Agudath Israel Holds Annual Dinner: A Movement in Time


Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, Novominsker Rebbe and Rosh Agudas Yisroel
Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshiva Gedolah of Philadelphia, Member, Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President, Agudath Israel of America
Shlomo Werdiger, Guest of Honor
Shlomo Werdiger, with members of his family, is presented with the award
Rivie Schwebel presents a moving musical tribute to Shlomo Werdiger
Yoni Klein speaks of his father, Mendy Klein, z”l
Gary Torgow, Member, Board of Trustees and Chairman of the dinner
(Left to Right): Rivie Schwebel, Congressman JohnFaso, Rabbi Yeruchim Silber
(Left to Right): Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, Shlomo Werdiger, NYS Senator Simcha Felder
(Left to Right): Michael Fragin, Chaskel Bennett, NYS Senator Elaine Phillips, Keith Wofford, Leon Goldenberg, Julie Killian, NYS Senator Marty Golden, Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Shlomo Werdiger, Rabbi Yeruchim Silber
Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, Councilman Chaim Deutsch, NYS Public Advocate Letitia James, Leon Goldenberg
Rabbi Elya Brudny, Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, Rabbi Aharon Feldman
Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky
Greeting Rabbi Aharon Schachter
partial view of the crowd
From the opening moments of the welcome reception to the final musical notes of the feature presentation, the 96th Annual Agudath Israel of America event was a historic evening, one that seamlessly blended a rich history dating back nearly a century with the promise of a future filled with an unwavering commitment to Torah values and ideals.
Over 1,600 people turned out at the Hilton New York to take part in A Movement In Time, an unprecedented event embodying the true spirit of the Agudah and its mission to continuously rise to the challenges facing Klal Yisroel in every generation. Guests of every age demonstrated their support by taking part in the dinner, opening with a Unity Reception whose exhibits bore testament to the successes of the Agudah’s many community service programs. Among those who participated in the celebration of the Agudah’s accomplishments were well over two dozen elected officials, judges and dignitaries. Representatives comprised of administration, staff and board members of close to 50 yeshivas came to demonstrate their gratitude to the Agudah for its continued advocacy on their behalf.
Guest of honor Shlomo Werdiger, chairman of the Agudah’s board of trustees, was lauded throughout the night for his exemplary philanthropy and relentless efforts that have yielded tremendously beneficial results for the Torah community. Heralded as a role model who shuns the spotlight, Mr. Werdiger was described by numerous speakers as a legendary askan whose capacity for giving is endless. After being gifted with a painting of himself with the late Agudah president Rabbi Moshe Sherer z’l, Mr. Werdiger spoke of the importance of every individual recognizing their own ability to make a difference in the lives of others.
Emotional tributes were paid to the memory of Mendy Klein z”l who was due to be honored at the dinner with the National Leadership Award but passed away unexpectedly just weeks ago. Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rosh HaYeshiva, Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia and member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, spoke of Mr. Klein’s passion for seeing to the needs of others. Rabbi Elya Brudny, Rosh Yeshiva, Mirrer Yeshiva, praised the exceptional humility that had Mr. Klein refusing to accept thanks for his significant financial donations to many an institution or cause. There was also a poignant memorial video, in which several of the Klein children described the scope of their father’s tzedakah activities. Yoni Klein, his son, spoke movingly about his father’s legacy.
The recent loss of Rabbi Simcha Bunim Ehrenfeld z’l, Matersdorfer Rebbe and member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, and Rabbi Zecharia Gelley z’l, mara d’asra, Khal Adath Jeshurun and member of the Nesius of Agudath Israel, was keenly felt. They were remembered as true Gedolei Torah whose staunch dedication to the Agudah knew no bounds. Mrs. Aliza Grund a’h, long-time president of Nshei Agudath Israel of America, was also warmly recalled for her many activities on behalf of the community.
The theme A Movement In Time was echoed by multiple speakers who recounted the Agudah’s success in perpetuating its ideals in numerous ways throughout the years, shifting its focus and creating new initiatives as Klal Yisroel’s needs continue to evolve. Also emphasized throughout the program was the changing face of the Agudah, whose seasoned members have seen an influx of fresh younger faces who are eager to become involved in the movement that has bettered the lives of innumerable members of the Jewish community.
As one of the Agudah “ambassadors” representing the next generation of askanus throughout North America said, he became involved after realizing the many ways that the Agudah touches the lives of the Torah community through its extensive network of programs.
“The Agudah is a movement that services the community from birth through and including death and everything in between,” observed the ambassador. “When a baby is born, the Agudah is there protesting challenges to doing circumcision as it has been done. When a child goes to school, the Agudah is there working on behalf of the community to provide busing. When someone needs medical care or is terminally ill and decisions have to be made, when there are issues with dress code, Sabbath observance or other areas that affect our religion, the Agudah is always there.”
Those thoughts were echoed by another Agudah ambassador who said, “The Agudah is an organization that speaks for itself and has been here for decades and decades. Its strength is that we all stand together and while people like Shlomo Werdiger and Rabbi Zwiebel have carried the torch for so many years, it is incumbent upon all of us to shoulder part of the burden.”
The dinner program included uplifting words from the Rosh Agudas Yisroel and Novominsker Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, and inspiring divrei chizuk from Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky.
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the Agudah’s executive vice president, explained that far from being just an organization, the Agudah is a movement whose very existence is dedicated to meeting the challenges of the Torah community in past times, in our time and in future times.
NY Senate Majority leader John Flanagan addressed the event. He praised both the Agudah and its chairman, Mr. Werdiger, describing the satisfaction he gains by working together with the Agudah and the Orthodox Jewish community, building upon shared values. Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and Senator Charles Schumer shared their support of the Agudah from afar in a pre-recorded video.
Event chairman Gary Torgow, delivered a “State of the Union” address in which he enumerated many of the Agudah’s activities, dramatically highlighting several members of the audience who had received critical services from the Agudah’s various divisions.
The evening concluded with a musical tribute to Mr. Werdiger, with a poignant song performed by Rivie Schwebel, a member of the Agudah’s board of trustees. The feature presentation, A Movement In Timemusic video, illustrated the message of the evening, that much like an orchestra can only achieve true beauty when its many components work in tandem, the Agudah’s accomplishments are the result of the combined efforts of the many individuals who use their own talents to contribute to Klal Yisroel.
The final words of the night were delivered by Mr. Werdiger, who described the Agudah as the guiding light that has helped the Torah community navigate its way through the ever-changing maze of life.
 “Through good times and difficult ones, the Agudah has illuminated the way for Klal Yisroel,” said Mr. Werdiger.  “Together with the many new faces who have joined our ranks, we will continue the mission that has defined us for nearly one hundred years for generations to come.”


