Amuta: A Fresh Start For Chinuch Atzmai – A Matzav Report On Today’s Meeting Of the Gedolim in Eretz Yisroel


rav-elyashiv-small-picBy Dovid Bernstein & Yair Alpert,

Gedolei Yisroel gathered earlier today for the first official meeting of the new Trustees of the Torah Schools for Israel network. The meeting, held at the former Novotel in Yerushalayim, now called the Moriah Classic, was attended by members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel of America, Mo’etzes Gedolei HaTorah of Degel HaTorah, and Mo’etzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Yisroel of Eretz Yisroel. This historic gathering marked the beginning of an effort to restructure the giant institution and give it the tools to withstand the challenge of growth that has overtaken it. It is a sign of the times, and how much has changed over the past sixty years, that this restructuring has been undertaken. It is expected to give the time honored chain of schools the vitality and capability to survive and continue on its mission.

Rav Dovid Feinstein, rosh yeshiva of Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim, was asked by Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv to travel to Eretz Yisroel to attend the meeting. Other American gedolim who made the trip were Rav Malkiel Kotler, rosh hayeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, NJ, Rav Aharon Schechter, rosh hayeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, Rav Aharon Feldman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, and Chacham Yosef Harari-Raful, rosh hayeshiva of Yeshiva Ateret Torah.

Gedolim in Eretz Yisroel who attended the meeting included Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz, and the admorim of Nadvorna and Erlau.

Some history:

Going back to the beginning, the predecessor of Chinuch Atzmai, Zerem Revi’i, was never expected to last once the Ben Gurion administration made the decision to terminate the funding for those schools. It was thought that the teachers would leave for lack of pay, and the students would be forced to switch to the Mamlachti Dati system. A frantic Rabbi Moshe Porush traveled to the 1950 National Convention of Agudath Israel and was warmly welcomed by Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l. Rav Aharon sent him back with more than just $50,000. He returned to Eretz Yisroel with Rav Aharon’s pledge for continued full support.

Coming back to the US a short time later, he approached the Vice President of Zeirei Agudath Israel, Rabbi Henach Cohen, and offered him the position of heading the New York office of the new Chinuch Atzmai. After initially declining, Reb Henach was summoned by Rav Aharon. “You will work with me, and it will be geshmak!” And so began what would take up the most of Rav Aharon’s time for the last decade of his life. He would travel to Manhattan with Reb Henach, every day, and visit donors, explaining to them the importance of saving Eretz Yisroel’s children from shmad, r’l. 

At this time, Rav Aharon reached an agreement with the Gerrer Rebbe, Rav Yisroel Alter zt”l, to keep the school system separate from the Aguda political faction. Although Agudah politicians would work tirelessly to obtain government monies for the schools, they in turn would be independent and not politically aligned to any party.

To emphasize this political freedom, Rav Aharon invited Rabbi Yosef  Dov Soloveitchik of Boston to preside over one of the early fundraising functions as dinner chairman. Reb Henach’s first desk was in the office of Rav Aharon’s dear acquaintance Mr. Zev Wolfson, and his salary was covered by another close supporter of Rav Aharon, Mr. Stephen Klein. At times, Mr. Klein would himself travel to Eretz Yisroel to personally deliver the funds.

After Rav Aharon’s petirah in 1963, the leadership passed on to Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, who along with Rav Shneur Kotler zt”l and Rav Boruch Sorotzkin zt”l, would ensure that the schools had the funds to function.

With the coming to power of the Likud in the early eighties, Prime Minister Menachem Begin expressed an interest in totally funding the Chinuch Atzmai. This offer was graciously accepted by Maran Rav Elazar Shach zt”l, and the budget shortfall which remained from the ‘extra hours’ of Torah study continued to be covered by the New York office.

The entire system has come under major change over the past decade and a half, with the formation of the powerful kiruv agency Lev L’Achim. Many children were beginning to leave public school and register through the  Project Rishum and there was simply not enough room to accommodate so many students. An additional system, Keren Nesivos Moshe, was created in the memory of Rabbi Moshe Sherrer zt”l, Rosh Agudath Israel of America, to absorb the newcomers until they could transfer to the Chinuch Atzmai schools.

The challenge of dealing with the natural growth was compounded by the challenge of dealing with the sore secularists in the government, who were trying to do anything and everything to prevent the budget approved monies from reaching their destination.

The real test was the bussing crisis. In May of 2006, the administrator of Chinuch Atzmai, Rabbi Meir Luria zt”l, was notified of a significant reduction in bussing reimbursements by the government effective come September. He ran to the gedolim. A kol koreh was drafted, and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv established the “Keren Lisiyua Has’aot LeTalmidei Chinuch Atzmai.” It is comprised of 3 members, Rav Yosef Efrati, Rav Mordechai Karelitz, and Rav Yaakov Verzabinsky. Together with Rav Chizkiyahu Mishkovsky, they set out to seek the support of major philanthropists across the globe.

