July 18, 2024
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Echad L’Echad Works to Encourage and Support Next Generation of Religious Zionist Spiritual Leaders, One at a Time

JERUSALEM—As Jews around the world prepare for the High Holidays, traditionally a time for self-reflection, introspection and repentance, many also take advantage of these hallowed days to try to make a difference, to give back and try to help others in the waning days of 5777 and waxing days of 5778. When browsing the many worthy causes, one may wish to consider the words of Hillel the Elder (Avot 2:7), “Whoever acquires (lit. buys) the learning of Torah has acquired (lit. bought) life in the World to Come.” While the Tanna likely meant these words as a personal charge to each and every one of us to study and acquire as much Torah as possible during our time on this earth, they are equally, if not more, apt when helping support others in their learning of Torah.

Many organizations exist to help support individuals in the ultra-Orthodox world who wish to fulfill the prayer of “may Torah may be our profession (lit. craft)” in the most literal way, but less common are those who seek to support individuals outside of Haredi circles with the same ideals. There are many such individuals who learned in yeshiva, gave years of their lives serving in the IDF and wish to return to Torah study afterward; most hope to use this as a springboard to pursuing careers in teaching, becoming a pulpit rabbi or other spiritual leadership. Unfortunately, such pursuits are not always financially viable. Who will help support these heroes in their mission of spreading Torah and the love of the Land of Israel?

Echad L’Echad (lit. One to One), the brainchild of Yeshivat Torah B’Tzion Rosh Yeshiva Rav Yitzhak Neriya, endeavors to do just this in their latest project. Approaching its 10th year since founding, Echad L’Echad has worked tirelessly to fulfill one of the most crucial societal pillars of Judaism since its coining by Hillel thousands of years ago, “tikun olam,” repairing the world. Its projects include advancing the development of weaker populations in Israeli society by recruiting individuals from other backgrounds to help those less fortunate. Echad L’Echad also works to support and provide financial assistance to Israelis living on the frontline, in the Judean and Samarian settlements of Binyamin, Har Hevron and Gush Ezion, where residents often receive less support from the government and are regularly castigated by leftist activists and a largely liberal media. Now, the organization’s latest project mixes Hillel’s tikun olam and teaching in Pirkei Avot to help cultivate and encourage future Torah scholars within the Israeli Dati Le’umi world.

Haven’t heard of Echad L’Echad? No one would blame you, as, for most of their existence, they’ve successfully relied on private donors in order to advance their ambitious goals without overly publicizing their organization.

“Since 5768, we’ve merited to assist, under the ‘public radar,’ many Religious Zionist families from all layers and sub-layers of society,” said Rav Neriya. “Until recently, we’ve been assisted by a group of donors and our activities have been done with honor, integrity, reliability and quiet. However, after six years of working ‘behind the scenes,’ we feel like the time has come to offer everyone an opportunity to be part of this tremendous chesed.”

Recent research has shown that in the Haredi world, over 100,000 young adults (“bachurim”) are in yeshiva programs, versus the 12,000 in the Dati Le’umi world. Approximately 70,000 married men (“avreichim”) study in Haredi kollel programs, compared to less than 3,000 in the Religious Zionist world. Based on these figures, Echad L’Echad believes that the Dati Le’umi world will soon lose the ability to have a say in the religious agenda of the State of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide, not to mention that the next generation may yield less spiritual leaders and teachers for the community itself.

“How will we nurture and develop the great Torah scholars and arbiters of tomorrow if students aren’t studying Talmud and spending the requisite amount of time in yeshiva to foster their knowledge and expertise in Jewish law?” Rav Neriya asked, during a recent interview with the Jerusalem Post.

In answer to this need, Echad L’Echad seeks to help support young men in the Religious Zionist world who want to do their part to become spiritual leaders. These future leaders are invited to apply for a five-year stipend to help them remain in their current yeshivot and train for Torah leadership. The program is only available for married students who have served in the army, have already been learning seriously for at least four years, and only after recommendations of their rebbeim and roshei yeshiva and a series of tests and interviews. Echad L’Echad hopes to have at least 500 of these elite talmidim in this program at any given time. The goal? For alumni to become the next community rabbis, teachers, IDF chaplains, outreach professionals and rabbinical court judges—because Torah cannot continue to grow in our communities if we don’t foster it.

“We are an ideological community, but if we don’t take care of the people who support us ideologically then we will have problems in the future,” said Rav Neriya.

So, on these days of teshuva, when we look inside ourselves, pray for an amazing 5778 and repeat the famous mantra “Teshuva, tefilla, and tzedaka can remove the ro’ah hagezeira,” there’s no better way to begin the new year than to give tzedaka and help support the next generation of Dati Le’umi spiritual leaders in Israel. May we all merit a sweet and happy New Year.

To learn more about Echad l’Echad’s latest project, please visit: http://torahnow.1l1.org.il/en/home-page/.

By Tzvi Silver/JLNJ Israel

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