  1. Perhaps someone can answer this for me. The Aguda is an amazing organization that does incredible work for Klal Yisorel. After hearing, reading and seeing all the PR and videos and speeches I left feeling that the Aguda is our political activist in government relations (and this is no small feat – perhaps it is the greatest accomplishment of our generation). Outside of that, it seems a convention, a Dinner and claiming ownership of Daf Yomi is what else they do.

    This is not at all a knock on the Agudah, it’s a call for more action!

    It left me wondering about the roots of the organization and what the original mission was. Who is doing that today? Mike Tress was involved in saving lives, taking care of the poor, lifting the downtrodden, pushing our Gedolai Yisroel to take a stand, make a statement, create a vision, lead a path and make things happen. Rabbi Sherer did so much of that as well. We need that back (in addition to the political activism).

    Some examples:
    1 – Camp – Camp Agudah was founded as a place for Frum kids to spend a summer in a Torahdiga environment – regardless if they could afford it or not. Where is any child whose family cannot afford camp supposed to go today? 2 – Saving lives in schools – We are losing children, teenagers and adults all swaying from a happy Torah life – Where is the leadership and direct clear guidance from Gedolim on what the best thing to do is? Where is the direction to the schools and Mosdos in charge of our youth (with insistence that they follow) on issues like homework, tuition assistance, bullying, over testing, Ahavas Hashem in our schools curriculum? (Evolution they will all scream to stay away from, how about what to teach and when to teach).
    3 – Saving lives in communities – Who is dealing with depression, addiction, suicide? What are families who need professional help but cannot afford it supposed to do?
    4 – Community – Finances is a killer. What are doing to relieve pressures, relieve stress, help people get jobs (here the Aguda does have a job placement center but even in that area there is so much more do in the way of heloping people)
    5 – Marriages – from Shidduchim, marriage preparation, marriage counseling, preventing divorce, assisting through the process if RL there is a divorce, providing mental and financial care for the children caught in the cross-hairs of a divorce

    And the list goes on. We need leadership in all of this. The Aguda was founded as the ultimate Hatzoloh organization. Yes government advocacy is critical and has helped bring in millions of dollars in assistance to our schools and communities and yes all of this that the Aguda does must absolutely continue and become even better and the Aguda is GREAT at this. We are so fortunate to have such an organization. However, the Aguda must broaden their horizon. The Aguda must once again become the home and address for those, suffering, those in need, those lost, those in trouble – a home for every Jew to know they can turn to for whatever they need help with.

    If, the Aguda is already doing this then someone at the Aguda must work on their PR and get the word out. Make videos, write articles, place ads showing what the Aguda does WITHOUT mentioning government advocacy, Daf Yomi, a Dinner or a convention. Let us see that there is so much more to this “Movement”


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