By Dovid Perl
If you would walk into the Shabbaton that took place in Tzefarya, you’d be surprised to see young seven-year-old boys sitting alongside eighteen-year-old bachurim, Chassidish boys with long peyos sitting with Litvishe boys with short jackets. You would wonder what all of these 300 boys have in common. The answer is that they’re all orphans. Every boy in the room has lost either a mother or a father or both.
Shabbos Boneinu is a project of Tov V’Chesed of Israel that arranges an uplifting, inspiring Shabbaton for orphaned boys in Israel. Tov V’Chesed has been founded to end the suffering of Israel’s children. Aside from its massive food distribution to orphaned and poor children and its simcha fund for Israeli orphans, Tov V’Chesed has developed an entire division, Project Boneinu, dedicated to support orphaned boys. Project Boneinu headquarters is an orphan center where over 500 orphans walk in at any time of day to find a warm meal, a listening ear, guidance, support, and friendship. This Shabbaton is the highlight for the orphans from the orphan center since they get to spend 24 hours of unadulterated joy!
This Shabbos was the best of everything. From lavish welcome packages to an action-packed program, the orphans squeezed every ounce of this yearly retreat. As the orphans went from one meal to another, from one kumzits to another, bursts of song emerged from every corner. “A Shabbos in Boneinu is AmachaiÂ .Â .Â .”
We asked Tov V’Chesed’s founder, Rabbi Yaakov Eliezer Shisha, how he was able to bring together all these boys from so many different backgrounds into one room. He said, “It’s like a father who sits at his Shabbos table with children of all ages, of all types and personalities. Here 300 orphans sit together with their one father. Backgrounds don’t matter, levush doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they are all here, supporting each other and celebrating together. Asking Rabbi Meir Acker, director of the Orphan Support Division in Tov V’Chesed, how he would sum up this Shabbos, he too said, “It was like spending time with family.”
Shabbos meals were sprinkled with inspiring speeches, gourmet meals, and endless song and dance. It all came together motzaei Shabbos at an unforgettable melaveh malkah complete with delicious warm food, an 8-piece band, and spirited dancing. The melaveh malkah was also a siyum mishnayos for the mishnayos that the orphans learned under Boneinu’s learning program l’ilui nishmas their parents. A heartfelt Kaddish reverberated throughout the room as the children felt the presence of their parents descend upon them.