Rav Yaakov Asher, the dynamic mayor of Bnai Brak, has some remarkable achievements to his credit, but there is one in particular that stands out, and is perhaps the key to his other accomplishments.
The Bnei Brak of today was established eighty-five years ago, and is home to some 160,000 residents. It is a well-run city, and the mayor deftly manages to provide an impressive array of services to his constituents, while remaining within the municipal budget (much to the astonishment of government auditors.) Although the mayor himself is chareidi, he has won respect and admiration from all quarters, and even secular ministers greatly admire his integrity, his competence, and his sincere desire to improve the standard of living of the entire Bnei Brak population. Amazingly, although the residents of Bnei Brak are highly diverse in their affiliations, Rav Asher was chosen as mayor without a contest. This remarkable achievement is a testament to his unique ability to unify disparate elements, and speaks volumes about his track record as a leader and visionary who is universally acclaimed.
The Belz Institutions in Israel recently hosted a luncheon reception for Rav Asher, so that he could share his exciting vision for Bnei Brak’s future. The gathering took place in a conference room graciously provided by Mr. Shlomo Igel, the CEO of Yeled V’Yalda, in that organization’s beautiful new building in Boro Park.
Rabbi Eli Grossman of Belz, the chairman of the reception, set the tone for the gathering by providing a brief synopsis of the mayor’s impressive achievements and responsibilities. Among other things, Rabbi Grossman noted that Rav Asher is in effect the menahel of the 84,000 students who study Torah in Bnei Brak.
The event was graced by the presence of some of the leading luminaries and askonim on the American Jewish scene, including Rav Yechiel Kaufman of the Sfardishe shul, Mr. Shlomo Igel of Yeled V’Yalda and Mr. Ezra Friedlander, CEO of the Friedlander Group. Rav Yisroel Moshe Friedman, a prominent member of the Bnei Brak city council and Mr. Moshe Eisen, special assistant to the mayor of Bnei Brak, who came to the US to spearhead the campaign for his city, were also present. On behalf of Belz, Rabbi Grossman expressed sincere appreciation to all those who took the time to attend and lend their prestige to the gathering, and he had special words of praise and gratitude for the baal ha’achsania, Mr. Igel.
Rabbi Friedman, the next speaker, before introducing the Mayor, supplied additional background about his achievements. He spoke of the great significance of what Rav Asher is trying to accomplish in Bnei Brak, and what it means for all of us.
The principal message that the mayor wished to convey was that a city such as Bnei Brak, which is a world capital of Torah and chassidus, is closely watched by everyone else. Every aspect of the way the city is run conveys a message, and influences how people perceive not only Bnei Brak, but religious Jewry in general. The city, if it is well-managed and if it provides all its residents with the services they need, will make a tremendous Kiddush Hashem. That is why the mayor is eager to implement a host of programs that will greatly benefit Bnei Brak residents, and will make the city a role model for other municipalities to emulate.
But the current municipal budget cannot fund all that is necessary to bring the mayor’s vision to fruition. In order to provide the requisite level of services, extra funds must be acquired, either through contributions or through increased tax revenues generated by expanded industrial growth. A special Bnei Brak development fund is being established to facilitate the effort to solicit support, and to present Bnei Brak as an ideal place to visit and invest in.
The mayor warmly thanked Belz for its contributions to the welfare of Bnei Brak, and for always having shared his vision of working to create achdus, and providing service to all of Klal Yisroel. Part of this shared vision is a strong commitment to strengthen chinuch in general, with special attention to the needs of special children and “kids at risk.” The mayor noted that programs designed to provide a wholesome environment for children after school and keep them off the streets are not just a matter of chesed, but of pikuach nefesh in every sense of the term.
All in all, it was an eye-opening and uplifting event, and the participants were inspired to help Rav Asher meet his ambitious goals. If history is any guide, we can say with reasonable assurance that b’ezras Hashem, those goals will be met, and a great Kiddush Hashem will result.
(YWN Desk – YWN)