In our ever-changing and ever-challenging society, a Rav needs to be proactive to confront the issues of the times and to inspire and lead his Kehilla. This is the goal of the annual conference of the Midwest Agudas Yisroel Council of Synagogue Rabbonim. Sixty rabbis joining together, to work together, to learn about the latest advancements in medicine, mental health and technology and to discuss solutions and strategies to protect and build the mishpachos of Klal Yisroel.
It’s a daunting task, but Hashem has blessed the communities of the Midwest with high-caliber Rabbonim; Rabbonim whose dedication, insight and wisdom are only matched by their gadlus b’Torah.
Each year, this conference, another one of the amazing contributions that Agudath Israel of Illinois makes to Klal Yisroel, grows both in size and quality. The 2019 event was the 10th annual conference and was particularly impactful with a broad range of Rabbonim and world-renowned experts in their fields making presentations on timely and relevant topics.
As exciting as the annual conference is for all its attendees, this year’s conference generated a mixture of emotions. On one hand, this conference marked a decade of sessions and discussions full of educational, uplifting and practical information, lessons and chizuk. Yet, it was also the first conference since the petira of the Vaad’s founder and Yoshev Rosh, Harav Avrohom Chaim Levin zt”l, Rosh HaYeshiva, Telshe Yeshiva Chicago and member of the Moetzes Gedolei haTorah. To help the Rabbonim reflect and glean lessons from the life of the Rosh Hayeshiva zt”l, powerful and soul stirring divrei zikaron were shared by his son Rabbi Yisroel Menachem Levin. Amongst other things, Rav Levin spoke about his father’s gadlus b’Torah, consistency, and sense of achrayus to the Klal.
Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg, Mora D’asra of the Chofetz Chaim Torah Center in Cedarhurst, NY, gave two presentations. In his first presentation he discussed the rise of adults abandoning their commitment to a life of Torah and mitzvos. He shared some of the signs of this regression and insights in dealing with these individuals and their families. In his second presentation, he discussed a spectrum of topics related to marriage. A primary focus was on helping older singles find shidduchim and helping men and women find their matches for a second marriage. The rabbonim gained immensely from his experience, wisdom and shimush talmidei chachamim.
Rabbi Zev Brown, PhD, a Rebbe and Psychologist in Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway, NY, shared perspectives from his extensive experience counseling adults and children in the New York and New Jersey area. Rabbonim frequently need to counsel and guide individuals with mental health challenges. A comprehensive understanding of these challenges is necessary for a Rav to properly care for, guide and direct his congregants to the right professionals. Rabbi Brown’s sessions were an exceedingly clear and a fundamental presentation on these topics.
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America, drew from his wide range of experiences working together with the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah and shared practical insights and eitzos that Rabbonim can use in their communal life. Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst, Dayan Agudath Israel of Illinois, gave an impactful shiur on many timely contemporary halachic issues.
With an increase and stronger dedication to limud Hatorah at the core of each Rav’s mission to inspire within his kehilla, there were two sessions centered on that topic. Rabbi Labish Becker, Executive Director of Agudath Israel of America, shared an update about the upcoming World-Wide Siyum Hashas, and gave powerful examples of how strong the impact of participating in the siyum can be. Additionally, Rabbi Dovid Newman and Rabbi David Nakash, the founders and leadership of the now world famous V’haarev Na and Kinyan Hamasechta programs presented about their programs specifically, and in general about the necessity of real learning amongst the baalei batim of Klal Yisroel.
Spending quality time together, sharing ideas, and the open discussions at these conferences have proven to bring tremendous chizuk to the participating Rabbonim. It has unified them and equipped them to march forward together accepting the challenges of the 21st century. “There are always rave reviews about the conference,” commented Rabbi Yaakov Robinson, Executive Director of the Midwest Vaad Harabbonim, “because the Rabbonim just enjoy being together and discussing common communal topics and challenges. This year, however, was something special, and I sincerely hope that its impact can be carried home to make a real difference in the kehillos throughout the Midwest.”