In anticipation of the upcoming Passaic parlor meeting to benefit Mifal Torah Vodaas, Rabbi Shmuel Berkowitz, Sgan Menahel of Passaic, reflects on Mifal’s past and future
Rabbi Berkowitz, please tell us about your connection to Mifal.
I had the good fortune and zechus of marrying a descendant of the legendary Reb Binyomin Wilhelm, founder of Mifal. I was introduced to the amazing things Mifal accomplishes with troubled youths in Eretz Yisroel and after visiting and seeing their achievements firsthand I was completely sold.
Can you tell us how Mifal started and why?
My esteemed Zeidy Reb Binyomin Wilhelm brought Torah and yiddishkeit to America in establishing Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. He came to Eretz Yisroel to retire, where he saw a void –and he took it upon himself to fill it. Zeidy Reb Binyomin was an eved ne’emon of the Ribono shel Olam. He didn’t focus on what he had already done and stop there, but rather never to cease in doing for Hashem . Wheelchair-bound and all, Zeidy Reb Binyomin gathered all of his strength to save Sefardi boys from assimilating into the secular Israeli culture. He knew one thing. The Bashefer wants all of his children to know of Him, to know of His Torah – and if no one else was teaching them, Zeidy Reb Binyomin made it is his personal mission to introduce them to their heritage and duties as Yidden members of the Am Hanivchor.
How did he go about accomplishing all this?
He created afternoon classes, complete with interesting and inspiring lessons and incentives. He hired Rebbe’im to teach the boys. This necessitated that he spend a lot of his time raising money to pay for the program. Zeidy Reb Binyomin was a trailblazer in the true sense of the word. All the organizations that are household names today didn’t exist in those years. All the preprinted booklets, questions, answers and information created specifically for children were not available then. None of this deterred Zeidy Reb Binyomin from reaching out to every alienated Jewish child and bringing him closer to Hashem , his Torah and their own Mesorah.
What contributes to Mifal’s continuous success rates?
Sefardishe people raise their families with deeply traditional values. These children are like sponges, ready to absorb and soak up true Torah beliefs. They just need someone to open their eyes and teach them the dvar Hashem. Countless boys over the years have actually continued in mainstream yeshivos and became integrated into frum communities after attending the programs made available to them by Mifal.
How does Mifal assess if the boys are gaining insight and growing?
My Rebbi, Rav Gifter, zt”l, says that every mitzvah connects you to the Mezaveh . When a person says Shema, he connects with the Borai Olam. Mifal connects Jewish boys to Torah, to mitzvos, and to our Creator. One single boy undertaking one single mitzvah means growth and development in the right direction. Multiply this by many mitzvos and many boys, and the progress is phenomenal.
Can you tell me a memorable episode about Mifal?
A person told me who had been married for over ten years and hadn’t yet been zocheh to children, when he met Zeidy Binyomin. Zeidy said to him, “If you give a donation for Mifal, b’lev shalem and b’simchah, you will be blessed!” The man donated a modest amount, after which Zeidy Reb Binyomin bentched him like a father would a child. Ten months later, this person became a father!
There are numerous worthy causes today; why would I include Mifal in my donations?
If someone is interested in giving tzedakah to an organization that is kadosh v’tahor, Mifal should absolutely be on his priority list. Mifal takes boys and teaches them about Torah and mitzvos. Mifal transforms the course of their lives. You want to be a part of this.