By Margie Pensak
The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation is coming to the Five Towns during Sefirah, led by a group of ba’alei batim. The goal: to create a profound impact on the mitzvos of bein adam l’chaveiro which are so crucial for every aspect of our Yiddishkeit and our relationships. Sefirah is the time to prepare ourselves by working on our middos for Kabbalas haTorah. What an opportune time to bring the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s Komocha program to the Five Towns!
The Komocha program for elementary schools, which has been running in numerous cities, is now going to be twinned with a program in shuls throughout Long Island. It is being sponsored by Moshe and Rivka Majeski.
“Ba’alei batim are just starting to reach out to rabbanim to invite them to join this program,” notes Michael Rothschild of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. “Although many shuls participated in this program last year, there is a special focus this year on trying to get all the rabbanim united on Long Island to speak about the importance of bein adam l’chaveiro and shemiras ha’lashon.”
How Komocha Works
Komocha works by focusing on the famous line in the Gemara said by Hillel, in response to a prospective gentile who wanted to convert to Judaism (Shabbos 31a) but only if a rabbi would teach him the entire Torah while he stood on one foot. Hillel replied: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation of this — go and study it!”
This is the idea behind the creation of the Komocha program, where students work together with their teacher to get them to identify and speak about what they hate, which in turn gets them thinking about how they should behave. The school program will commence on Rosh Chodesh Iyar, May 5.
The benefits of Komocha have been dramatic; the program really addresses the issue of school bullying, as these Arie Crown Hebrew Day School fourth-grade student participant testimonials indicate:
“People used to yell at me when I missed a catch, but now they don’t.”
“A boy got the wrong answer in class, and instead of laughing, I held myself back.”
“When my friends weren’t letting someone play with them, even though I did not want to play with him, I let him play anyway.”
“It had a huge impact on me because I learned that just one thing can make someone happy for the rest of his life.”
No wonder some participating schools have claimed Komocha as the most successful program ever run in their school!
“We are looking forward to the Komocha program to make children aware that they are not the only ones being left out,” shares Rabbi Shlomo Dovid Pfeiffer, s’gan menahel of Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island, who says his school takes a very strong anti-bullying stance. “Once children see that this is a problem that exists, they don’t feel as bad. It also makes the children who are excluding them aware of how hurtful it is so they will include more children in their games.”
The Shul Komocha Program
“The goal of Komocha is to unite the entire community by getting schools and shuls on board at the same time to focus on ‘How would I feel if someone did this to me or said this about me or to me?’” says Mr. Rothschild. “Shabbos Kedoshim (May 10–11), will be a Shabbos of inspiration when each participating rav will speak about the importance of bein adam l’chaveiro, and high-level speakers will be brought in by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation for community-wide lectures.”
Being on board together, families can learn the Komocha newsletter, distributed in school, together at the Shabbos table.
“By giving serious thought to ‘How would I feel?’ families can work on elevating their Shabbos table to a higher level where they are really sensitive to others with their speech,” believes Mr. Rothschild. “Seeing the good and looking for the good in people is an amazing chinuch opportunity for parents to give to their children.”
“I think it is difficult to overestimate the positive impact that the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation has had on Klal Yisrael,” shares Rabbi Mordechai Stern, rav of Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid of Lawrence. “The awareness and sensitivity that their programs have engendered have changed people’s attitudes. It’s now actually socially acceptable to tell people to change the subject!”
Derech Eretz Kadma L’Torah
The goal, concludes Mr. Rothschild, is to really maximize our Sefirah and be ready for Kabbalas HaTorah, realizing that derech eretz kadma l’Torah — decency and kind behavior should precede Torah.
To enroll your shul, call Rabbi Tzvi Soroka at 845-364-7155; to enroll your school, call Rabbi Shlomo Ornstein at 732-556-8641.