The Fortunate Ones
By: Yakov Horowitz
Six years ago, I received a phone call from Rabbi Dovid Bernstein s’hlita, head of Torah Umesorah’s Aish Dos program. He invited me to join a group of 17 menhalim and become a participant in a newly formed 3-year Senior Leadership Program. I would need to devote 3 weeks for the following 3 summers, travel to Eretz Yisroel, and attend classes and lectures delivered by leading mechanchim and educators. It sounded like a great prospect – for someone else.
After 15 years of teaching 8th-grade talmidim, I was about to pursue my dream of opening a yeshiva, and I didn’t think that I could spare 3 days, let alone 3 weeks. And, to be perfectly honest, I was a bit skeptical as to the possible benefit of such a program. Still, I allowed Reb Dovid to convince me to join the program. “Come along Reb Yakov,” he said. “It will change your life.”
Well, Baruch Hashem I did, and it did.
It is difficult in these few lines to convey what this program did for me – and my colleagues. Over the course of the next 3 years, we were exposed to the greatest minds in the world of chinuch – and opportunities to discuss the issues and challenges we face on a daily basis with our gedolim s’hlita. We were made to evaluate our teaching practices, and explore innovative techniques that would enhance the learning of our talmidim and talmidos. We spend many hours developing and learning to better articulate the vision and mission of our mosdos.
We all grew together, individually, and as a coherent group. Perhaps the greatest long-term benefit for us was the fact that the 18 menhalim – from around the country, and representing mosdos ranging from chassidishe yeshivos to ‘out-of-town’ day schools – became an incredibly close-knit group, who continue to contact each other regularly to exchange curriculum materials and to share ideas and innovative programs we are implementing in our respective mosdos.
Over the past five years, I have been watching the rebbeim of our yeshiva experience the thrill of professional growth at the annual Torah Umesorah Conventions. A Torah Umesorah Convention is so much more than merely the sum of its parts. The incredible range of topics in the more than 40 practical and educational workshops. Several rooms brimming with classroom materials culled from the files of outstanding mechanchim and mechanchos from around the world. The Friday Morning Networking Breakfast, where mechanchim get to share ideas with their colleagues.
Devoting one’s life to chinuch is not merely a career choice, but a mission, an answer of a call to a higher duty. To quote Rabbi Yaakov Rajchenbach, President of Torah Umesorah, it is the quintessential act of true misiras nefesh – forgoing potentially lucrative careers to dedicate oneself to the mission of Hashem; to be a “melamed Torah l’amoi Yisroel”. It is therefore so important for our mechanchim and mechanchos to have the opportunity to spend Shabbos with our leading gedolim and hear their much-appreciated divrei bracha and chizuk. In fact, my great rebbi, Rabbi Avrohom Pam z’tl, often spent a major portion of his yearly address at the Torah Umesorah Convention giving chizuk to my chaverim who serve as menhalim and rebbeim in smaller, ‘out-of-town’ communities, where the rewards – and the challenges – are so great.
At Kabbolas Shabbos, I looked around the shul, filled with more than 1,100 mechanchim davening together in an indescribable display of avodah shebelev. I felt so lucky to be part of this illustrious group of shluchei d’Rachmonah.
Ashreinu. Mah Tov Chelkeinu. Mah Noim Goroleinu.”
© 2006 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
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