As prominent baalei tzedakah began to line up with sizeable donations, they began to become more acquainted with the strain that the growth swell was placing on the skeletal office of Chinuch Atzmai in Yerushalayim. Moreover, it became increasingly clear that besides the difficulties which were being deliberately placed to slow the kiruv momentum, the mosad was in dire need of an overhaul, to better adapt and equip itself to give the students the best education possible.

After much consulting with the gedolei hador, mechanchim, askonim, lawyers and accountants, it was decided that the best course would be  to expand the executive base by forming a new Amuta, or corporation, and choosing a management team which will bear the brunt of the challenge in an administrative fashion, while being assisted by the donors, instead of the erratic and unpredictable on-again off-again, start-services  stop-services, intermittent school days  which were beginning to erode the Torah Schools  reputation for scholastic achievement. To leave things as they were would permit this vulnerable network to be tossed and buffeted by the waves of hostility which are rising against it, while not allowing it the resources and the organizational vitality to strive towards the educational excellence these children are capable of.     The new Amuta will breath new life into the flagging current management by appointing various supervisors over the sprawling network, who will report back to the management team, who in turn are beholden to this Board of Trustees, the gedolei hador.

{By Dovid Newscenter & Yair Israel}


  1. There are those who are already screaming “Foul” and trying to paint this episode as an example of anti-Chassidic behavior by the Degel HaTorah Litvaks who are “not even part of Agudas Yisroel”.

    Allow me to fill in some facts your carefully edited article failed to mention.

    Unfortunately, the achdus of Agudas Yisroel was destroyed when a leading Admor decided that the Agudah was a private tool his community had come to control in the effort to help themselves.

    Rav Shach Zt’l was left with no choice other than to found Degel which in reality is the real Agudas Yisroel!

    Chinuch Atzmai stands as a monument to the destruction this same Chassidic community has wrought within the torah world. Instead of being the vehicle by which newly observant or out-of-town communities might have a Torah chinuch for their children, Chinuch Atzmai was hijacked by the aforementioned sect to be used as their personal job agency and as a source of funds for their own schools. It is a travesty to note that while these people renovated their own institutions in Yerushalayin and Bnai Brak the schools in Beit Shean, Dimona and elsewhere were left to fall in to disrepair; a fact that turned away many would-be parents.

    Rav Pam Zt’l, the President of Chinuch Atzmai, when faced with the refusal of the Chinuch Atzmai powers-that-be to steer funding toward the newly arriving Russian population, resigned as Nasi and started SHUVU to do the job Chinuch Atzmai should have been doing.

    When Lev L’Achim tapped in to the vast as-yet secular population with their PROJECT RISHUM and had thousands of children ready to go to Torah schools but faced opposition from Chinuch Atzmai who refused to expand schools or to open new schools, Rav Shteinman -with the cooperation of the Gerrer Rebbe- founded Keren Nesivos Moshe to pay for the new schools that were created to absorb the children of the Rishum (enrollment).

    That aforementioned sect has been busy fighting with everyone else in an effort to show they are boss! They have witheld funds from SHUVU and inserted their people to positions there. They have fought to get their people in to positions in Nesivos Moshe. They have fought and fought until every Gadol in the world has become disgusted with them.

    The brilliant move by the remaining Board members of Chinuch Atzmai, now approved and made legal by the unprecedented joint effort of the Gedolei HaDor, will hopefully lead to a revamped Chinuch Atzmai; an entity that will live up to the ideals of Rav Aharon Kotler Zt’l and those who founded it.

    So don’t allow anyone to yell “Porush”. That strategy only worked when that chassidic group sought to punish the Porushes for their work to save Chinuch Atzmai and presented Klal Yisroel with Mayor Barkat and all that the suffering and Chilul Shabbos he brought with him.

    The American Gedolim, including Rav Aharon Shechter, Rav David Feinstein, Rav Aharon Feldman, Rav Malkiel Kotler and Rav Yosef Harari-Raful, who flew to attend this meeting, are all the proof anyone needs over who is right and what is the true Daas Torah.

