Rabbi Eli Stern
The Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel (LINK) celebrated its 14th anniversary with its most successful banquet yet. The gala event was held at the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hill on the evening of May 31st. Over 350 people crowded into the main ballroom to honor Mr. and Mrs. Omeed Hakimi with the Young Leadership Award and Mr. and Mr. Hershey Zisblatt with the Keser Shem Tov honor, as well as to laud the work of LINK.
In his moving remarks, Mr. Hakimi recalled his first experiences learning at LINK over ten years ago. While still a teenager, he began his journey on the path to more serious observance through LINK. He spoke fondly of the warmth of the LINK Rabbis and the caring, non-judgmental way that they taught Torah. Today, he is a successful real estate investor, married with a growing family and a serious ben Torah who views his learning seder in Shulchan Aruch at the kollel as his highlight of the day.
In his poignant address, Mr. Zisblatt, a talmid of Rav Simcha Wasserman ZT”L, and a successful real estate lawyer for over 30 years, took a broad historical view of the LINK’s success. The long-time gabbai of the LINK Shabbos shul, Mr. Zisblatt recalled growing up in Los Angeles over 50 years ago as a child of Holocaust survivors. He contrasted that world – where most of the children in his cohort were leaving yiddishkeit and intermarrying – with the vibrancy and tremendous growth of the Torah community in L.A. today. He praised LINK for its integral role in promoting the primacy of Torah study in the life of a Jew. He marveled at the diversity of the attendees of the nightly beis medrash at LINK – most of them in their 20s and 30s, from a plethora of religious and ethnic backgrounds, all united with a thirst for understanding the dvar Hashem. He praised the LINK kollel rabbis for their ability to imbue this eclectic group of talmidim – all of whom work full-time – with a love of Torah that resonates uniquely with each individual.
A short video was then screened praising the work of LINK’s pioneering YPLA program. This unique undertaking, led by Rabbi Aryeh Steinman, is aimed at young men 18-25 who have a day school background but choose to attend college or work in L.A. Previously, there were few options for organized Torah learning for such individuals. Now, thanks to LINK and YPLA, these young men have a structured morning seder beginning with davening and a hot breakfast. The three-hour learning seder consists of directed chavrusah learning and shiurim in halachah, Chumash, Navi, and gemara offered by Rabbi Steinman and other LINK Rabbis.
In his salutary remarks, Rabbi Asher Brander, the founder and rav of LINK, reflected upon the many successes of the kollel over the past 14 years. High on the list was the creation of a beis medrash that is packed nightly with people from the most diverse of backgrounds – Sefardim, Ashkenazim, baalei teshuva, Frum-From-Birth bnei Torah, yeshiva graduates who have overcome many challenges to return to the path of yiddishkeit, retirees who are tasting Torah for the first time. For this success, he credited an abundant amount of siyatta dishmaya and the leadership of the rosh kollel, Rabbi Mordechai Lebhar. He also cited many individual examples of the avreichims’ going above and beyond the call of duty to inspire and teach their talmidim with true love and dedication.
The celebratory evening ended on a high note with the inspiring remarks of the guest presenter, Rabbi Yoel Gold, a renowned motivational speaker. Rabbi Gold, the rav of Congregation Bais Naftali and rebbi in Mesivta Birkas Yitzchak, offered stirring remarks on connecting Pesach, Sefira, and Shavuos. He introduced them with a powerful true story that he used as a mashal for this unique period of the year. He concluded by praising LINK for serving as the vehicle that has connected so many people to their personal maa’mid Har Sinai.
The overflow crowd lingered long after bentching, expressing their thanks to the LINK staff for producing such an inspirational and memorable evening