LINK Celebrates 16 Years with Gala Dinner and a Visit by Rabbi Krohn
The Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel (LINK) celebrated its 16th anniversary on May 30th with a Gala Dinner, featuring Rabbi Paysach Krohn as guest speaker. Over 400 friends and supporters packed into the Nessah Synagogue’s simchah hall in Beverly Hills. The sell-out crowd paid tribute to the kollel, its avreichim, and to the honorees, the Gruen and Shraga families.
There was a genuine feeling of warmth and achdus that pervaded the very diverse crowd – which included all ages, all backgrounds (Sephardim, Ashkenazim), and all levels of observance. The worthy honorees both tried to avoid being honored, and their humility was evident in their poignant acceptance speeches. Mr. Jeff Gruen, a long-time community activist, spoke of his journey to Yiddishkeit which began 35 years ago in Aish HaTorah in Yerushalayim under Rav Noach Weinberg, ztz”l . He thanked his wife, Judy, (a well- known, prolific writer) for sharing in his journey, and in helping to raise their family of serious bnei Torah, including their son Rabbi Avi, a yungerman at LINK.
Mr. Avishai Shraga, along with his wife, Lizie, were the recipients of the Young Leadership Award. He spoke eloquently of the journeys of his parents and in-laws from persecution in Iran and Egypt respectively, to raising Torah-observant families in Los Angeles. He recounted how Rabbi Asher Brander, LINK’s Founder and Dean, had such a profound effect on him as his rebbe in YULA high school, and how Mrs. Batya Brander likewise inspired his future wife at YULA’s girls’ division at the same time.
Rabbi Brander and Rabbi Mordechai Lebhar, LINK’s Rosh Kollel, focused on the accomplishments of the past 16 years and on the wonderful promise of LINK’s new building, which had just secured its necessary city permits to begin construction on the eve of the dinner. They also jumpstarted LINK’s sefer Torah campaign (in conjunction with the Azeroual family), that would afford everyone the opportunity to “own” a share of the Torah (by purchasing various verses that are significant omens as well as entire parshiyos).
The emotional highlight of the evening was the culminating address by the esteemed guest speaker, Rabbi Paysach Krohn, who flew in from NY for just a few hours to speak at the banquet. He charged the crowd to look past themselves and try to do acts of kindness and compassion for others. Through a plethora of poignant true stories, he spoke of how every Jew can have such a huge impact on others and on Klal Yisrael as a whole. He adjured his rapt audience to look past the naysayers who say, “It just can’t be done,” but instead to aim high and build for the Jewish future. It was a most fitting climax to an evening dedicated to growth in Torah.