On Isru Chag, May 19, Rav Dovid Hofstedter called me from the United States Capitol and asked me to participate via telephone in a meeting he was having with Donald John Bacon, the representative for Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district. He had previously invited me to fly with him to Washington, DC, to meet a dozen or so congressmembers, but I was unable to make it.
When I got on the phone, Congressman Bacon was expressing his appreciation for everything that the organization Dirshu, which was founded by Rabbi Hofstedter, is accomplishing in the field of religious education. I gently corrected him, saying that Dirshu isn’t so much an organization but the alter ego of Rav Hofstedter. “You’re meeting with a person,” I told him, “who has done more for education than any other individual on the face of earth.” I believe that anyone who is familiar with Dirshu would concur with my statement and its sentiments.
Upon Rabbi Hofstedter’s return to Toronto, I spoke to him at length about his impressions of his trip to Washington, as well as his vision in general.
Thank you for inviting me along on your historic trip to Washington, D.C., on Isru Chag, even though I couldn’t make it. I also thank you for putting me on the phone during your meeting with Congressman Don Bacon, who identifies as a religious person, which was very inspiring. I don’t know how you manage to find time for everything.
Everything is bashert, and the Eibershter runs the world. The seeds for this trip were sown about a year and a half ago. Last year, there was a lot of attention given to the fact that 75 years had elapsed since the end of World War II, and many Holocaust commemorations were held. There were also plans to recognize the restoration of Jewish scholarship to prewar levels, but then COVID set in so everything was put on hold.
That’s where the connection with Dirshu came in: the recognition of Torah learning and scholarship. It got a big boost because a couple of years ago—I believe you reported on it—when we had the yom tefillah, which in the secular world was called a “day of Jewish unity,” an op-ed was written by former Governor Mike Huckabee in praise of Dirshu and its efforts to fight against slander and the acrimonious type of discord that is so prevalent and destructive these days.
So a lot of people were already familiar with Dirshu. But with reports of COVID receding, Isru Chag was an appropriate time to talk about Torah learning.