A special feeling permeated this year’s Agudah Convention. The Agudah Convention has traditionally been the place where Klal Yisroel gathers to discuss the issues of the day, interact with and hear from the Gedolei Yisroel, and find opportunities to be stronger as a united tzibbur. With representatives from all of Klal Yisroel’s many groups, the many attendees gathered with a true “agudah” – bound together in a common cause of increasing kvod Shamayim.
But if there was one theme that was stressed during the Agudah Convention this year, it was speaking up by learning Torah. “Learning Torah is what brings us closest to Hashem,” said Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Slabodka, Bnei Brak, and Chaver Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Degel HaTorah, at Motzoei Shabbos’s keynote session of the Agudah Convention. “Never say you don’t have the strength!” This theme was echoed by, among others, Chaver Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah Rabbi Yeruchim Olshin, Rosh HaYeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha, who explained that specifically in the context of mesorah, learning Torah is what keeps the chain of mesorah strong.
Learning Torah, said Chaver Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, Rosh HaYeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha, protects us: “We will not allow any influences to penetrate – our mechitzah is our Torah!” And Rabbi Yaakov Robinson, Rav of Beis Medrash Mikor Hachaim in Chicago and executive director of the Midwest Agudas Yisroel Council of Synagogue Rabbanim, asked the attendees, “What do you choose to do? Do you go to seder? Do you go to minyan? Or do you choose an extra hour in the office?”
The plight of the Jews of Ukraine still weighs heavily on Agudah’s Vaad Hatzalah, and was an area of focus at the convention. Tens of thousands of Jews remain in Ukraine and are still facing incredible hardship in what continues to be a war zone. Supporting our brothers and sisters is critical and the Vaad Hatzalah continues its work in Ukraine and with resettled refugees elsewhere in Europe, Eretz Yisroel, and the United States.
A touching presentation turned into a joyous celebration of kavod haTorah, singing, and dancing. A sefer Torah – Klal Yisroel’s sefer Torah – was presented by Agudah’s COO Rabbi Yitzchok Ehrman on Motzai Shabbos to the leadership of the Vaad Hatzalah, Sholoime Werdiger, Reuven Wolf, R’ Menashe Frankel, and Bentzion Heitner, on behalf of the thousands of Ukrainian refugees who were saved by their work. The evening turned into an impromptu celebration, first in the ballroom, and then in the Armon Hotel’s lobby, with singing and dancing late into the night. The sefer Torah will be sent to Neptun, Romania, where it will be used in Tikva’s refugee center for Ukrainian Jews.
Many other issues were discussed. On the ruchnios side, effective tefillah, keeping true to Yiddishkeit in a work environment, and living with Hashem, day in and day out. On the gashmios side, others, among them: the economic downturn, challenges of technology, being a Jew in galus, and the continuing constant struggle for religious rights. (For the complete program of the Agudah convention, click here.)
Over the last years, the Agudah Convention has featured various special tracks preceding the actual convention itself. The mental health professionals track is long-standing; this year, over 300 mental health professionals gathered to learn from each other and from Daas Torah, to network, and to get a charge to take them into the next year. Among the speakers was Chaver Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah Rabbi Aharon Feldman, Rosh HaYeshiva, Yeshivas Ner Yisroel of Baltimore.
For its second year, there was a special track for Kallah teachers, who were inspired and educated by experts in the field, as well as Rabbonim and morei hora’ah.
And finally, the special program for Rabbonim proceeded on Thursday evening and Friday morning, with the Rabbanim talking with, among others, Chaver Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah Rabbi Shlomo Eliyahu Miller, Rosh Kollel and Av Beis Din of Kollel Avreichim, Toronto.
All weekday Agudah Convention sessions are recorded and available at https://www.agudahconvention.
org/program, or by phone, via TorahAnytime, at 718-298-2077.