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HAMODIA - MAKING THE CONNECTION WITH 'HASHEM'S LOST CHILDREN'

"Every one of us has the capacity to be mechazek someone else who is searching for Judaism - we must not be content to sit securely in our heimishe communities; we must reach out to others and bring them in. Our commitment to Yiddishkeit is not only a great privilege but an awesome responsibility!" Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Founder of PaL, Phone and Learn

The idea that every frum Jew has an obligation to make kiruv a part of his or her daily life is one that becomes ever more current in its urgency, as the numbers of Jews falling away from the community and r"l intermarrying continue to spiral out of control. Nevertheless, in common with other outreach organisations, the experience of PaL, Phone and Learn, has been that in times of economic uncertainty, people tend to question or grow disenchanted with 'traditional' Western values; as a result, today there are many Jews looking to develop their connection with their heritage, and just as many others taking their first, small steps towards discovering it for the very first time.

Indeed, over the last year PaL has grown exponentially. Most people learning over the phone each week under the organisation's auspices are based in the United Kingdom, but some are picking up their PaL call in locations as far flung as Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, France, South Africa and Israel. Partners and Tutors learn for one hour week (the cost of the calls is covered) at a time chosen to suit both of their schedules, from the convenience of their own homes or offices.

To ensure that PaL can respond positively to all those people signing up to learn through them, the organisation is now urgently looking to expand its pool of dedicated tutors, both male and female. And as Rabbi Krohn, who founded PaL in the UK in 2004, stated, the only qualification necessary for this is a willingness to help other Jews based on the fact that we have been zocheh to live a frum lifestyle, in heimishe communities, with a wealth of Torah and Torah opportunities on our doorsteps.

"It's understandable that someone who hasn't had any formal kiruv training might be a little nervous at the prospect of being challenged with tough questions by an as-yet-unaffiliated Jew," Programme Coordinator Mrs Judy Silkoff comments. "But that's what PaL is there for - the organisation is equally as committed to the needs and requirements of its tutors as its partners." A wealth of resources, such as the unique tutor training pack, pre yom tov and themed mailouts and a dedicated Ask the Rabbi facility, are just some of the ways that PaL ensures its tutors are well cared for and supported, she explains.

The majority of people who sign up to learn through PaL are looking for just that - to learn. A female tutor might be matched with a ba'alas teshuva who's been living a frum lifestyle for 10 years, but who needs to brush up on her Hilchos Shabbos knowledge and can't get out of the house because of her young children... Or the partner might be a businessman with children in a Jewish primary school, who wants to learn parsha over the phone in his lunch break so he is fully familiar with the answers to the questions his kids bring home from school each Friday. It is reassuring to remember that not every 'partner' is looking for answers to the difficult questions! Of course there are still those who want to learn more about Yiddishkeit and are struggling with existential issues about G-d's existence, why bad things happen to good people and so on but PaL is careful to match those partners with tutors who are prepared for the tougher questions.

The bottom line, as Rabbi Krohn put it, is that "the obligation for this major responsibility of returning Hashem's lost children falls on us". By signing up to PaL, you will be taking the first step towards doing your bit. Call 0800 055 3276 or email info@phoneandlearn.org today - Klal Yisrael is waiting for your call!

A Partnership Profile

Partner: Robert Mitchell, 35, a computer engineer from Ilford, Essex. 'Traditional' background.

Tutor: Dov Phillips, 32, a Telecoms manager from Hendon

Partner's Goals on Signing Up: To improve his Hebrew reading skills, learn more about mitzvah observance and minhagim.

Why pick PaL?

Tutor - Dov travels a lot for business. The flexibility of PaL means he doesn't have to 'be anywhere' at a certain time, but can maintain the learning even when away from home.

Partner - Rob wanted to build a solid learning relationship with someone, minus the social distractions that are part and parcel of meeting up in a learning centre.

Match Date: January 2008

Topics to Learn: Parsha, chumash rashi, kitzur shulchan oruch

Robert says: "Dov gives up an hour weekly for me and he is always there on the phone when I have a question. We've even met up a couple of times. Our learning sessions together are so immensely helpful and enjoyable and the PaL system is just fantastic. It gives the student the ability to learn without limits - the only restriction is how far he wants to take it."

Dov says: "I have found it extremely rewarding being a PaL tutor. By giving up a small amount of my time I have been amazed by the results and the genuine appreciation showed by my partner. On several occasions Robert has asked questions or made comments that have made me see things from a different perspective! One of the most inspiring things has been to see his commitment to Yiddishkeit grow over the years we have been learning. Slowly but surely he has taken on new mitzvos and the types of questions he asks show that he is always thinking about his everyday life from a Torah perspective."