israel as a young man.

 “Even then,” the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva told the rabbis assembled in the elegant home of Mr. and Mrs. Sammy Sasson that Friday afternoon, “Rabbi Ezrachi, [was acknowledged as a gadol beYisrael [giant in Israel].”

The community rabbis took this occasion to hail the success of TU’s programs and workshops that directly impact Sephardic yeshivot. For example, around two years ago, Rabbi David Ozeri arranged for every Sephardic rebbe to obtain a salary increase of $10,000, which was made possible with the assistance of TU that raised $2.7 million on their behalf. Additionally, TU provides training programs for principals, teachers, and mashgihim, as well as two graphics workshops, that benefit Sephardic schools. Many mitzvahand Torah posters gracing classroom walls carry the TU insignia.

Rav Brudny observed the changes he’s seen in the Brooklyn Sephardic communities since moving into the neighborhood 55 years ago, noting, “Today, the community is growing. Every day another school, another synagogue, another program, another initiative.”

Rabbi Ezrachi, who, at the age of 90, made the difficult trip from Israel to New Jersey, spoke glowingly of TU’s work, and equated supporting TU to supporting the Mishkan, the Sanctuary built in the desert that connected our nation to Hashem.

“Today, the Rosh Yeshiva explained, “the only way to maintain this sacred connection is through the education of our children.”

He similarly compared TU with the ancient sage Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Gamla, who, as the Talmud relates, built yeshivotthroughout Israel, and whom the Gemara credits with saving Torah from being forgotten. “If not for TU creating and sustaining yeshivotand day schools throughout the country,” Rav Ezrachi said, “the Torah would be forgotten in many places.”

Rabbi Dovid Nojowitz, TU’s National Director, spoke with great admiration of the special respect for, and trust in, rabbis that distinguishes the Syrian community. This reverence, he said, is what has led to the community’s growth and has kept it firmly committed to Torah throughout the decades, despite the enormous spiritual challenges posed by modernity and American culture.

“I Couldn’t Believe What I Was Seeing”

Many community members took advantage of the unique opportunity given to hear wisdom and insight from Rav Brudny, one of the most sought-after authorities on issues involving interpersonal relationships and hinuch. A special oneg Shabbat with Rav Brudny was held at the home of Rabbi Meyer Yedid, Rosh Yeshiva of YDE, where Rav Brudny fielded questions such as: How do we teach middot to our children?How hard should we push our children to study Torah? Should we force young children to attend the synagogue?The discussions lasted until after midnight.

Rav Brudny also led an exclusive Q&A session for yeshiva and kollel students at the Kollel of Long Branch. Over 150 young men assembled to hear the great rabbi speak. His messages included the strong statement that one who does not ensure to recite Shemabefore the halachic deadline, or one who uses an unfiltered smartphone, cannot be considered aben Torah.

Rav Brudny heaped lavish praise on the community, admitting that when he was told he would be praying at the kollel, he imagined a basement with 20 men. Instead, he found a massive building with 500 people in attendance for Shaharit, and 500 men studying Torah intensively two hours before Minha.

“I couldn't believe what I was seeing and how the community has grown,” he enthused.

Meanwhile, in the Deal section of Jersey, 300 congregants were privileged to receive a special blessing from Rabbi Ezrachi at Congregation Beit Yosef, which is run by Rabbis Michael and Joey Haber. After Shaharit, theelderly Rosh Yeshiva was walked down to the Deal Synagogue, where he addressed Rabbi David Sutton and Rabbi David Ozeri’s congregations. On the way, fathers and children approached him, excitedly seeking the great
sage’s blessing.

The renowned scholar Rav Hillel David attended Shaharitservices at Rabbi Shmuel Choueka’s Ohel Simha Synagogue in Long Branch. During the breakfast that was served after Shaharit, some 400 congregants heard a special address by Rabbi Shlomo Diamond, Rosh Kollel of the Deal Kollel, who walked to Ohel Simha specially to speak at this gathering. Rabbi Diamond reviewed the history of TU, emphasizing the staunch support the organization received from the leading American sages of the post-Holocaust era, including Rav Moshe Feinsteinand Rav Mordechai Gifter. Rav Hillel David spoke about the unique hinuchchallenges faced by today’s parents, and noted the valuable services that TU offers the community, having invested over $5 million in Sephardic education. The rabbi warmly encouragedeveryone to attend the Sunday morning fundraiser.


An elegant, festive Melaveh Malkafor the entire community was held Saturday night, hosted by Mrs. and Mrs. Sidney Saada. The beautifully catered buffet was accompanied by live music, with singer Nechemia Katz entertaining the hundreds of guests, who had the opportunity to receive blessings from Rabbi Ezrachi, Rav David, and other great rabbis.

Capping the exciting weekend was the fundraiser for TU hosted on Sunday morning by Ezra and Shirley Zafrani, an elegant, scrumptious breakfast buffet set up in their backyard. The Zafranis welcomed the renowned Rav Dovid Feinstein, Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, and Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky, Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbinical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, both of whom are leading figures on Torah Umesorah’s rabbinic board. They joined Rav Ezrachi and Rav David.

Rabbi Raphael Netanel, Dean of Students at Yeshiva Darche Eretz, who coordinated the weekend together with Rabbi Binyomin Holland, TU Director of Operations, later reflected, “To have three gedoleh Torah, all in their 90s – two from the U.S.and one from Israel – sitting at the same table, the atmosphere in the room was electrifying. People couldn’t believe it.”

Over 300 Jersey Shore residents attended, received blessings from the rabbis, and pledged generously to this worthy cause.

Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky noted how the Sephardic community is creating a tremendous kiddush Hashem(glorification of Gd’s Name) by producing true beneh Torah. Rav Feinstein emphasized that “the home is all about children,” urging us to focus on our children’s religious education.

The master of ceremonies was Rabbi David Ozeri, who spoke passionately about how honored he felt to welcome these towering figures, and how embarrassed he felt that they had to schlep out to Deal to help raise some dollars for TU.

“Despite all TU has done for us, as a community, we haven't given anything back to them financially,” Rabbi Ozeri lamented.

Just last year, he related, a desperate father approached him to find a school for his son who had been expelled from his yeshiva. Within a week, TU placed the boy in a yeshiva that was able to accommodate his special needs, and where he is now thriving. Rabbi Ozeri thanked Rabbi Nojowitz, as well as Rabbi Zvi Bloom, TU’s Executive Director, and the entire staff, for everything they do for community schools.

Rabbi Meyer Yedid compared TU’s behind-the-scenes efforts to the work done by a chef in a restaurant, adding that the organization contributes even inways unrelated to schools and formal education. For example, thousands of young men participate in “Chavruta Night,” a unique initiative that was conceived at a meeting between Rabbi Yedid and an out-of-town community organizer whom he met at a
TU conference.

The Shabbat of Hinuch was an event like no other. After hosting some of our generation’s most illustrious Torah scholars, and spending the weekend with leading representatives of one of America’s most esteemed hinuchorganizations, Jersey Shore residents left inspired and uplifted, and united in their resolve to devote even more time and energy to their children’s education, and to do their share in ensuring the successful transmission of our glorious tradition to the next generation.