Written by: Someone who attended the dinner: (More pictures to be added later.) Bonei Olam is often referred to as “Klal Yisroel’s Mosad”, and after attending their annual dinner last night, I can see why they have earned that distinction. The sheer volume of people that made the point of attending the dinner is a true testament to the beloved status this unique organization has in the hearts of Yidden everywhere. If I didn’t know better, I would think I was at a Siyum Hashas in Madison square Garden, not at a Bonei Olam dinner in Ateres Chaya.
When I entered the hall at 6:45, a full hour before the program was scheduled to begin, I was immediately struck by the presence of over a hundred people. At first it seemed strange that so many people had gathered in the banquet hall so early; then it dawned on me that virtually all of them were not there as guests, rather they were volunteers! One of the remarkable things about Bonei Olam- and indeed what makes them so successful- is that virtually all of the people involved in organizing their many events throughout the year do it not as paid staff, but as individuals who feel it’s their mission to help this organization- and the couples they service -free of charge.
As the evening progressed, the hall began filling up fast; Rabbonim, Roshei Yeshiva, Askonim, and what seemed like every Frum Yid in Boro Park quickly filled the hall to beyond capacity. In fact, two adjacent halls were set up- and also quickly filled to capacity- to accommodate the unusually large throngs of people that continued to stream in throughout the evening. At the most conservative estimates, close to 10,000 people made their way to Ateres Chaya hall last night to show their support for Bonei Olam. Many came with personal Hakoras Hatov for their own children, their friends children, their grandchildren which were facilitated by Bonei Olam; many came as Hakoras Hatov to the Ribono Shel Olam for their own children which they merited to have without the assistance Bonei Olam!
Amongst the Rabbonim that I noticed on the dais at the dinner were: The Novominsker Rebbe, Rav Ahron Schechter, Rav Pinchos Breuer, Rav Hillel David, Rav Yisroel Reisman, Rav Yisroel Belsky, Rav Moshe Wolfson, as well as dozens of Rebbes from every segment of Chasidus in New York.
The Chairman of the evening, R’ Ari Eisenberg, opened the ceremony with heartfelt words about the Mosad, and described how over $10 Million dollars has already been spent on childless couples throughout the world. He then called up Doctor Marc Goldstein, a world renowned Urologist, and a member of Bonei Olam’s global network. Dr. Goldstein presented the “Medical Achievement” award to the esteemed Dr. Peter N. Schlegel, a doctor with very close ties to Bonei Olam, who has been a Shliach Hashem in the births of countless Bonei Olam babies across the world. Dr. Schlegel gave a short speech accepting his award, and received a standing ovation from the crowd, which included many distinguished doctors in the field of fertility.
Following the doctors, awards were presented to the journal chairmen, Moshe Weinstock and Yidel Perlstein. Awards were also presented to the evening’s other honorees, Chaim Miller, Chaim Fisher, and to the founders of the Mekimi cheer up squad, Shimshy Heszkel and Shloime Reichberg. The Askonus award was presented to the renowned philanthropist R’ Shaul Noach Friedman and his family for their dedicated and devoted work on behalf of Bonei Olam couples. R’ Shaul Noach Friedman delivered an impassioned speech describing how he personally became involved with Bonei Olam, and he relayed some personal stories that he experienced with couples undergoing infertility, and urged those in attendance to become partners in Bonei Olam’s work by doubling or tripling their pledges, as he had done himself after attending his first Bonei Olam dinner 2 years earlier. The Friedman family sponsored this evening’s dinner in memory of the revered Kashoi Rav, Rav Refoel Blum Zatzal, with whom R’ Shaul Noach Friedman had a special bond for close to half a century.
A special message was delivered by Rav Yechiel Michel Steinmetz, Skver Dayan of Boro Park and Morah Hora’ah of Bonei Olam. “If people would know what goes on in Bonei Olam’s offices on a daily basis, there would be no need for dinners” said the dayan, “people would donate their money and time without being asked, to have a Chelek in this holy mission”
Probably the most emotionally charged part of the dinner was when a Yungerman ascended the podium and chokingly relayed his personal story “from struggle to triumph”, how Bonei Olam spent $50,000 on them and changed him and his wife from a pain filled childless couple to the proud parents of triplets who call them “Abba and Ima”
Another emotional speech was delivered by the Rudnik Rav, Rav Baruch Shimshon Halberstam, who was honored as the Keser Torah awardee for his many years of dedication to the Frum community in general and to Bonei Olam in particular. A special surprise guest speaker, Rav Dovid Orlefsky, the famed Rosh Yeshiva of the Gerrer Yeshiva in Boro Park captured the crowd’s attention with his remarkable speech given with his famously talented delivery. He illustrated how of Bonei Olam’s counselors- many who themselves have yet to have children- are Moser Nefesh to ensure that others go on to indeed have children of their own. The epitome of Mesiras Nefesh!
The undisputed highlight of the evening, and the speech that thousands of people wait for each year, was the heartfelt message by R’ Shloime Bochner, Bonei Olam’s legendary founder and driving force. He recounted how a European Rov who was headed to America to take a Rabbinic position came to the Chofetz Chaim before embarking on his trip. The Chofetz Chaim told him, “Do you know, when Moshiach comes, and the Bais Hamikdash is rebuilt, all of Klal Yisroel will want to enter the Bais Hamikdash.” The Chofetz Chaim continued, “However, I will be able to enter, and you will not. Do you know why? Because a few thousand years ago when Moshe Rabeinu called ‘Mi L’Hashem Ailay’ my grandfather- from Shevet Levi- answered the call, and yours didn’t!” The Chofetz Chaim told the Rov, “Don’t forget this lesson in America, when you are faced with a situation of ‘ Mi L’Hashem Ailay’, answer the call!”
“So too”, said R’ Bochner, “Bonei Olam is calling to all of Klal Yisroel with the great challenge of ‘Mi L’Hashem Ailay’, a challenge which indeed will have repercussions on future generations of Klal Yisroel! Make sure to be amongst those that chose to answer the call, and face the challenge!” He continued with a few other heartbreaking and heartwarming stories of those that faced personal struggles, and ultimately through the help of Bonei Olam were triumphant. R’ Bochner received a standing ovation following his speech, and many Rabbonim from the overflowing dais were seen rushing over to Rabbi Bochner to thank him- and bentch him- for his Mesiras Nefesh for Klal Yisroel. One of the Rabbonim
The closing segment of the dinner was a video presentation of R’ Shea Ostreicher, noted Askan who described in detail the history of the New York State mandate, a grant which alleviates some of the financial strain from couples undergoing infertility, yet is a far cry from being a panacea to all of Klal Yisroel’s fertility related financial problems. He went on to describe how if not for Bonei Olam’s financial assistance, thousands of couples would still be waiting for a child rather than actually living their dreams of being parents. The final segment of the evening was the dramatic visual presentation which highlighted the pain experienced by the childless couple, and the hope afforded them by Bonei Olam.
I left the hall with the two-volume journal that was published in conjunction with the dinner; the heaviest journal I have ever seen at any dinner I have ever attended! It was close to 1:00 am when I left, yet the hall was still teeming with hundreds of people who just didn’t want to leave. They were genuinely happy to be there, and genuinely happy to be a part of this historical gathering, regardless of the late hour!
Bonei Olam has been there for so many downtrodden couples – close to 700 of whom are today referred to as “Parents”- from all over the world. Shouldn’t we all be there for them too to enable them to continue their holy mission? For more information about Bonei Olam’s activities or to get involved in their work, see their website by clicking HERE or email yhl@BoneiOlam.org