  2. This is a completely one sided factional report that totally ignores the fact that Chinuch Atzmai has a board of Directors who have been working selflessly for decades to ensure a quality Torah education for all children in Eretz Yisroel, a task in which they have been extrememly sucessful. However success breeds jealousy. This was nothing short of a hijack. In the past few years political factions led by a Yerushalmi family that has seen its power base in other areas become wholly eroded, have made it their unremitting goal to take over Chinuch Atzmai, which since its founding has been under the spiritual guidance of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Yisroel in Israel. They have been encouraged in that by various other elements seeking personal gain who have assisted them in misleading the litvishe gedolim. Only two of the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, the guardian board of Chinuch Atzmai, were present at today’s meeting in the (non Shomer Shabbos) Moriah Classic Hotel in Yerushalayim. Why do I mention that the hotel is mechalel Shabbos? Because today the Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbos issued a renewed request to not patronize non Shomer Shabbos places of entertainment and here our cherished Rabbonim were brought together in a place that is openly mechalel Shabbos for the purpose of discussing our children’s education. I am sure the irony will not be lost on any of Matzav’s readers. It is no wonder only two of the Chassidishe leaders (and they of very small groups) attended and why the Gerrer Rebbe Shlita, Nosi of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah stayed away.

  3. To #1 – you say “They have fought and fought until every Gadol in the world has become disgusted with them.” By they you mean Ger and gratuitously insult one of the greatest leaders of our generation, the Gerrer Rebbe Shlita. Your statement that “every Gadol in the world has become disgusted with them” is comtemptuous. Where were the Rebbes of soem of the most vibrant of Eretz Yisroel’s chassidusen Viznitz, Belz, Sanz, Slonim, Boyan, Stolin to name but a few, this morning? They had no truck with the attempt to oust the existing legally appointed management of Chinuch Atzmai. So much for every Gadol in the world.

  4. Its about time people stopped playing games with Ger and put them in their proper palce. they took over and destroyed the Israeli Agudah, they took over and destroyed the Modia as an objective itelligent newspaper, the hijacked many other public initiatives. they froze funding to Shuvu and ensured the election of an anti-religious mayor of Yerushalyim.
    Enough is enough.

  5. The Gerrer Rebe is NOT the Nasi of the Moetzes, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe is. But after the truth was laid out for all us by the first person to comment, it was gratifying to have this latter comment fill in the blank so carefully left unmentioned by the first comment.

    Let us all daven for the day that the leaders of individual groups will tell their flock that individual entities need to to stop grabbing and thinking only about themselves; it is time to think about what is good for the Klal! And yes, the Klal includes the Sefardic children in Dimona; the as-yet secular in Tel Aviv and the immigrants from Yemen, Russia and elsewhere. They do not have fancy Chavrei Knesset to ensure all their rights. WE must use our influence to help them. “Leis Man DePalig” …there is noone who can argue with this!… even though who spell “Leis” L-I-T-Z!

  6. I thought the Viznitzer and Gerrer Rebbes were the joint heads of the Moetzes of Aguda but that with the illness of the Viznitzer Rebbe, may he have a refua shleima, the Gerrer Rebbe is the effective Nosi. Does anyone have a full list of all the members and which of them were present at today’s meeting?

  7. i’m wondering if comment #1 is the same author of the original article in matzav. the style of writing is the same. it’s a shrewed way for the author to hide his real intentions and make matzav look impartial.

    also keren nesivos moshe was an effort of the gerrer rebbe to jump start the fixing of chinuch atzmai problems by doing something positive and staying away from machlokes with the controllers of the past two decades who have done nothing to expand except for thwarting any effort of bringing in new and younger kochos.
    this is the very same reason why rav pam zt”l removed himself as nasi and began shuvu together with Rabbi ziberberg.(bt”w a gerrer chosid)

  8. chaim maiyir – You should be healthy and well but blaming what you see as the world’s ills on Ger is very childish. I am not a Gerrer chossid but I live close to the Ger World Center and hear the kol haTorah that emanates from there day and night. What do you have to say against that? One thing about the Chinuch Atzmai business is very clear though. Whether you agree with it or not this was an attempt to shut Ger out. As with the other attempts to tread Ger into the ground over the past few years, it will be doomed to failure. Ger are one of the most powerful of the Chassidic groups in Israel. Witness how PM Netanyahu held a special place open for the Gerrer MK Yakov Litzman. And when help was needed last week to get the Toldos Aaron lady out of jail, who did they turn to? Not Mayer Porush and his cronies but Yakov Litzman of Ger. Hamodia still seems to be doing well despite the Porush family’s new offering, the Shuvu schools are flourishing and it was the citizens of Yerushalayim in their entirity that voted in Barakat. If Mayer Porush had not insisted on foolishly trying to replace a well loved and respected incumbent who did not frighten off the non-religious, we would probably have a Haredi mayor today. The polls all predicted Porush would lose and he did but you blame Ger. Childish.

