[Photos below.] Lakewood Mayor R’ Menashe Miller was joined by Committeeman R’ Meir Lichtenstein and a contingent of Lakewood askanim on a unique chizuk mission to Bnei Brak this past week.
The goal of the visit was to strengthen the connection between the two municipalities, which share similar challenges and needs. Bnei Brak has a population of approximately 170,000 residents, while Lakewood is home to about 100,000 people, about 50% of whom are frum Yidden.
The visit was also undertaken with the intent to explore the possibility of forming an official alliance between Lakewood and Bnei Brak as “twin cities,” an idea first proposed by Bnei Brak Mayor Rabbi Yaakov Asher during his visit to Lakewood in November.
The group from Lakewood included R’ Shrage Kotler, R’ Yossi Atlas, R’ Tzvi Rosen, R’ Itche Rosenbaum, R’ Avrohom Moshe Muller and R’ Shmuel Lubin.
The Lakewood contingent landed in Eretz Yisroel on Friday morning and headed to Bnei Brak, where they were welcomed by Mayor Asher and were given an overview of the makeup of the city.
Friday night, the group davened at the famed Lederman Shul on Rechov Rashbam and then had the unique zechus to attend the seudas Shabbos at the home of Rav Chaim Kanievsky next door.
Friday night, some members of the group attended the tish at the main Vizhnitzer Bais Medrash, while some others went to Mayanei Hayeshuah Hospital, accompanying one of the Bnei Brak askanim whose child was taken there for treatment.
The group’s sleeping accommodations were at Malon Vizhnitz.
Shabbos morning, following davening and the Shabbos seudah, the group walked to the home of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman. They davened Minchah with the rosh yeshiva, who then delivered a private Chumash shiur to them.
Following seudah shlishis, the Lakewood askanim visited Ponovezh Yeshiva. They then went to Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz, who, following Maariv, delivered divrei chizuk to them.
On Motzoei Shabbos, the Bnei Brak municipality took the Lakewood group around the city to view the various Lag Ba’omer celebrations and bonfires around the city, at Chassidic courts and at various chadorim.
Sunday morning, a police escort took the group up north to Meron to participate in the Lag Ba’omer festivities there, as they joined an estimated 400,000 people who gathered in the vicinity of the kever of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai. After daveneing at Rabi Shimon’s kever, the askanim visited the police’s central command post, where they were shown the technology used for security and crowd control.
They then traveled to Tzefas, where they davened at kivrei tzaddikim and stopped at the Arizal‘s mikvah.
On Monday morning, the itinerary included visits to the Ponovezh Bais Hakevaros, where they davened at the kevorim of Rav Elazar Menashem Man Shach, the Ponovezher Rov and others, and the Bnei Brak Bais Hakevaros, where they davened at the kevorim of the Chazon Ish, the Steipler Gaon, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe and other gedolei Torah.
The group was then shown the special Shabbos water system used by Bnei Brak. They also visited a number of schools in the city and were shown how tens of thousands of students are accommodated with limited space available for mosdos hachinuch. Among the innovations utilized in Bnei Brak is the construction of playgrounds on roofs and other such ideas which make optimal use of available space.
The askanim then returned to meet with Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman and Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner to discuss issues relating to Lakewood and to receive guidance and chizuk in responding to the needs of the frum Lakewood community.
Monday afternoon, Mayor Miller and the others met with Mayor Asher and other officials to explore the proposal to establish Bnei Brak and Lakewood as twin cities.
See below for an extensive album of photos of the trip: