Woodridge, New York was the site this past Shabbos of the 26th Annual Bnos Agudas Yisroel Convention, which brought together 250 Bnos leaders from 39 cities across the United States and Canada for a Shabbos of leadership training and chizuk.
The leaders in attendance were shown how to better impart to their charges the simcha in Yiddishkeit a Jew must feel. They were also instructed, and their skills honed, in areas like effective discipline and event planning techniques. And they all left the convention better equipped to provide Bnos girls a fun, wholesome, and “Yiddisheh” way to spend their Shabbos afternoons.
The convention started off with opening remarks by Bnos national director Mrs. Chana Baila Hass, who explored the special Shabbos’ theme: “Im Lo Achshav Aimosai?”
Mrs. Hass noted the benefit of the convention taking place in December rather than later in the year as has been the case with earlier conventions. Leaders, she said, can implement what they have learned while there are still many months left in the “Bnos season.” She went on to speak of the goals of a Bnos convention – not only to instruct and guide but to unite Bnos leaders from far and wide.
The event’s keynote speaker was Rabbi Mordechai Fine, Rav of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and he delivered his address on Shabbos night. Rabbi Fine’s focus was on the chashivus of his listeners’ positions as Bnos leaders, and how that role bears great impact on Klal Yisroel. It also, he explained, shoulders them with a great achrayus to the tzibbur – a responsibility to use the unique talents and kochos given to each of them by Hashem to give to others and to benefit the Klal. He also extolled the importance of achdus, invoking the passuk “Vayichan shom Yisroel negged hahor” to explain that when Klal Yisroel unites for one purpose – Torah – then Hashem is there to help us. Klal Yisroel’s state of “ki’ish echad bi’laiv echad” enabled them, and enables us, to merit siyata di’Shmaya.
Mrs. Tziri Frank, a noted mechaneches in Monsey, offered an interactive session about how to keep the Bnos group environment a disciplined and effective one. Rabbi Avrohom Frank, Director of Camp Agudah Midwest and a master story teller, provided the “ABC’s” of presenting stories in an exciting and interesting way.
Next on the program was an inspiring panel entitled “How to use your time wisely,” which discussed the importance of chessed and of prioritizing the one’s plans daily.
On Shabbos morning, Rabbi Avroham Grossman, Rav of Congregation Ohaiv Shalom in Woodridge, spoke to the girls about the shul’s history.
At the Shabbos seudah, Rabbi Fine spoke again, this time about how each and every individual has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life. He referenced the Chazal brought by the Rashi in the parsha that describes Yaakov as having merited punishment for hiding Dina from Esav, rather than allowing for the possibility that she might have had a positive impact on him.
A practical games workshop took place after the seudah, conducted by an experienced Bnos Leader, Leah Bennett; and later in the afternoon the leaders had a chance to interact with their peers, and to exchange ideas and discuss techniques
During Sholosh Seudos, Rabbi Avrohom Frank told two moving stories about the power of keeping Shabbos.
Then the girls had a chance to describe in detail all the various activities that take place in their respective cities – among them Motzoei Shabbos programs, Sunday programs, and special events.
On Motzei Shabbos, a video presentation was shown that featured the history of Bnos Agudas Yisroel.
Mrs. Leah Zagelbaum, director of constituent services for Agudas Yisroel of America, also addressed the girls, imparting a sense of the wide-ranging work Agudas Yisroel does, and instilling in them a sense of pride that they are in fact part of Agudas Yisroel.
Mrs. Esti Kestenbaum, a noted mechaneches from Monsey, then spoke, impressing on all those in attendance the importance of carrying the convention Shabbos’ momentum into the week, and weeks, to come.
Mrs. Hass had warm words for all the organizers and speakers, as well as for the girls who attend – “all of whom helped make this Shabbos such a success.” She expressed the hope that the Bnos leaders and branch leaders in attendance gained much from the experience, and that future Bnos conventions will prove similarly inspiring.