  9. I would like to correct comment #2 The Gerrer Rebbe is not nosi of the Moetzes he i a reagular member There are 3 nissim the Viznitzer Rebbe, The Erlauer Rov and The Sadigurer Rebbe the mostzes of Agudah lost most of its members over the last few years Rav Binyomi Zilber, Rav Fishel Rabinowitz, The Alexander Rebbe, The Modzhitzer Rebbe, The Yitzchokm Flakser, The Pnei Menachem… Agudas Yisroel did not appoint or invite any new members to join.
    Now as far as the question why all the Rebbes didn’t come today they are all not part of the Moetzes

  10. This whole discussion makes me want to cry.

    Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh Av. Haven’t we learned anything about sinas chinam and machlokes? Manipulating power for personal/group gain? After two thousand years we finally got to come home and this is how we conduct ourselves – playing games for power and money? Don’t ask me who’s right and who’s wrong – I don’t know. But this kind of infighting in the Torah camp is a more terrifying danger than any Iranian nuke could be.

  11. I agree with Rachel R. There was once a disagreement in Ponovez about who owned a particular seat in the Bais Hamedrash. The olam quickly took sides and the talmidim brought proofs from Shas to their opinions until it became a full-blown machlokes. Motzai Shabbos Reb Chatzkel got up and said “Ich hob gehert az es is do a macholokes in Yeshiva” (I have heard that there is a machlokes in the Yeshiva) “Ich vais nisht ver is gerecht” (I don’t know who is right) “Uber in der haim az is geven a machlokes hoben mentshen geshtorben” (But in Europe when there was a machlokes, people died).
    Needless to say the issue was quickly solved. Instead of ‘helping’ to clarify the subject which does no one any good, let’s applaud and be happy with the fact that we have gedolim who are doing what needs to be done to strengthen Torah.

  12. rachel r. im sure that you trully care about sinas chinam. However,Harav elyashiv and R shteinman are the gedolei hador for a reason.they trully know what hashem defines as sinas chinam. however they also trully know how precious every yidishe neshoma is. and theres a reason why the gedolei hador make decisions for klal yisroel

  13. moshe you are not right. Rav Eliashiv and Rav Steinman are not THE gedolei hador. They are among a group of Rebbes and Rabbonim who can all be described as gedolei hador. My Rebbe, the Gerrer Rebbe, is no less a godol than either of those two rabbonim. I accept that Rav Eliashiv and Rav Steinman are amongst the gedolei hador. The problem with most of those involved on the opposite side is that they use the THE word like you and also they think the Gerrer Rebbe counts for zero.

  14. I have heard from those who grew up in Europe that the main driving forces behind a
    machlokes were usually not the Gedolim involved but the more “farbrennt” of their followers. The Gedolim conducted themselves with respect and derech eretz. The amei aretz, however, would become very vocal and disrespectful, and blow the whole thing up until it became a major problem.

    Rather than playing “My Gadol is bigger than your Gadol” or “Your Gadol is picking on my Gadol,” let’s let the Gedolim solve the issues themselves. After all, that’s why they’re the Gedolim and we’re not.

  15. To all those who decry the infighting among the Jews.
    Nowadays, the infighting is a lot tamer than it used to be. It is mamash child’s play compared to the good ‘ol days. So cheer up, it could be , and once was. a lot worse.

  16. Yes, the infighting in the good old days in Europe between the world wars really was terrible. It was stopped by – the Holocaust.

    Do we really want to receive that kind of correction again?

  17. To Rachel R,Sorry do differ with you,but as far as I know,we dont have any more neveim anymore.Its pretty funny to me that you have the nerve to prophesice the reason behing the holocaust.Ive read many seforim on the holocaust from many gedolim who have the right to prophesize if they would want,and not one of them said that its bec. the machloksim between the gedoilei hador

  18. Every single member of the Moetzos Gedolei haTorah of Agudah and Degel were invited to the kennes. No one was left out. The Rebbes who did not come chose to be absent. That was their choice; they were not excluded or elbowed out. They did not want a change of power but something had to be done to make Chinuch Atzmai legal so that funds can be allocated. Ma la’asot. Kacha zeh bachaim. If some people interpret this as some faction’s unwillingness to lose their bechora status, so be it. But the move had to be made as the institutions are on the verge of collapse. If two gedolim of the stature of Rav Eliyashiv and Rav Shtainman felt the absolute necessity to call for such a meeting, then it was up to the other gedolim to join in order to preserve achdus. So who is to blame here for causing machlokes?! Not necessarily any gedolim or Rebbes, but often the machers/politicians who have an ax to grind and know how to present things to their Rebbes/spiritual mentors in the way that they see fit.