The Kamocha Campaign Launches in Los Angeles
Two weeks ago, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation (CCHF) launched a city-wide Kamocha Campaign in Los Angeles. This program for mid- to upper elementary students, intended to raise awareness of the mitzvah of ve’ahavta l’reacha kamocha, was praised by school principals as “incredible” and “historic.” Los Angeles is the second location to use the program, which pioneered last year in Chicago. Inspired by the Chicago event, Chani Weiss of Los Angeles undertook to reach out to all the schools in L.A. and fully coordinate the event, which took place at Moshe Ganz Hall. The Kamocha Campaign is part of Los Angeles resident and renowned askan Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz’s vision for greater ahavas Yisrael. Mr. Rechnitz is Chairman of the Board of CCHF.
The campaign began with two hour-long gatherings – one for girls and one for boys – sponsored l’ilui nishmas Yisroel Dovid ben Chaim. Thirteen schools, with close to a thousand students in total, attended the event. After recitation of Tehillim, Rabbi Shlomo Ornstein of CCHF introduced the campaign. “There are 7.4 billion people in the world, but there is no doubt that in shamayim, the children sitting in this room right now, are making one of the greatest impacts!” he said. The guest speaker, Rabbi Yechiel Spero, shared inspiring stories about the power of ahavas Yisrael. “Today, we make history,” said Rabbi Spero. “We form a pact of brotherhood. We might look different, dress different, act different, but we are there for each other.”
Rabbi Spero’s speech was followed by a video message from Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlit”a, who emphasized the importance of the campaign and blessed the students to “become careful with what we do and continue to grow.” An entertaining video presentation followed, to further convey the Kamocha message.
The feedback from local teachers and principals has been overwhelmingly positive. Rabbi Yaakov Krause, Menahel of Yeshiva Rav Issacsohn-Toras Emes Academy, emphasized the “unique k’vod shamayim in bringing together hundreds of talmidim and talmidos from such varied backgrounds for the sole purpose of sensitizing them to the importance of ve’ahavta l’reacha kamocha.” He added, “The tagline of ‘How would I feel’ can already be heard and felt in the classrooms, lunchroom, and on the courts.”
Rabbi Zheutlin, Mashgiach at Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu, said, “Having all the schools there together gave the kids (and rebbeim) a feeling of real achdus.”
“The events really took on a life of their own,” says Mrs. Estie Koot, Director of Bidrachov, elementary school division of CCHF. “The atmosphere was electric; the kiddush Hashem that was engendered through such a gathering created an excitement that followed each student back to their school to help jumpstart the follow-up initiative.”
In the next month, under the guidance of their rebbi or teacher, each participating class will choose something specific to work on, such as not excluding anyone during recess or a game. The program will culminate with a city-wide newsletter, raffles and prizes.
“The success that was experienced in Chicago makes us cautiously optimistic that it can really work, and have a tremendous impact,” says Mrs. Koot. “We are hopeful and excited about potential friendships that can develop, the positive interactions that can ensue, and the lifelong awareness of what a difference positive words and actions can make, that will remain.”
As each of the participating schools continues to implement the program in its classrooms, ahavas Yisrael is being brought to the forefront of the Los Angeles Jewish community.