Friday, June 10, 2011

A Word from the Director: 6/10/2011

We had an unbelievable crowd on Shavuos, with fifty to sixty boys dropping by Aish Tamid throughout the night. The age range was 14-23 years old and every room in the building was being used for studying Torah. We have students from all over Los Angeles and I was only expecting that the ones from the La Brea area would attend, I was completely taken aback when we had kids from Pico who had walked and skateboarded to be here with us! It was a very inspirational evening for me to see so many guys here from all walks of life. Many of the older boys, whom I haven’t seen in ages and who are in colleges and various programs, came to join us. The most impressive part was that our regulars – who I am always nudging to learn a little – were able to sit through a good part of the night learning dafim of Gemara. Let’s not forget about the food! We had sushi, cheesecake, and lots of other nosh throughout the night. I think Aish Tamid has really become a place for the boys to feel comfortable, almost like their second home. This year, the building is bustling at all hours of the day, whether they come to shmooze and hang out, do work on their computers, attend the GED class in the afternoons, use our gym or the new basketball court, or watch the NBA Finals; and let’s not forget we always have food for them! We’ve created an environment where they can feel comfortable. I had a student say to me a few weeks ago “We have everything here, if we could just sleep here, we’d never have to leave.”

Whenever we have the opportunity I feel it is important to introduce the boys to the people that make it all happen: Avi Leibovic, for being the visionary creator of Aish Tamid. He has spent years of selfless dedication and devotion, reaching out to hundreds of students, whether it be for guidance or for employment opportunities, his special chosson classes, or of course his trademark: INSPIRATION! Avi also recognized the importance of having a building which the kids would be able to call their own.

There are various wonderful organizations that reach out to many areas of our community’s needs. Aish Tamid has a unique niche and that is that we work with our own community’s kids. Very often, because we live such busy lives, we may overlook the needs of our children and families. Often our own kids fall through the cracks and need more attention. Maybe they have a learning issue or just don’t fit in. Whether they need a mentor, a big brother, help in school, or somebody that will reach out to them and tell them they are special. Often there are situations in a family and we are here for them to reach out to us. I spend hundreds of hours on the phone and in meetings with teens and young adults every month. Very often, I just check in with them, leave them a message, remind them that I have not forgotten them and find out if there is something we can do for them. We focus on the relationships. Rarely will I have to engage in theological discussions; these kids know what’s right and what’s wrong. What they need are people to care for them and accept them for who they are. That is what Aish Tamid is all about.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Gavriel Hershoff

No comments:

Post a Comment